Dinner With the Top Chefs

There is no reasonable excuse I could give for not getting around to posting these photos earlier, because the dinner at Great Cooks on Eight with Top chef Canada competitors Andrea Nicholson, Todd Perrin Steve Gonzales, Mike Stauffer and Patrick Wiese took place on June 30. I know, I am a deadbeat.

And despite knowing a couple of the chefs involved from eating at their restaurants or interviewing them for TasteTO, I have to admit that I’m not a huge Top Chef fan. I lost interest in the middle of the 2nd US season, so while I kept track of who was doing well in the Canadian competition, I was not a weekly viewer. I joked on Google + recently that I’d happily watch “Top Chef Historical” where modern chefs had to cook Careme-style banquets without gas or electricity, but my reality-TV watching does lean towards the historical stuff anyway. (And I suspect potential competitors would have my head if such a show actually came to fruition.)

In any case, 5 of the Canadian competitors got together to do a dinner – here’s what they cooked.

We started the evening with hors d’ouevres by Andrea Nicholson. These included oysters, beef carpaccio, seared foie on potato pancakes and chicken liver pate.

The first course once we were seated was a fish trio by competitor Todd Perrin, who owns The Chef’s Inn in St. John’s Newfoundland.

The trio of fish dishes included pickled halibut cake on red onion and parsley salad with a bakeapple and molasses vinagirette, Perrin’s own smoked salmon with horseradish and chive cream on a dill cracker, and cod cheek ceviche with shaved fennel and confit tomato and caplin coriander sauce.

This was followed by Mike Stauffer of The Culinary Office in Dundas Ontario. Pictured at the top of the post, Stauffer’s crispy duck and red bean fritter with heirloom radishes, chiogga beets and coriander was our favourite dish of the evening.

Next up was the confit arctic char with Ontario peas, summer mushrooms, tomato caviar, chervil and lemongrass veloute by Chef Patrick Wiese.

Chef Steve Gonzales, who became known through his time on Top Chef as being “the Latino guy” cooked up a Latin-inspired entree with roasted beef striploin accompanied by yucca chips, chimichurri, chorizo, olive and asparagus. Some folks seemed not to like the yucca, but Gonzales cooks up yucca as well as other Latin dishes at Origin where he is chef de cuisine.

Besides the appetizers, Chef Nicholson prepared a two-phase dessert course. First came a trio of cheeses from Cheese Boutique paired with pickled celery and a pecan salad and huge baskets of house-made bread and flatbreads. Apparently the breads are something they make every day at Great Cooks on Eight where Nicholson is the executive chef.

Nicholson served up the final course of the night, a white chocolate lemon curd cake with almond milk and sour cherries.

Throughout the evening, all the courses were paired with wines by Fielding Estate Winery, and with the dessert, guests had the chance to try a 2010 Vignoles which was made in such a limited quantity, it will not be available for sale.

The best part of the evening was watching the chefs working together to plate and serve each other’s dishes. While most restaurant kitchens require co-operation to run smoothly, seeing former competitors come together as comrades to create a spectacular evening was a real treat.

Thanks to all the chefs and to Great Cooks on Eight for hosting such a fantastic event.