Canada is a big nation, with a big hunger for interesting dining experiences. If we look from coast to coast, we see that despite the vast distances between us, chefs all over Canada are working to put Canadian cuisine and gastronomy on the map.
—By Aaron-Joseph Cunningham
THE NOMAD COOK
Chef Travis Petersen
To begin with, many of us might be thinking ‘what is Canadian cuisine?’ To be Canadian means embracing so many varied cultural backgrounds that it is sometimes hard to define what it is that makes our food uniquely Canadian. But this is also exactly what sets us apart from everyone else. Canada is a ‘new’ country with a diverse cultural heritage that creates a fertile ground for culinary experimentation and hybridization. All of this means that we are moving towards a bright future for Canadian Cuisine.
THE NOMAD COOK
So, what are some of the big trends in gastronomy in Canada this year? Coming in on top is health and nutrition. We have seen a surge all over the country, from plant-infused beverages to meals featuring “super-foods.” Ingredients many hadn’t heard of a few years ago like camu camu, spirulina, and yerba mate have become common ingredients in many trendy cafés. Pushing things even further, we can expect to see an even deeper dive into the science of health with new stress-fighting, mood-boosting, energy-enhancing adaptogens like macadamia milk, ashwagandha, and MCT.
Restaurants, like The Simple Kitchen on Roncesvalles in Toronto, have stepped up to meet the demand from health-conscious consumers, with drinks like “The Adaptogen Hot Chocolate,” which features ingredients like Reishi, Cacao, Coconut Palm Sugar, Cinnamon, Stevia, Mesquite, Lucuma, Maca, Goji, Ginseng, Eleuthera, Cordyceps, Beekeepers Naturals Cacao Honey, and a choice of Milk to help you power through your day.
Speaking of feeling good, the next trend on everyone’s tongue in Canada is Cannabis-infused food and Chef Travis Petersen is leading the way. The former MasterChef contestant has been travelling from province to province hosting private cannabis dinners under the name ‘The Nomad Cook’, which he started on 4/20 (of course). Peterson has quickly cemented his spot as Canada’s leading cannabis chef.
Petersen discovered his talented for cannabis-laced edibles a few years ago. He started cooking with cannabis after turning his house into a pop-up restaurant back in April of 2018. Over the course of four days, he had 164 guests attend in groups of five. What was meant to be a one-off experience quickly grew into a cross-country tour. To understand what you’re in for with Petersen’s cooking, you can check out his Instagram feed where he regularly posts pictures of his most recent creations, like Smoked White Asparagus, In-fused Uni Emulsion, Caviar, Scallions, Pickled Radish & Crispy Leeks with 20mg of THC. Although rarely in the same place for long, you can see if Petersen might be coming to a city near you soon.
Many chefs across Canada have been focused on defining what “Canadian Cuisine” means. For many, the answer is simple, locally sourced natural ingredients. One of the people leading this fresh food revolution is Chef Jeremy Charles. Charles’ cuisine focuses on the fresh produce, game, and fish that are so plentiful to Newfoundland.
He knows that Newfoundland is “blessed in having access to some of the best seafood, wild game, and produce in the world.” He focuses on bringing his customers “a truly sustainable approach to fine dining – foraging and sourcing locally-grown ingredients from independent purveyors.” A seven-course tasting at his Raymond’s Restaurant in St. John’s might be comprised of something like locally sourced lobster, salmon, rabbit, pork, and lamb.
Hop on a jet to the other side of Canada to Vancouver. There, we see top chefs with the same focus on fresh, locally sourced food. Chef Sean Reeve of Say Mercy on Fraser Street in Vancouver is making a name for himself for his field-to-fork fare. Some of Reeve’s stand out dishes are the Showstopper salad, which features more than 30 farm-fresh ingredients, and his Chicken of the Sea, a sea urchin pâté with hazelnut, pear, and squid ink brioche.
Fusing his formal chef training in Italy with his love of all things smoked and barbequed. He combines those flavours in dishes like his Barbecue Bolognese, which combines a rich Italian style Bolognese sauce with smoked pork butt, over fresh spaghetti.
But where do you go when you’re done eating all this yummy food? How about a trip to a ‘sober bar’? An emerging trend that is part of our growing health awareness is bars that offer more non-alcoholic drink alternatives and even bars that do not sell alcohol at all.
Photo by Katie Cross
One place leading this trend is Montreal’s MindfulBar, a bar that gives non-drinkers a space to hang out and relax. Co-owner Isabel Tames feels you can actually have fun with no alcohol and wanted to create a space with a distinct ‘bar vibe’ featuring non-alcoholic cocktails, live music, and DJs. They plan to go beyond sodas and juice by creating cocktails with flair containing syrups that incorporate herbs, spices, and other infusions. They will also be selling alcohol-free beer and wine. Not that long ago, the idea of a vegetarian restaurant seemed absurd to most people, and now they are popping up everywhere. Perhaps MindfulBar will start a similar trend.
In such a vast place as Canada, it’s great to know that wherever you travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, there is always an interesting new dining experience just on the horizon.