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We chat with the winner of Top Chef Canada season one

We caught up with the winner of season one of Top Chef Canada last night shortly after the show aired to get their impressions on the season and find out what they’re doing with the loot (the grand prize was $100,000, along with a GE Monogram kitchen). And yes, we’re keeping things intentionally vague to stave off spoilers. Read our Q&A and find out who won, after the jump.

Hi, Dale. Congratulations on winning Top Chef Canada!
Thank you.

Sometimes it felt like the season was skewed away from your fine-dining style toward comfort food. Did you find that was a challenge?
Definitely. Being a big fan of the American version, I found…it is called Top Chef, right? I did feel that we were trying to be skewed to cook comfort food and to cook more casual food, and that’s not what I’m about. I did feel that fine dining was being put down, and I would happily stand up for it. It’s the way that I cook, and I wasn’t going to change that. Even at Ensemble, my new restaurant, it is a casual restaurant, but I don’t think casual has to be rustic. I don’t cook rustic food. I cook casual food that’s refined.

Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay celebrates with his son Aidan. (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Tell us a little more about Ensemble.
The food I call modern French. The dining room is elegant and everything else, but it’s kind of big-city elegant. The idea is a place to have fun and to have good music on and have a bit of buzz, and it’s not supposed to formal, it’s not supposed to be stuffy. The menu is very much all my style, but I’m using flavours and spices from everywhere in the world—barbecue, Thai broth, some more French dishes, some more Japanese dishes.

Some Top Chef Canada dishes?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve got about five on there! I’m trying to bring soufflé back. I love soufflé.

Can you tell us any piece of criticism from the judges that influenced the way you cook, post-show?
No, I wouldn’t say it influenced the way that I cook. I will say that I’m taking something away as a challenge. Whenever someone tells me that I can’t do something, then I want to try to be the other way and prove it to them. You’ll hopefully see something arise from that reasonably soon, in fact. I’m going to do some real casual stuff, but I’m still going to be refined. Even if I move down into more run-of-the-mill markets, it’s still going to be refined.

Outside of Ensemble?
Yup.

We had to ask this: after the debacle in episode 11, have you eaten any Trinidadian food since the show aired?
The producers all went and got me a roti! And it was delicious [laughs]. I love eating food from everywhere. I mean, you can’t do any research [on the show]! If you don’t have any idea really about Trinidad….I just didn’t know what I was doing. It was a hard episode and I definitely know I was being a bit of a douche, a bit of an idiot for that episode. But everyone has those days, and that was mine. I’m just glad that I snuck through. Fortunately for me, two other people didn’t do fantastic that day either. Probably my least favourite episode.