A first look at the locals on the newest season of the show.
About to enter its third season, Top Chef Canada has grown from a U.S. import to a reality show with authentic Canadian flavour. Last year’s winner was Toronto-based Carl Heinrich, then a chef at Marben (he has since opened his own restaurant, Richmond Station). Will this year’s winner once again represent our city?
As Top Chef Canada viewers know, there are a few people who can send competitors—and their knives—packing. At North 44 on Thursday, we, along with a handful of Toronto media, sat down with three of them: Chef Mark McEwan, who serves as the show’s head judge, show host Lisa Ray, and resident judge Shereen Arazm. We were there to sample a five-course meal prepared by this year’s five Toronto competitors.
The season has already been taped, but its results are still secret. We don’t have any inside information, but based on that lunch, plus what we know about past seasons, here’s what we predict for this year’s Toronto competitors.
Jonathan Goodyear, 34
Goodyear could go far. He was most recently executive chef at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Confident, experienced, and clearly passionate about good food, he has a real shot at the top. He’s experienced at working under pressure for clients with high expectations, which could only have served him well during taping. He told us that it’s all about knowing when to keep things simple, and knowing when to push the envelope. His plan during the competition, he said, was to play to the judges’ palates—something competitors in other seasons have neglected, to their regret. But skills and instincts are never a sure thing, so let’s not count out his competitors just yet.
Becky Ross, 24
Ross doesn’t immediately seem like a potential winner. The former sous chef at Malena (now closed) is quieter than many of her colleagues. One might write her off as too timid, but her food tells a different story. Adept at desserts, she knows how to round out a meal in a way that leaves everyone asking for more (no small feat at a multi-course tasting event). Her sweet-savoury smoked butter and raw-honey griddled cornbread, served with preserved peaches, whiskey cream, and spiced pecans impressed McEwan, who called it layered, sophisticated, and true to its ingredients. Why does this bode well for her? As history shows, the judges react favourably to those whose dishes actually taste like the main ingredients. If those flavours get lost, so too might the chef’s chances.
Rory White, 23
White may not have much experience, but he does have a pedigree. His most recent gig was as a sous chef at George, and he trained at the Niagara College Culinary Program. He’s known for his skills in butchery, which can be helpful on the show. (As we learned last season, the ability to create well-executed proteins can take competitors far.) He has a calm, cool demeanor, which can also be helpful. He tells us that his plan was to “go hard every day,” and he seems to have the endurance to do just that. However, his relatively short career may have been a detriment.
Ruth Eddolls, 30
If it’s drama you’re after, keep an eye on Eddolls, formerly of Pusateri’s. While we can’t say for sure, we suspect that she’ll bring a little extra personality to the show. If there was any friction with any other competitors, she didn’t let on, but we think this season may have a trick or two up its sleeve, and won’t be surprised if she has a role in it. Even so, this award-winning chef’s focus on simple and tasty foods probably helped her showcase what she was really there for: cooking. We’re guessing her skills served her well, just as long as she remembered that McEwan isn’t a huge fan of too much spice or unnecessary smoke.
Dennis Tay, 34
If there’s a wildcard contestant from this bunch, it might be Tay, the soon-to-be sous chef at Nick Liu’s GwaiLo. It’s no surprise, considering his new gig, that he gravitates to Asian-style plates, but with a twist. He told us that he’s not afraid to push the envelope, which, if done right, would have made him a strong competitor. But McEwan favours food that retains its original character, which might have been Tay’s downfall. Whatever happens on the show, we can expect to see a competitive streak in Tay, who tells us that he was “pushing hard all the time.”
Season three of Top Chef Canada premieres Monday, March 18 at 9 p.m. on Food Network Canada.
All photos courtesy of Top Chef Canada/Food Network Canada.