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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 3: the craving games

A very pregnant Thea Andrews returned for a guest spot (Image: Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 2 | Episode 3

Last night’s episode of Top Chef Canada accomplished a couple of rare feats: it brought last season’s host Thea Andrews onto the same set as this season’s host Lisa Ray without any sparks flying; and it managed to theme an entire episode around the appetites of pregnant women without being grossly offensive (even if it couldn’t escape being deeply corny). So, to the fine people at Insight Productions, we say: good on you. Oh, and the cooking? Actually, it was a few notches up from last week’s construction-site rigamarole, although it did include enough you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff-up bombs to keep us amused.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 2: hokey doke

Does meatitarian Mike Holmes look happy with Elizabeth Rivasplata’s black cod carpaccio? (Image: Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 2 | Episode 2

The original U.S. version of Top Chef tries to maintain a steely cool tone with the chefs run ragged and constantly at each other’s throats (witness the bullying of poor Beverly Kim this season). The Canadian version, however, has never been afraid of sustained periods of hokeyness—which might explain last night’s episode featuring celebrity tough-guy contractor Mike Holmes. We can’t say exactly what culinary expertise Holmes brought to bear on the competition. We can say, though, that Holmes’s wildly popular renovation shows all air on HGTV Canada, which is mostly owned by Shaw, which also owns most of Food Network Canada. So whatever else his appearance was, it was a fine display of brand convergence in the best Top Chef fashion.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 1: and we’re baaaaaack

Sarah Tsai looks like she’s got a tough decision to make (Image: Courtesy Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADASeason 2 | Episode 1

Let’s face it: season one of Top Chef Canada wasn’t perfect. Some people complained that the cooking lacked ambition. Others, including many of our esteemed commenters, found the slate of contestants a tad too lily white and male. And, let’s face it, not everyone was the biggest fan of host Thea Andrews. But here we are, eight months later, with a set of chefs that head judge Mark McEwan has said are higher calibre, a more diverse cast and, lo!, a new host, actress and one-time model Lisa Ray. So who knows? We’re already pretty excited to see how this season will stack up against the first (which, to be fair, we thought was pretty entertaining). Find out how the first episode went down—and how much product placement the producers were able to cram in—after the jump.

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Top Chef Canada reveals the rather stacked list of guest judges for season two

Remember last year when Chris Cosentino, one of the pioneers of the offal revival, visited Toronto for undisclosed reasons and claimed he could smell Chinatown from three blocks away? Or when Richard Blais, the molecularly inclined winner of Top Chef All-Stars, tweeted about the interesting tasting menu he’d just lunched on in Toronto? Or when Italian food legend Lidia Bastianich dropped in at All the Best Fine Foods? Turns out they weren’t here just because they love us—they’re all guest judges on season two of Top Chef Canada. Other notable judges and tasters include—and let us be clear, this is a bit of a spoiler for those who really like to keep their Top Chef Canada viewing pure—east-coast chef Michael Smith, season one host Thea Andrews (no hard feelings, we guess!), chef-about-town Matty Matheson of Parts and Labour, Leafs assistant captain Colby Armstrong, Susur Lee and his soon-to-be restaurateur sons Kai and Jet Bent-Lee, Toca’s Tom Brodi, Roger Mooking, Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelson, last season’s winner Dale MacKay and his adorable son Ayden, Keisha Chante, Rick the Temp Campanelli, Lorenzo Loseto of George, Charlie’s Burgers mastermind Franco Stalteri, husband-and-wife dynamos Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich, Odd Bits author Jennifer McLagan, Vancouver Indian restaurateur and chef Vikram Vij and assorted competitors from last season, not to mention the somewhat bizarro guests we already told you about, like Alan Thicke and Mike Holmes. (Whew!) Not bad.

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Q&A with Lisa Ray, the new host of Top Chef Canada, on the joys and perils of eating for a living

(Image: Top Chef Canada/Insight Productions)

Yesterday we told you that actress and former model Lisa Ray had been pegged to replace Thea Andrews as host of Top Chef Canada. We caught up today with the 39-year-old Torontonian to try to pry some secrets about the second season, which airs March 12 on Food Network Canada. For the most part, we failed. Still, Ray did tell us a bit about working with Mark McEwan, turning into a professional eater and learning about food on the job. Read our Q&A with her after the jump.

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Lisa Ray named new host for season two of Top Chef Canada

Top Chef Canada’s new host Lisa Ray, with head judge Mark McEwan (Image: Top Chef Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada returns for a second season this spring, and a new Torontonian has been pegged to host the show: actress and model Lisa Ray. “I am a big fan of the Top Chef series and thrilled to help spotlight some of the amazing culinary talent right here in my hometown,” she said in a release. “I’m looking forward to a challenging yet delicious season.” The well-travelled actress has starred in Water, Cooking with Stella and Bollywood Hollywood and has plenty of hosting experience, including the Giller Prize gala earlier this month, the 2006 Genie Awards and her own entertainment show in India. She has also been celebrated for her fundraising to support research into multiple myeloma, a disease she was diagnosed with in 2009. Last season’s host Thea Andrews left the show to take care of her second child. Returning for season two, which premieres on March 12, will be head judge Mark McEwan, the grand prize of $100,000 and a GE Monogram kitchen and, we’re sure, a little product placement here and there. No word yet on whether horsemeat will make a comeback.

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Q&A with Padma Lakshmi: the Top Chef host, who’ll be in town for the Delicious Food Show, talks about her favourite contestants and places to eat

Padma Lakshmi, the model, actress, sometime singer, Top Chef host and bestselling cookbook author, will be in town this weekend for the Delicious Food Show at the Better Living Centre. The show, which will also see appearances from Mark McEwan, David Rocco and Afrim Pristine of the Cheese Boutique, will feature cooking demonstrations, tastings, a wine-stomping and more. We chatted with the former supermodel about some of her favourite places to eat, her Top Chef co-star Tom Colicchio and her impressions of eating out in Toronto.

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SPOTTED: Top Chef Canada host Thea Andrews on two shows that are decidedly non-foodie (unless you’re a vampire)

Top Chef Canada junkies experiencing withdrawal during the inter-season hiatus have been able to get their fix of season one host Thea Andrews all over the dial of late, with the former sportscaster and Entertainment Tonight correspondent popping up on scripted shows (which we expect to see more of, since the show is slated to get a new host next season). A couple weeks ago, she appeared on an episode of the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood: Miracle Day as one of the show’s many cable anchors:

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 12: family-styled

The chefs steel themselves before judges David Lee, Gail Simmons and Jacob Richler. (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 12

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Season one of Top Chef Canada has been all about head judge Mark McEwans approach to cooking: luxurious ingredients, simply prepared with exceptional technique. Last night’s episode felt like a master class in that philosophy, so it was only appropriate that the chefs started out chatting with McEwan over brunch at his Yorkville mainstay One. Sure, the conversation might have veered toward the painfully awkward, and sure, McEwan dropped some obviously scripted hints about this love of family-style presentation. But there was still something charming about seeing the four remaining contestants—Dustin Gallagher, Dale MacKay, Connie DeSousa and Rob Rossi— yammer on about their love of food and cooking. Of course, it was all went downhill from there. After the jump, our recap of an episode that featured some high-calibre guests, a tortured quickfire concept and some strangely disappointing cooking (not to mention a Toronto Life shout-out).

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 11: street meet

Rob Feenie with host Thea Andrews (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 11

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From the opening moments of last night’s Top Chef Canada, we learned the following: Dale MacKay, the supremely arrogant self-confident Vancouver chef, actually has a soft side (he was missing his young son); Montreal-by-way-of Vancouver chef François Gagnon sleeps without his shirt on; Mercatto executive chef Rob Rossi likes to sleep in; and Connie DeSousa is feeling the pressure to win the competition for all the female chefs out there (about Grace’s Dustin Gallagher, we learned nothing). None of these micro-developments gave away who the winner and loser might be. After the jump, the twists and turns that brought us down to the final four.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 10: puffed up

Guest judge Lynn Crawford with host Thea Andrews (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 10

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This week’s episode of Top Chef Canada began with Vancouver-based chef François Gagnon mourning the loss of recently eliminated “hockey man” Darryl Crumb. What form did the tribute take? The ritual placement of a hockey stick in what we think was Crumb’s old bunk, of course (somehow it was fitting that the Bruins were already four goals up against the Canucks at that point). Last night also featured what we were primed to believe would be the demise of tough-as-nails Connie DeSousa, who, despite eight seasons of Top Chef history warning against the use of store-bought pastry, used it anyway. The fallout from that cataclysmic decision and a full recap of everything else that went down, after the jump.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 9: the prez

Odd couple Roger Mooking and Thea Andrews at the quickfire challenge (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 9

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For any viewers who found the Milestones sponsorship in episode seven of Top Chef Canada unbearable, it’s probably a good thing you were too busy watching the Canucks get trounced by the Bruins to witness last night’s episode, which sometimes felt a bit like a glorified, 42-minute President’s Choice ad. Still, seeing the contestants squirm around the constraints of the challenge made for far more entertaining viewing than watching the obliteration of Canada’s Stanley Cup hopefuls. Plus, the editing in the introductory scenes didn’t manage to give away who would be eliminated—a definite improvement over some previous episodes. After the jump, our recap of how it all went down.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 8: warring restaurants

An uncharacteristically friendly looking judge’s table—could it be because of Thea Andrews’s Princess Leia outfit? (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 8

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The Restaurant Wars challenge on Top Chef is always a fan favourite, and for good reason—it’s a reliable way to jump-start any season low on drama, bleeped-out words and finger pointing, much like our rather polite Canadian edition. After the jump, our recap of how it played out on last night’s episode.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 7: placing products

The giant Michael Smith and the merely tall Thea Andrews (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 7

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Top Chef and blatant product placement have always gone hand in hand, with each season ratcheting up the level of sponsor integration. Far from being an outright fault, it has become something many fans almost look forward to—albeit with a little cringe. Top Chef Canada really outdid itself last night in that regard, with both the quickfire and the elimination challenges centred around a sponsor—a real milestone in the annals of Canadian TV brand integration. But episode seven was about more than just the all-important sponsors; it also featured a delightfully snarky Michael Smith, some adorable pictures of chefs with their significant others and rhyming put-downs from the judges. We recap it all, after the jump.

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 6: horsing around

Dale MacKay before head judge Mark McEwan and his boss Daniel Boulud; French Food at Home’s Laura Calder (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Products)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 6

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Last night’s episode of Top Chef Canada might have featured superstar New York chef Daniel Boulud, but the viewing audience likely tuned in for another reason altogether: horsemeat-gate (last week’s preview for episode 6 revealed that horsemeat would make an appearance, setting off a pre-emptive e-backlash and prompting Metro Morning to call our own Chris Nuttall-Smith for his opinion). Aside from the horsemeat sideshow, the episode featured some entertaining character development­—Dale MacKay as a sore loser, Rob Rossi as a baby-faced trash talker—a classic Top Chef misstep and, for the first time, not a single chef in their underwear. Our recap of it all, after the jump.

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