Canada is a vast sprawl of wilderness and stunning beauty with vibrant cities bridging the gap between mountainous landscapes. Each province has its own unique attributes, but they all have one thing in common, incredible cuisine. Across this second largest country in the world, Canadian chefs relish in its rich agricultural history and are dedicated to local farmers and producers. The art of culinary fun reigns supreme in Canada’s kitchens, where eagerness to share is matched only by the time and effort these chefs put into their food. In a land that covers 3.8 million square miles and the longest coastline on the planet it’s challenging to narrow the field, but here are six great Canadian chefs to watch.
Christine Sandford, Biera-Ritchie Market, Edmonton, Alberta
Part of the fun of leading Biera, a brewpub in Edmonton’s Ritchie Market, is how Christine Sandford is able to translate her winning attitude and enthusiasm onto the plate. Sandford’s cuisine is evidence that high-quality beer and food are a perfect match. As Sandford says, it’s about highlighting flavours in the beer or food that complement one another. Sandford loves to travel and once spent a month camping with her chef beau in the South of France, where they visited local producers and brought ingredients back to the campsite to cook over the fire. She continues that tradition in several dishes at Biera, infusing what she learned from artisans on the road into the kitchen. Sandford relishes time with her team, whom she calls extremely talented cooks, breaking bread together after a long week in the spirit of collaboration.
In the coming months, as she endeavors to use everything she can before winter comes, she bulks up on preservation. Because produce is scarce during Canadian winters, Sandford keeps a pantry full of her favorite pickled and fermented items. One of her signature dishes is Biera’s sourdough bread, with spent grains from the brewery and organic flour from Alberta, and she serves it with butter cultured in-house with kefir grains and whipped lardo, also cured there. She also suggests guests try any one of the dishes cooked over charcoal, like the pork shoulder on the bone, carved off and served with chewy dried and rehydrated beets and rhubarb, then glazed in meadowsweet verjus. Sandford makes her own vinegars, including beer vinegar and lemon geranium vinegar and never misses a chance to make her own miso from scratch. Biera, which is also one of Edmonton’s only cheese bars, doesn’t have lunch or brunch hours, but that doesn’t matter – for Sandford’s food fans, nothing beats Biera’s snack hour. The bevy of small plates and beer is an easy segue to the dinner menu. Don’t forget dessert, especially Sandford’s sourdough ice cream with buttermilk sorbet, milk crumbs, and cocoa nibs. Make a reservation at Biera-Ritchie Market.
Yoshi Chubachi, AZURIDGE, Priddis, Alberta
Master chef Yoshi Chubachi may have a string of accomplishments behind his name, but he is known as much for being one of the friendliest chefs in Canada as for his cuisine. Hospitality students from different colleges across Canada vie for coveted internships and the chance to learn from the man who came to Canada in 1977 as a Japanese Red Seal Chef. Chubachi’s ability to bring flavor to a plate date back to his time as a stagiaire in Japan and France. Azuridge, hidden away in the Alberta foothills, gives him a 13-acre platform on which to shine. The resort, which features a butler-in-residence program, is inspired by the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is a frequent stop for the rich and famous, and Chubachi, who is also a skilled ice carver, strives to stun with every meal.
Expect Asian and French influences throughout traditional Canadian cuisine, including local game with tinges of inspiration by minerals and gemstones – a signature element since Azuridge is named for the mineral Azurite, known as the stone of heaven. Chubachi is famous for transforming the simple into the unforgettable — case in point, the Quebec-originated poutine at Azuridge, with potatoes fried in duck fat and topped with duck confit, cheese curds, and Grand Marnier duck au jus. December is an especially lovely time to dine with Chubachi when the resort produces a Christmas craft market with reindeer petting, shopping, and small plates from the menu like Waygu beef burger sliders and in-house smoked salmon on blini pancakes. Weekdays are for the resort’s massive three-story gazebo when Chubachi’s burgers and beer events are packed with regulars. Coming up, Chubachi is excited about more Canadian wild game and fowl this year, including wild boar, elk, venison, bison, pheasant, and partridge, and he can’t wait to serve it on the resort’s new colored china. His fans say that’s just fine, so long as that includes his famous elk Wellington. Make a reservation at AZURIDGE.
Mathieu Masson-Duceppe, Jellyfish, Montreal, Quebec
Don’t let the jovial name fool you – Jellyfish is home to serious global flavors, courtesy of Mathieu Masson-Duceppe. Named by one of the restaurant co-owner’s children, Jellyfish is the product of Masson-Duceppe’s extensive travels and an homage to Montreal’s diverse culture. Masson-Duceppe says Québécois citizens are approachable and have big hearts with big emotion, and, as such respond to intense flavours and sharing of knowledge and cuisine. “I don’t just cook for Jellyfish or for me; I cook for Montreal,” he says of the city he returned to after working in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Asia.
The Jellyfish menu is a contrast between raw and oven-cooked dishes. Masson-Duceppe hates the term fusion when it comes to dining, but he describes the Jellyfish sharing style as a combination of Chinese and Latino flavours. A few of his personal favorites include bone marrow-braised oxtail pasta, whole fried Japanese snapper, half chicken cooked with miso butter and stuffed with Boursin French cheese, and homemade kimchi with braised short ribs. He is always changing the menu but admits some items must remain. His regulars wouldn’t have it any other way. Another Jellyfish highlight is the crudo section with ceviche tartare sashimi and his favorite ingredients to showcase — vegetables. “Veggies are super cool,” exclaims Masson-Duceppe, who was inspired by learning from a Bohemian mother and Italian senora. Aside from the culinary side of Jellyfish, diners marvel at the intense romance of the décor including a massive set of chandeliers resembling — What else? — jellyfish. Make a reservation at Jellyfish.
David Bohati, Teatro, Calgary, Alberta
For David Bohati, life in the kitchen began early. This enterprising chef worked his way up from washing dishes to leading one of Calgary’s best restaurants – no mean feat in a city that has become known for wowing gastronomes. One of the reasons dining at Teatro is special to Bohati is its environment. Housed in a historic bank building, the visually inspiring space with its high ceilings features a vault-turned-wine cellar that is brimming with what Bohati calls crazy labels and vintages and an open concept kitchen — an 8th Avenue and Olympic Plaza feast for the eyes.
Bohati enjoys experimenting with the restaurant’s housemade pastas and charcuterie, and when winter cools Calgary down, Teatro heats up with a focus on clean and pure presentations of raw or gently cooked dishes. There is a daily play on crudo on the dinner menu, featuring everything from fresh Japanese fish, foie gras, scallops, Alberta lamb, and wild line-caught king salmon belly. Bohati’s dear friend happens to be his pastry chef Daniel “Papi” Ramon and he says Papi’s chocolate bonbons are a must-try even if a guest is so stuffed they can’t fathom another bite. He also recommends the tortellini in brodo. For functions, he has been working on a braised short rib steamed bao bun canapes with kimchi aioli, and he brings special attention to Teatro’s classic pork and scallops and his beet and umeboshi ‘gel’ he has been using for the past five years with fatty cuts of meat. This huge fan of Alberta beef always has Brant Lake wagyu in his kitchen and on his Instagram feed (@chefbohati), along with Alberta lamb. Make a reservation at Teatro.