Top Chef Canada contestants announced; we round up the six Torontonians who made the cut
We’re already on the record as counting down the days until the April 11 debut of Top Chef Canada (it’s 42, in case you were wondering). Today, Food Network Canada announced the show’s lineup of 16 competitors. Chosen from a variety of culinary backgrounds, the contestants hail from St. John’s to Vancouver, with six Torontonians making the cut. Restaurateur Shereen Arazm, the former Terroni server who went on to open a branch in Los Angeles, will be the show’s resident judge (akin to Gail Simmons in the U.S. version of Top Chef). We round up the Toronto contestants, and their sometimes hilarious audition videos, after the jump.
Dustin Gallagher—age 28
Gallagher is the executive chef at Grace on College Street. His audition video is short but sweet, featuring lots of smiles, a dinner service and a rendition of a song about making stock. Really. (Lyrics: “Skim, skim, skim, all day long. Skim, skim, skim, while I sing my song.”) Our prediction for his Top Chef Canada personality: the adorable one.
Steve Gonzales—age 35
Gonzales is the chef de cuisine at Claudio Aprile’s Origin on King Street East—a locale he touts in his video with a few choice descriptors: “guys riding their bikes, buildings, the church. The Queen’s coming here next week!” His video presents a tough-guy image—he moved back to his hometown of Toronto from Miami “to represent”—but his “modern Latino” food looks mouth-wateringly delicious.
Chris Kanka—age 34
Kanka is a consultant at Yonge and Dundas’s Woo, and says he’s been cooking for an impressive 18 years—about half his life. In his video, Kanka makes no bones about why he thinks he’s awesome:
1. He “woks” on the wild side—a reference to his master wok skills and, we hope, the classic ‘80s and ’90’s cooking show Wok with Yan.
2. He knows his fish and oysters—Kanka was apparently voted best fishmonger in the city by the Toronto Star.
3. He’s Chris Kanka—the man serves up a healthy dose of self-confidence with this last reason, something that’s brought down many a contestant on the U.S. Top Chef.
Andrea Nicholson—age 28
Nicholson is the lone female of the Toronto bunch. She’s also executive chef and culinary director at cooking school and catering company Great Cooks. In her video, Nicholson gives a tour of her backyard, complete with a fledgling vegetable garden and—bonus points for this one—a 700-pound smoker from Oklahoma.
Rob Rossi—age 27
Rossi is the executive chef at the three Mercatto restaurants. His video takes us to Kensington Market—on his road bike, no less—where he selects fresh ingredients to make a meal of sablefish, chanterelle mushrooms, fiddleheads and double-smoked bacon.
Patrick Wiese—age 40
Wiese is the executive chef at Villa and the now-closed Strada in Bloor West Village. His video channels a bit of Jersey Shore (or should we say Lake Shore?) as he takes us to the gym, baring muscles and pumping iron. Wiese also showcases his adorable dog and his passion for photography. Wiese describes his cooking style as “comfortably twisted,” and, like Rossi, journeys to Kensington Market for inspiration. His impressive experience includes stints cooking alongside Art Smith and for Harpo Studios, Oprah’s production company.
The non-Torontonian competitors, along with their restaurant affiliation when the show was shot:
- Clayton Beadle—age 26—Whistler, BC— chef de partie at the Four Seasons Hotel
- Derek Bocking—age 30—Montreal, QC—head chef at Restaurant Confusion
- Darryl Crumb—age 29—Vancouver, MB—executive chef at R.tl (now in Winnipeg)
- Connie De Sousa—age 29—Calgary, AB—chef and owner of Charcut Roast House
- Francois Gagnon—age 32—Vancouver, QC —executive chef at Teahouse (now in Montreal)
- Jamie Hertz—age 31—Nelson, BC—executive chef at Fusion 301 Tapas Lounge
- Dale Mackay—age 30—Vancouver, BC—executive chef Lumière and DB Bistro Moderne (both of which are closing down soon)
- Rebekah Pearse—age 29—Calgary, AB—executive chef and owner of Nectar Desserts
- Todd Perrin—age 40—Quidi Vidi Village, St. John’s, NL—chef and owner of The Chef’s Inn
- Michael Stauffer—age 30—Dundas, ON—chef at Celli’s in Ancaster