A new series has launched focusing on Toronto’s rising culinary stars, hosted by our own Chef Mark McEwan! The Chef to Chef with Mark McEwan series launched its first episode on July 5, 2018 and kicked off the event with a delicious celebration held at Centennial College’s Progress campus. Torontonicity was invited to the Hospitality Department’s event space to preview the first episode that featured one of my favourite Toronto chefs – Grant Van Gameren.
Chef Mark McEwan is behind prominent Toronto restaurants North 44, Bymark, and Fabbrica. He also opened the McEwan market at Shops at Don Mills in 2009, which carries artisan and hand-crafted goods such as Laura Slack’s decadent roasted garlic chocolate truffles. If you haven’t had a chance to check the market out, it’s well worth the trip to Don Mills and Lawrence. Chef McEwan is now turning his attention away from his own success, and directly towards the future of Toronto’s restaurant and food scene. Chef to Chef with Mark McEwan is presented by Grub Content and Centennial College, and gives viewers a look into the trials, tribulations, and victories that motivate chefs and restaurateurs.
Guests of the preview party were welcome to sample delicious bites curated by Shalit Foods, featuring Chef Fred Naggar, Chef Suzanne Barr, Victor Dries Catering, and of course Chef Mark McEwan. The first item I sampled was the cauliflower shawarma with wild rice, that came with crispy chickpeas. The wild rice had a slight crunch to it, that was contrasted texturally by the soft cauliflower, and all brought together with warm spices. Absolutely delicious!
Pork belly lovers were treated to a Cajun Freekeh (durum wheat that is roasted to bring out the flavour, and typically used in North African cuisine) Pork Belly. Laid on a spoonful of perfectly cooked white rice, the pork belly was topped with fresh carrot, green onion, and sesame seeds. It was quite the crowd pleaser, as the prep team worked quickly to keep them available throughout the evening.
The McEwan Group brought a decadent and flavourful Foie Gras Mousse Crostini: sherry onion marmalade, aged balsamic, and crisp sage. These crostini were deceivingly delicious, with the sweet onion marmalade complementing the rich fois gras perfectly, and the sage rounding out the experience.
A beautiful play on the slider came from Chef Suzanne Barr who created the Bacon Lobster Double Cheeseburger. Seafood heavy, this slider had all the makings of late night comfort food, with the refined and delicate flavours that only seafood offers. Chef Barr will be featured in a future episode of Chef to Chef, and after her openness in the Hot Docs film The Heat, I can’t wait to hear what she’s working on for future projects!
Guests were also treated to cocktails by Kevin Reuschel: Vanilla Old Fashioned and a Grapefruit Negroni. The negroni was light and fresh, but the vanilla-infused bourbon old fashioned had me going back for seconds. It was made with a brown sugar syrup and coffee bitters, so every sip was bold and warm – the type of drink typically enjoyed during the cooler months, but a fantastic way to cleanse the palate between bites.
Centennial College’s School of Hospitality created gnocchi with parmesan foam, herb dust, and basil spheres. The small spheres were fantastic bursts of vibrant flavour that elevated the quite heavy pasta dish. Fantastic job to Centennial College’s students!
Without a doubt, my favourite item of the evening was from Victor Dries Catering – the joint project between Chef Van Gameren and Chef Chris Brown. The Ceviche Verde came with jicama, peas, and herbs, on a tostada. Wow, what a delicious dish! I understand that ceviche is typically made in a citrus juice, so serving it on tostada is tricky, but the thicker sauce allowed for enjoyment without the mess. I polished off quite a few of these over the night. I highly recommend keeping their team in mind if you’re looking for a catering company to take care of your next major event!
The second episode of Chef to Chef with Mark McEwan features Chef Antonio Park, who recently opened Pick 6IX with our very own Drake. Park is a Montreal-based chef creating dishes inspired by his upbringing in South America combined with his Korean heritage. If you enjoy peeking behind the curtain, listening to professionals open up about their craft, or simply have a curiosity about Toronto’s leading culinary figures, then you must check out Chef to Chef with Mark McEwan. Watch along with Torontonicity, and comment down below on favourite moments or chefs!