What is Canadian food? Glebe chefs weigh in

June 29, 2018 | by glebeadmin

When we think of Canadian food, the first things that come to mind are things like maple syrup, poutine and Naniamo Bars, but our pallete is far more diverse than that.

We sat down with a number of Glebe chefs to find out how they define our national cuisine these days.


Rene Rodriguez
Head Chef at Orto Trattoria
Canadian Eats Dish: AHI TUNA CRUDO – Ahi tuna crudo with orange oil, fennel, orange segment, fermented chiles, pangrattato, caper berry, micro basil.

Q: How would you define Canadian food today?

“I think it’s a melting pot of who we are as individuals. We have so many cultures coming in, and we embrace what Canada has given us, and we give a little bit of us.I think it’s a bit of everything using Canadian ingredients and it’s very diverse. There is no real definition of what Canadian cuisine is, I think it’s a little bit of who we are.”

Q: How have you seen the Ottawa food scene change in the last 5-10 years?

“Ten years ago, we didn’t have access to as many ingredients as we do today. Everything was coming from the U.S and Mexico, until a lot of eco-farming started, greenhouses and even people growing things in their back yard. Now, you take advantage of six months of summer, you grow whatever you can, you can it, you freeze it and you are cooking with ingredients from your own soil. Ten years ago, we were just lazy, we didn’t want to go to the extra mile.”

Q: What is your all-time favourite Canadian dish to eat and why?

“I have a few, but I honestly think that if I wanted to pick one dish that reminds me of Canada it’s wild salmon, which is very Canadian. I love the idea of marinating the salmon with a little bit of maple syrup and then you slowly bake it for about 15 minutes on super high heat. The syrup caramelizes that salmon. That’s something that really represents Canada for me. Wild salmon is one of my favourite things to eat.”


Liam Vainola
Head Chef at Erling’s Variety
Canadian Eats Dish: FIDDLEHEADS – Sauteed fiddleheads with house smoked bacon, purple saurkraut, grana padano, buckwheat grouts and “burger Sauce”.

Q: How would you define Canadian food today?

“The world’s plethora of ingredients, locally sourced as much as possible. The beauty is that you can create food from absolutely any culture. We are all mutts in Canada. Canadian food is just a meld of the world’s cuisine and we are lucky enough to have incredible ingredients here”

Q: What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

“Old El Paso tacos, ground beef tacos! That’s my favourite. It’s my nostalgic comfort food. I grew up in a very healthy, organic, vegetarian household, so those treat nights with dirty tex mex was always a big deal. Also, good old smoked ham, French Canadian pea sop with a dollap of sour cream and some hot sauce and, of course, classic drunken poutine at two in the morning.”


Amanda Watkins
Co-owner at The Wild Oat Bakery, Café & Farm
Canadian Eats Dish: BUTTER TART –  A true representation of a Pioneer Canada dessert! Local butter, eggs, flour and maple syrup from Golden Maples Farm. Celebrating the cultural diversity of Canadian Cuisine.

Q: How would you define Canadian Food today?

“Locally-sourced with maple sprinkled on top.”

Q:How has the Ottawa food scene changed over the last 5-10 years?

“It’s definitely getting more bougie for sure. I think people are starting to focus on their niche instead of spreading themselves this across the board on their menus and so people come for specific items.”

Q: What is your favourite all-time favourite Canadian dish?

“I think a Nanaimo Bar is my favourite. It ticks all the right boxes. It’s creamy and sweet and nutty.”


Alex Anne Grandinetti
Owner at Soup Guy Café
Canadian Eats Dish: Maritime Clam Chowder – A rich cream-based soup filled with clams, carrots and potatoes. Its dishes like this that make the Maritimes Famous

How would you define Canadian food today?

“I don’t know if you can. Canadian food is a little bit of everything from around the world. Everybody brings something to the table. We can support every different culture of food, so I think that is Canadian Food. It’s not just one dish anymore.”

Q: How has the Ottawa Food scene changed in the last 5-10 years?

“I think it’s growing a lot, escpecially in different districts in the city. In the Glebe, people talk about restaurants all the time, where they eat and they want to try different things. Food that is not generic.”

What is your favourite all-time favourite Canadian dish to eat?
” I love poutine, but with ketchup on it.”


Cam Saikaly 
Owner at Boston Pizza
Canadian Eats Dish: The Boston Royal Pizza – Signature Pizza sauce, pizza mozzarella, smoked ham, pepperoni, shrimp, olives, green peppers, onions and fresh mushrooms. Also available as a Gluten-free option!

Q: How would you define Canadian food today?

“Canadian food is always evolving. What would have been considered a Canadian dish 15 years ago, has changed so much over the years. When I think about Canadian food culture today, what comes to mind is high quality, healthy options, and even a little bit of adventure. With so many new Canadians and people being welcomed in to our FANTASTIC country, the average Canadian taste bud has definitely evolved.”

Q: How has the Ottawa food scene evolved in the last 10 years?

“What I have noticed is that everyone is striving for originality. The other thing I’ve noticed is that simplicity, presentation and perfection are a common theme. Canadians are eating with their eyes and enjoying every minute of what the Ottawa food scene has to offer! Canadians are also enjoying more snackable options when they dine out. Restaurants these days are perfecting smaller, specific food categories, which are not your typical three course meals.”

Q: What is your favourite Canadian dish of all time, and why?

“My favorite Canadian dish of all time would have to be the Club Sandwich. I have been eating this sandwich since I was a little boy and it is a timeless, simple and DELICIOUS dish that always satisfies my hunger. Aside from filling me up, it’s one of those options that is also a comfort food of mine. It reminds me of my childhood, family and great memories. Although you can get a club sandwich almost anywhere, I must say that I am a fan of having a full chicken breast between the bread, rather than cold cuts.”


Jesse Pagnan
Head chef at Sunset Grill.
Canadian Eats Dish: Eggs Sunset: Three eggs over-easy on English muffins topped with peameal-style (Canadian) bacon, Hollandaise sauce and home fries.

Q: How would you define Canadian food today?

“We have ocean front, we have farmers’ field, we have tons of resources to make the food that we put on our tables everyday. Local foods – that’s a big key. The first thing you think of is poutine, or maple syrup, but there is a lot more to our cuisine than just than a maple syrup poutine or a beaver tail. We have a lot to offer. It’s a collage of cultures that make our food what it is.

Q: How have you seen the Ottawa food scene change in the last 5-10 years?

“We have trended towards more healthier eating – gluten free, vegetarian, vegan. People are getting away from the fattier food and moving towards healthier eating. Our potatoes are steamed and then thrown on to the flat top, instead of deep fried. People are more conscious about what they are putting in their body.”

Q: What is your favourite Canadian dish of all time to eat and why?

“My all-time favourite Canadian dish I would have to say is Prince Edward Island mussels caught right off the boat. I can’t argue that for a second. You can still taste the grains of sand in the mussels. That’s how fresh they are. They are big and plump. When you get them that day, they are just juicy, salty, delicious. The seafood in P.E.I is unbelievable.”

Canadian Eats runs until Canada Day in the Glebe. At at a participating restaurant and you could win a dinner package to share with up to eight friends. Click here to see the Canadian Eats menu.