With the sophomore season of Top Chef Canada set to premiere on March 12, Food Network Canada has finally introduced the 16 chefs hoping to cook their way to $100,000 (and, lest we forget, a GE Monogram kitchen). The group (which, perhaps responding to feedback about season one, is a tad more multicultural) once again contains six Torontonians, among them Marben’s Carl Heinrich and Ruby Watchco’s Ryan Gallagher. Tasting the food will be new host Lisa Ray, alongside head judge Mark McEwan and resident judge Shereen Arazm and a spate of guests that includes culinary personalities (Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson) and sundry celebrities (handyman Mike Holmes, actor Alan Thicke, Kenny vs. Spenny’s Spencer Rice). We round up the Toronto contestants, starting with Victor’s David Chrystian »
David Chrystian, 37
As chef at Victor (in Hotel Le Germain), Chrystian saw the restaurant through a major menu revamp last year (he’s also a partner there now). For his audition video, he constructed a giant—and precarious-looking—“turducken tower,” layering turkey, phyllo pastry, ducks, chickens and quail atop a mashed potato moat, with quail eggs, gravy and hollandaise sauce to top it off (phew!). That’s the kind of high-risk (not to mention high-cal) dish that could set him apart—if it doesn’t fall apart first.
Ryan Gallagher, 33
Gallagher doesn’t talk much about his culinary experience in his video (though he does give viewers a tour of his house, introduce his pets and admit to being a little worse for the wear after hosting a barbecue the night before), so we’ll fill in the blanks. A former insurance broker, Gallagher trained at George Brown and worked at the Four Seasons under Lynn Crawford. After a variety of other gigs, including a stint as private chef to the Thompson family, he’s now sous-chef at Crawford’s Ruby Watchco.
Carl Heinrich, 26
Looking even more baby-faced than his 26 years, we were wagering, at first, that Heinrich would be “the adorable one” à la Dustin Gallagher from last season. But then we kept watching—the man’s got swagger. The executive chef at Marben shows plenty of confidence in his video—it takes guts to state baldly, “I think I can win,” and then butcher a cow on camera. Props.
Elizabeth Rivasplata, 31
Rivasplata is a sous-chef at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which means she produces food for both Frank and the gallery’s café—a range that could help her tackle the oft-unpredictable Top Chef challenges. A native of Lima, Peru, Rivasplata could exploit her impressive knife skills and background in tae kwon do to intimidate the competition (based on that smile, though, we wouldn’t bet on it).
Trista Sheen, 29
Sheen, a sous-chef at Crush Wine Bar, is frank and funny in her audition video, taking the camera along on a booze-filled night at The Drake with her husband Nick Liu and two season one vets, Dustin Gallagher and Steve Gonzalez. Clearly someone who gets along with other chefs, Sheen will likely be popular with the other contestants—which, if she wants to get all reality TV Machiavellian, she could use to her advantage.
Sarah Tsai, 30
Originally from Taipei, the diminutive Tsai has already cast herself in the role of the underdog who shouldn’t be underestimated. The entremetier at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club says, “I sound gentle, but if you see me in the kitchen you will take me seriously,” which has to be the gentlest smack-talk we’ve heard in a long while.
And here’s the competition from the rest of Canada:
- Joel Aubie, 27, chef at Shelter in Tofino, B.C.
- Trevor Bird, 28, chef de partie at the Shangri-La in Vancouver, B.C.
- Gabriell Cruz, 25, sous-chef at Quatrefoil in Dundas, Ont.
- Kunal Ghose, 39, co-owner of and chef at Red Fish Blue Fish in Victoria, B.C.
- Jonathan Korecki, 27, chef at Sidedoor in Ottawa, Ont.
- Xavier Lacaze, 30, executive chef at Muse in Calgary, AB
- Curtis Luk, 28, sous-chef at the Courtyard in Ottawa, Ont.
- Sergio Mattoscio, 30, chef at Macaroni Bar in Montreal, Que.
- Jimmy Stewart, 23, sous-chef at Barefoot Bistro in Whistler, B.C.
- William Thompson, 30, executive sous-chef at Ste. Anne’s Spa in Caledonia, Ont.