For most of the inaugural season of Top Chef Canada I was out of the country, so I am making an attempt to redeem myself by going to Muse Restaurant every Monday, to cheer on Executive Chef Xavier Lacaze. In addition, I have decided to write up a Xavier-focused recap of the show. We might have 1 entry or 13, so tune into the Food Network on Monday nights at 10 EST/PST to watch and then check back to the site to read my Xavier recap. I will also speak about the experience at Muse Restaurant, one of the city’s best establishments by far. Then the next week Chef Xavier is going to put the dish he created on the show on offer at Muse, which is what I will be eating.
As the season progresses, I will be offering a few seats at my table to lucky listeners, readers and followers of Spooning & Forking, so keep your ear to the ground. The Muse team have given us a really great table for viewing and you never know who will show up … for the premiere we had local luminaries such as Dan Clapson of Dan’s Good Side, Start from Scratch, and Avenue Magazine; Wendy Peters of Yelp Calgary; Gwendolyn Richards, Food Writer for the Calgary Herald; Heather Wighton – Calgary’s Culture Ambassador, local food enthusiast and Supervisor at Rouge; Chelsea Klukacs graphic designer extraordinaire (she designed the Spooning & Forking logo – thanks again Chelsea); and Geoff Rogers, Executive Chef at Home Tasting Room. Also joining us were some local bloggers: Diane Ng, from Food Salon; Lori Andrews of The 10 Cent Designer; Sarah Ward blogger from Freckles & Ash; and Jacinthe Koddo, of Food with Presence, and Start from Scratch. All their twitter handles are listed at the bottom of this post.
Without further adieu let’s talk about Chef Xavier Lacaze and Top Chef Canada Season 2.
Chef Xavier is the only chef representing the prairies in the second season of Top Chef Canada. I can’t think of anyone better to represent the booming culinary scene of Calgary. For my radio program, Spooning & Forking, I speak with a lot of chefs in the city, and almost always Chef Xavier comes up in conversation. Lacaze is highly respected by his peers, colleagues and clients alike. Why? Because, he is that good. He has an enormous vault of experience from which to draw when dealing with the pressure and challenges issued on the show. I’m not going to call him a ‘Dark Horse’, because I don’t think he is and he isn’t exactly in hiding, but he is definitely the crown jewel in our culinary scene.
So what happened at Muse? Well before the show got started you could feel the anticipation. There was chatter, twitching, feet tapping, and eyes darting around the room – just waiting. And then it all began: Season 2 of Top Chef Canada with a new host, Canadian actress Lisa Ray. As the 16 chefs flashed across the screen, the entire packed-to-capacity restaurant erupted in a cheer when Xavier was introduced. The episode started with all the Chef’s arriving to the patio of the Bymark restaurant in Toronto. Soon after their arrival the Chef’s were issued the first Quickfire Challenge: to re-purpose the hors d’oevres on offer with a time limit of 15 minutes. We didn’t get to see what everyone put together as there are 16 chefs and only 1 hour per episode. But, we saw a few. Unfortunately, judge Mark Macewan said that Chef Xavier’s Quickfire Challenge dish of brie cheese & wrapped corinth grape crostini with rosemary honey had “poor presentation”. Hmpf. I’d still love to try it – can you go wrong with brie, rosemary and honey? Not in my world. The winner of the challenge was 30-year-old Sarah Tsai of Toronto. She wowed the judges with her take on oysters and pearls, which gave her immunity going into the first elimination challenge.
In the Elimination Challenge, the judges issued the task to create a dish that is representative of the beginnings of each Chef’s culinary journey. So, in Xavier’s case, although he is representing Calgary, he is originally from France. What does that mean? He put together a classic French dish of organ meats: cornmeal sweet breads, foie gras, mushroom, celeriac purée & veal jus. The judges liked it and placed him firmly in the middle of the pack. So, for my meal next Monday, sweetbreads and foie gras here I come. It’s rumored that Lacaze is a magician with sweetbreads, so I am super excited.
Unfortunately, as with these competitions, someone has to go and 30-year-old William Thompson of Caledonia, Ontario was the first casualty of Top Chef Canada Season 2.
Team Xavier is still in the running for another week!! So join the party to cheer on Chef Xavier Lacaze at Muse Restaurant & Lounge, or their other establishments: AKA Wine Bar, Wine Bar Kensington and The Brasserie.
Twitter handles: @xavierlacaze, @muserestaurant, @the_brasskens, @WinebarKensi, @ChefCamD, @TopChefCanada, @SpooningForking, @DansGoodSide, @WightonSpecial, @GwendolynMR, @YelpCalgary, @Chef_Rogers, @Chelscore, @FoodSalon, @DesignerTweets, @mssarahward, @jacinthekoddo
Hashtags: #yyctopchef #topchefcanada #goXavgo