I don’t know why I was taking it so personally, but I was wracked with worry in the days leading up to the premiere of Top Chef Canada. As a big fan of the American version (and as someone who met with the producer prior to casting to give him some ideas re potential chefs), I cannot believe how good it is. It totally doesn’t suck. No “The Trouble With Tracy” lighting. No canned laughter. Just a great group of mostly talented chefs.
The bigger shocker? A lot of them even have big personalities; showboating and smack-talk included. (How very un-Canadian.)
The hosts are nice facsimiles of their American counterparts, and most of the challenges have been even more interesting than the U.S. ones, including one that had the chefs traipsing around Toronto’s unique ethnic enclaves to learn and cook recipes from another’s culture.
I’ve enjoyed the food of a few of the chefs (in real life), including Connie DeSousa’s, who is truly doing women chefs proud.
I visited Calgary last summer and toured around the city for a day with Connie and her Charcut co-chef/owner John Jackson, and also had a fantastic meal at their restaurant, where they make everything from scratch. During summer the place becomes a veritable pickling and jamming factory, where they can more than 1,000 jars of everything from tuna to berries to peaches and cucumbers. And then they use some of that preserved fruit in their ever-changing, dead simple, crazy delicious, no-bake cheesecake. I wonder if Connie will break it out if there’s ever a quick-fire dessert challenge.
Charcut's no-bake cheesecake
3/4 cup (175 mL) heavy cream
1/4 cup (50 mL) icing sugar
seeds from half a vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) cream cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) graham crackers (crumbs)
1/2 cup (125 mL) seasonal fruit, fresh or preserved
1. In a bowl, whip heavy cream, icing sugar, vanilla seeds and vanilla extract until thick, then put it in the fridge.
2. In another bowl, beat cream cheese using whip attachment, frequently scraping down bowl until there are no lumps. Then fold whipping cream mixture into cream cheese.
3. Layer jam jars with graham crumbs, cheesecake filling and fruit.