Next week’s episode of Top Chef Canada to feature horsemeat, outrage ensues

Next week’s episode of Top Chef Canada to feature horsemeat, outrage ensues

Oh, the controversy. At the end last week’s episode of Top Chef Canada, the preview for episode six featured, among other things, French-culinary-god-by-way-of-NYC Daniel Boulud as guest judge, a classic French cuisine challenge, and—how did we miss this?—horsemeat. Well, other viewers didn’t miss it, and many have been up in arms with Food Network Canada via Twitter and Facebook. They’ve even begun an online petition to boycott the network.

Our favourite commentators included @cursivenight, who tweeted, “Top Chef/Canada Food Network is airing an episode with horse meat – DISPICABLE!!!!,” and @thinkgoat who noted that the episode would air “next week, during what is known as Horse Week in Canada” (apparently Horse Week 2011 was actually cancelled, but for unrelated reasons).

In response to the uproar, Food Network Canada offered a non-apology via Facebook:

We understand there is growing concern about an upcoming episode of Top Chef Canada that is set to air Monday May 16th on Food Network Canada. Some viewers have noted their belief that the use of horse meat in a culinary challenge on the show is controversial. Please be assured it is not our intention to offend our viewers. The challenge in this episode involves having the competitors create a truly authentic, traditional French menu. One of the most traditional French foods is horsemeat….  While we understand that this content may not appeal to all viewers, Food Network Canada aims to engage a wide audience, embracing different food cultures in our programming. We thank you for expressing your concerns.

Though traditional in France, horse consumption has been a controversial issue in North America. Canada is in fact one of the only horsemeat producers in the West—it’s apparently a $60-million industry in this country. For a look at how the industry works, check out this post on former Homemakers food editor Dana McCauley’s blog, where she defends Toronto restaurants like Pangaea (she’s married to chef Martin Kouprie), La Palette and the Black Hoof.

We have to admit we’re a little surprised at the selectivity of the outrage. Where were the petitions when Todd Perrin made seal flipper in episode one? And why did all the activists skip over the foie gras that will also be featured in next week’s episode? To be honest, we were more shocked at the fact that Perrin is shown using store-bought puff pastry in the preview. Has he never watched the show?

UPDATE: The horsemeat episode has now aired. Check out our recap »