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Cookbook fracas: Susur Lee, Marc Thuet and other Toronto foodies displeased as Canadians left out of 100 Emerging Culinary Stars

Shut out: Canadian chefs have been left out of COCO

Backcountry bias: COCO: 100 Emerging Culinary Stars Chosen by 10 of the World’s Greatest Chefs snubs Canuck chefs

The country’s top chefs and food writers are outraged that an upcoming book profiling the world’s 100 most promising chefs does not include any Canadians. The 448-page book titled COCO: 100 Emerging Culinary Stars Chosen by 10 of the World’s Greatest Chefs will also contain recipes by these young, non-Canadian chefs. When Toronto writer Shaun Smith learned that there is still one slot left in the book, he promptly started a letter-writing campaign to the COCO’s British publisher, Phaidon, making the case for squeezing in some CanCon.

The letter (full text below) explains how disappointed the signatories are with the list. It’s an impressive collection of names: 24 of Canada’s top chefs and food writers have thrown their support behind Smith’s campaign, including Susur Lee, Jamie Kennedy, Marc Thuet, Anthony Walsh, Guy Rubino, Anne Yarymowich, Lucy Waverman and Toronto Life’s own James Chatto.

For the most part, the culinary A-listers say it’s Canada’s penchant for humility that led to the omission. Ame (formerly Rain) chef Guy Rubino told us that “Canadians do not celebrate Canadian talent nowhere near to the extent other countries celebrate their own talent…Books are created to sell books, and publishers/authors are going to feature chefs that will maximize their sales.” Globe food writer Lucy Waverman agrees. “We don’t toot our own horn enough so we miss out on getting included in these food lists. We don’t push what’s good even though we have many up-and-coming young chefs. I don’t know where Gordon Ramsey ate when he was here.”

Anthony Walsh of Canoe was shocked about the list. “If Jamie Kennedy was on the panel we’d get some Canadian contingent,” he says. “[The book has] a broad topic, but they should still do due diligence. It’s complete ignorance.”

Curious about the melee, we contacted the publisher in London. Phaidon’s representative, Aimee Bianca, had this to say:

We understand the disappointment of not being included. However, the decision of who is chosen in the book is not Phaidon’s, rather the 10 noted chefs who curated the emerging talents in the book. That’s what makes this book so special, that they are chefs chosen by their peers, without editorial interference.

That became obvious to us when we looked closely at the list of 99 confirmed chefs. Most of the chosen ones are from the same countries as the panel members. Here’s how the numbers break down:

Japan, six
Spain, six
Hong Kong, five
Australia, five
U.K., 17
France, 11
U.S.A., 21

Ferran Adria (Spain)
Mario Batali (U.S.)
Shannon Bennett (Australia)
Alain Ducasse (France)
Fergus Henderson (U.K.)
Yoshihiro Murata (Japan)
Gordon Ramsay (U.K.)
Rene Redzepi (Sweden)
Alice Waters (U.S.)
Jacky Yu (Hong Kong)

“I don’t know if we were snubbed because it was all personal opinion,” said Mildred’s Temple Kitchen chef and co-owner Donna Dooher, who also signed the letter. “Maybe it’s time to look internally to see what’s wrong with us because we’re the only ones who can really make a change.”

She says it’s great to see the country’s culinary community band together, something she doesn’t see very often, to raise the country’s profile. Still, Dooher isn’t bitter about the exclusion: “I’m a cookbook and food book junkie so I’ll buy it even if there’s no Canadian talent. Boycotting the book isn’t going to solve the problem.”

*This story has been updated. For further developments, click here.


Dear Ms Terragni [Emilia Terragni, editorial director at Phaidon],

We are writing to express our surprise and disappointment that, in assembling the list of emerging chefs for Phaidon’s forthcoming book, COCO, the ten esteemed curators behind the volume chose not to include any Canadian chefs in the book.

We have great respect for these ten curators, but as a group of senior chefs and culinary professionals in Canada, we have direct and immediate contact on a daily basis with numerous younger chefs and can assure you that there is a wealth of vital, emerging talent in Canada’s culinary community. To not include any of these young Canadian chefs in COCO leaves a rather large hole in the book.

We are given to understand that there may be a final spot still open in the book. One is better than none. We would encourage you and the COCO curators to look Northward to Canada to fill that last spot. We would be only too happy to assist with recommendations if desired.

We look forward to learning your thoughts on this matter, which, even as we write, is receiving widespread attention in the Canadian culinary and bookselling communities, as well as the media.


SUSUR LEE, executive chef and partner/owner, Shang, New York; Madeline’s and Lee, Toronto |

JAMIE KENNEDY, executive chef and owner, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, Gilead Café, & Gardiner Café, Toronto

ROB FEENIE, food concepts architect, Cactus Club , Vancouver

KAREN BARNABY, executive chef, The Fish House in Stanley Park, Vancouver |

SINCLAIR PHILIP, co-owner, Sooke Harbour House, Sooke, BC

MARC THUET, executive chef and co-owner, Conviction, Petite Thuet & Atelier Thuet, Toronto |

DONNA DOOHER, executive chef and co-owner, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Toronto

GUY RUBINO, executive chef and co-owner, Ame and Ushi Oni, Toronto

LORENZO LOSETO, executive chef, George, Toronto

JASON BANGERTER, chef de cuisine, Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

ANTHONY WALSH, corporate executive chef/partner, Canoe,
Oliver and Bonacini Restaurants, Toronto

ANNE YARYMOWICH, executive chef, Frank, Toronto

MARTIN KOUPRIE, executive chef and co-owner, Pangaea, Toronto

JEFF CRUMP, executive chef, Ancaster Old Mill, Ancaster, ON

SAL HOWELL, proprietor, River Café, Calgary

LUCY WAVERMAN, award-winning cookbook author, Toronto

JAMES CHATTO, award-winning cookbook author, Toronto

NAOMI DUGUID, award-winning cookbook author, Toronto

JENNIFER MCLAGAN, award-winning cookbook author, Toronto

ANITA STEWART, award-winning cookbook author and culinary activist, Elora, ON

DARYLE NAGATA, executive chef, Pan Pacific, Vancouver

PINO POSTERARO, founder and proprietor, Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill,


MICHAEL NOBLE, principal and chef, Notable Restaurant Works

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  • Gastronomic gastroenterologist

    It’s about time Canada and Canadian chefs, in particular, realise the divide between the level of fine dining in Canada vs. many other parts of the world. The reality is many of Canada’s fine dining establishments would not be able to compete with the rest of the world’s culinary best.

    I think the fact that the response to this is to write a letter of discontent rather than to self reflect, just makes it more disappointing.

  • pierre

    Is this what we call “Typical Canadian”?

    I spend a lot of my time in Europe.
    Italy has great chefs… looks as if they are not part of this publication either!!! Are they complaining? NO!!
    The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria etc. etc. all have a lot of talented chefs!! All those countries have Michelin rated restaurants that are not part of this best 100 list either. I do not hear them complaining!!

    Nobody cares!! It is not important!! It is only a LIST!!

    Of course our Canadian inferiority complex is back at work.
    This happens a lot in the entertainment industry as well.

    What a waste of energy.

    Just one more thing.
    Most Canadian chefs are just not that great and a lot of these guys a just plain copy cats, except maybe for Rob Feenie and S. Lee. I know for a fact that a lot of Toronto chefs make frequent trips to NYC for new menu ideas. Is that what they mean by originality? Come on folks, stop crying and grow up.

  • poquito

    I have worked in the kitchens of many of the so called best chefs in toronto. Kennedy, opus, sassafraz, scaramouche, senses to name a few and it is a huge dissapointment these chefs are nowhere close to what great chefs are (Adria, Cantu, Ducasse, ripert) their fodd is always ok to medium low and that is my personnal opinion. the restaurant industry in toronto is a big fail
    makes me angry

  • esther

    This is what comes of living in a culture (or is it multi-culture?) where excellence has been trumped by equity everywhere you look. The expectation that inclusivity should be the determination to be selected for this list, rather than exceptionality, is systemic in our country. As a matter of policy, we have downplayed any acknowledgment and celebration of quality and excellence in most areas of human endeavor. It’s the optics that are more important.

  • Pingback: Canucks definitely not cuckoo for COCO book | Aprons & Icons |

  • James

    Hugh Acheson (chosen by Mario Batali)

    IS Canadian

  • mattagascar slim

    I’m saddened that it seems that trying to become famous has overtaken a passion for food as the motivation among some chefs. People want accolades when they should just stick to perfecting their craft. I think if you’re confident in your abilities and fervent towards food then who cares what anyone else thinks anyway. I’m sick of this woe-is-me attitude Canadian Chefs have about themselves.

  • droos

    toronto restaurants and chefs are given way too much credit……in toronto.

    there really isn’t anything all that special here.

  • natural healing center

    That is very enlightening post..

  • become rich quick

    That was very scholastic piece.

  • printable 2013 calendar

    Tremendous writing!!