Glebe chefs ready to sink their teeth into defining Canadian Eats

May 4, 2017 | by glebeadmin

Roast beef with arugula, vegetables and lemon

New food promotion will explore Canada on a plate

Justin Way can’t wait to put Canada on a plate.

The head chef at Erling’s Variety already has some savoury plans for Canadian Eats, the new Glebe food promotion that will turn the neighbourhood into a playground for food lovers for forty days and forty nights.

The promotion will run from Victoria Day to Canada Day with participating restaurants in the Glebe creating one signature dish they feel captures the spirit of Canada. These dishes will be shared on a collective Canadian Eats menu for the duration of the event, and available for food lovers to try, taste, and taste again. And local chefs agree that Canadian cuisine needs a little bit more attention.

“You look everywhere and everyone is cooking other ethnicities’ food from around the world, but nobody really focuses on Canada, and we’ve got the best soil in the world,” says Way, chopping up veggies at the Strathcona Avenue restaurant.

“Canada is so underrated when it comes to this.”

It didn’t take long for Way and Erling’s owner Liam Vainola to concoct a dish that is, “everything Canada,” as it’s typically what the restaurant does on a regular basis. But they’re pulling out all the stops for their Sunflower Seed Barley Risotto with rabbit and crème fresh for Canadian Eats.

“We didn’t want to use rice, because that isn’t typically Canadian, so, we can use oat, barley and sunflower seeds,” adds Vainola.

“Canadian music, Canadian art, Canadian dance, Canadian film, theatre, television isn’t cool until the rest of the world thinks its cool. So, we are breaking ground right here.”

Head chef and co-owner of Pomeroy House Rich Wilson agrees with this, but he finds it difficult to define Canadian cuisine as such, because we are such a geographically large country – and the flavours from province to province differ so greatly. While prairie plates are serving Alberta beef and pancakes, east coasters are boiling up lobster and scallops. But Wilson is up for the challenge.

“I think defining cuisine as ‘Canadian’ is difficult because we have such a range of influences to draw from. Our country is so big that we have Cod coming from Fogo Island off the coast of NFLD, to different types of Salmon coming from the Pacific, plus everything land-based in between,” says Wilson.

“Our game meat is difficult and expensive to source. What Coastal provinces are doing seems to be quite different from what Quebec or Ontario are doing. Plus, you look North and it’s a completely different style of eating.”

This is what is driving Canadian Eats, finding the answer to the very difficult question of, “What is Canadian Cuisine?” There are obvious and simple answers such as maple syrup or poutine, and there lies the fun – how to unravel the question and help define what makes a dish, well, Canadian. The food celebration will help Canadians understand the food we eat, why we eat it and where it comes from – and it’s all happening as we celebrate 150 years as a country. Clearly it’s time to look at our own menu.

“The first time I ate poutine, I fell in love with it,” admits Kim Nguyen, owner of Sen Asian at Lansdowne. The local restauranteur moved to Canada from Vietnam when she was a teenager, and she has slowly expanded her palette to include the creole-type Canadian fare in her Asian-fusion kitchen.

Nguyen intends to create a Canadian spin on a Vietnamese dish – something that captures her own culture, and embraces Canada all in one bite.

“We wanted to do things a bit more authentic. If we do chicken, Canadians have a certain way of preparing it, and we have a different way of preparing it, and it’s very authentic to our roots,” she says.

“We want to bring something more authentic to our culture, but something that is relatable to Canadians. It’s really about the same type of food, but how we both interpret it differently. Food has evolved so much over the years, and I think there are ways that we can fuse it to make it very relatable.”

Canadian Eats will entice food lovers, both near and far, to come down and explore first-hand what Canadian food is all about. It will generate a conversation and an appreciation for how rich our cuisine is and how lucky we are to be Canadian.

What does Canadian cuisine mean to you? We want to hear from you. Tell us online using the hashtag #CanadianEats!