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Canada 150, Events, Food

For Canada 150 we're asking Canadian chefs to define Canadian cuisine

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Liora Ipsum Feb 22, 2017 5:46 am 317

What is Canadian cuisine?

Aside from universally beloved foods like Caesar cocktails, poutine, and maple syrup it’s not easy to pin down a definition when our appetites are as vast and diverse as the country itself.

As Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial birthday it’s going to be a recurring question that we pose to chefs from coast to coast. In this first installment, we’ve polled chefs and restaurateurs participating at the Restaurants Canada Show happening at the Enercare Centre from February 26 to 28.

Charlotte Langley
RC Show Chef and Culinary Curator

Rodney's Oyster House

Scallop Crudo with Fennel, melon and a basil pistous/Rodney’s Oyster House

Canadian Cuisine is the voice of every culture, friend, family member and lover that touches our lives. It shows itself in every regional product we grow, every fish we ethically catch and every animal we raise with care.

Jesse Vergen
Chef and Co-owner of Saint John Alehouse

Saint John Alehouse

New Brunswick squid and garlic scapes /Jesse Vergen

Canadian Cuisine is the sum of many diverse cultures, products, and traditions. It’s a quilt of many patches that doesn’t stop being added too as we are constantly finding new pieces and rediscovering lost ones. It is a cuisine that has had its start thousands of years ago, and continues today with immigration and inspiration collected by Canadians travelling or living abroad bringing small pieces back to add to a growing picture of flavours.

Our diversity is not just made up of cultures, the landscape is just as deep. Raging rivers with migratory fish fighting to spawn, boreal forest with game big and small, two oceans with very different flavours, and then the Canadian agriculture from the salt marsh dykes of the east to the fields of the prairies, to the orchards of the west we have the ability to harvest and feed our country, we can grow such diversity.

So with these amazing building blocks we have created a cuisine style that lends itself to evolving into the future while honouring traditions, we flow effortlessly from buckwheat ployees, to pemmican, to Malaysian crab roti… with every chef adding their spin along the way.

Michael Hunter
Chef and owner of Antler Kitchen Bar

antler restaurant

Spice Ash Crusted Rack of Deer, from a local farm in Ontario/Michael Hunter

To me, Canadian cuisine is very progressive. We have a lot of historical influences in Canada that has shaped our food culture. The majority of our beautiful country is made up of immigrants which have also greatly influenced us.

Historically, our oldest cuisine would be that of our Aboriginal ancestors. From them we learned how to live off this land, eat what we hunt, forage and grow. Their knowledge is what inspires me. Our country is so large and we have many diverse food regions to work with. We have beautiful fish and seafood from our east and west coasts and fresh water fish from our Great Lakes. And the beef, pork, chicken and game meat that is raised locally across our nation, is known for its superior quality.

At Antler we celebrate regional ingredients. Our aim is to define Canadian cuisine highlighting seasonal and wild foods.

Rich Francis
Chef and owner of Aboriginal Culinary Concepts

Rich Francis

Scallop, abalone, cedar, vanilla/Rich Francis

Rich “uses traditional commodities, new cooking techniques and implements them in new ways, suited to our times, but never abandoning the vision of benefiting Aboriginal gastronomy as a whole!”

Canadian cuisine for me, being a First Nations chef, is something that I’m still defining for myself, because I’ve yet to identify what indigenous cuisine is. So it’s an ongoing process that I’m starting to develop within myself and also for First Nations people as a whole. Canadian cuisine now has become more of a regional, province-to-province, thing. So I guess Canadian cuisine for me has yet to be defined.

Sonia Mondino
Chef and co-owner of Pray Tell Bar

pray tell bar

Pocket pizza supreme/ Jason Finestone

Canadian cuisine is as diverse as the people in this amazing country are. That is what makes Canada so incredible; the people that live in this country are welcomed from around the world which brings flavours and influences to our cuisine. Of course, depending on the province – let alone from town to town – the produce changes depending on the region due to climate, soil, ocean/ lakes…etc). Therefore, each province has standout dishes depending on those factors. But we all know that one dish that is associated with Canadian cuisine… the good old poutine. We are so lucky to have such beautiful food growing right outside our doors. With all that being said, Canadian cuisine is diverse and the fresh local ingredients speak for themselves.

Of course, depending on the province – let alone from town to town – the produce changes depending on the region due to climate, soil, ocean/ lakes…etc). Therefore, each province has standout dishes depending on those factors. But we all know that one dish that is associated with Canadian cuisine… the good old poutine.

We are so lucky to have such beautiful food growing right outside our doors. With all that being said, Canadian cuisine is diverse and the fresh local ingredients speak for themselves.

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Liora Ipsum
A former Daily Hive Toronto Food Editor.

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