5 Surprising Things About Top Chef Canada

Here Is A Fun Fact About Tina:  She has never seen a single Star Wars movie.  This is not totally unusual but deeply hilarious, because despite being shocked when I told her Harrison Ford was in the films, she still insists that she knows what goes on in them.

As an example, this past weekend she declared with the utmost confidence that she knew exactly what Chewbacca (which, she insists, is his slave name; the correct spelling is actually “Chuwbakkah”) sounds like, despite having never actually heard him before.

“It’s perfectly obvious,” she said, “He growls a lot and sometimes howls.  You know… Purrrrr-ooo.  PURR-OOO?  PURRROOOOOO!


This is important because a) it’s really funny and b) it is 100% analogous to our knowledge of Top Chef.  Basically everyone in the world has watched the numerous seasons of show, replete with its presumably interesting contestants and occasionally bikini-clad hosts — except for us.

Yes, the cooking-fixated couple who has seen the entire ouvre of Man vs. Food has never, ever watched a taped minute of Top Chef. Admitting such will probably permanently sideline us (or whatever happens when you’re banished from the sidelines — the parking lot, maybe?) in the food-loving community, but the truth must come out!  Never have we been inspired to tune into Top Chef for even a minute, despite all the good press and Padma Lakshmi.

Yet, just like Tina’s instinctive appreciation of Wookiees, we figure that we already know what it’s all about.  And yeah, we know how that sounds, too.

So tonight, with the premiere of Top Chef Canada (the inevitable international-ization), we intend to test our assumptions and find at least five things that surprise us about the program.  They may not be big, they may not be radical, but we are willing to be open enough to admit that there could be something that was not entirely predictable about what is — essentially — Star Academy for food.

And here’s what we found:

1. One of the hosts is a stealth cooking show host — and doesn’t seem to want you to know about her old job.

Why would anyone rely more heavily on their experience at ESPN or Entertainment Tonight than a horrible syndicated Canadian game show where people cook for each other to win a date?

We can’t imagine.  So good job, Thea!  Choosing to highlight your vacation planning versus your prior hosting experience was a good call.

2. We don’t hate Mark McEwan (as much as we expected to)

We’ve watched McEwan before on other programs, and found him to be a picky, irritating, overconfident pain in the ass.  To be honest, when we first saw the promotions for Top Chef Canada, McEwan was one of the reasons we were sort of dreading it.

So, imagine our surprise when he turned out to be exactly the perfect person to shred the dreams of a dozen-and-a-half aspiring chefs.  Is there anyone more ideal at telling someone when they’ve buggered up cleaning a fish, or putting the wrong herbs into a Béarnaise?  No yelling, no Ramsay-esque ad hominems, just the straightforward and unforgiving dismantling of those who make even the puniest of mistakes.  More precisely, he’s exactly what you’d hope for from the judge of an actual cooking competition.

In other words, what you need is someone who you’d absolutely dread spending even the briefest amount of time with, just in case you screwed up… and to us, that’s Mark McEwan right down to the roots.

So good job, Mark!  You’ve found the perfect venue for being a terrifying nit-picker!

3. Canada’s Top Chef has an American contestant…

…and we’re not ticked off about it!  Because they totally implied that he moved to Ontario to marry his partner, which (even if we’re just reading too much into it) makes us disproportionately proud of being Canadian.

So good job, Patrick!  Your life decisions make us feel GREAT.

4. Even ego-maniacal chefs can’t shut up when they blow it

One of our preferred household fights is when Tina, even while she is putting the food in front of her guests, will immediately begin telling them everything that she did “wrong” with it:

“I’m so sorry that the slow-cooked pork doesn’t have the perfect spice mix with it!  It was only simmering for three hours, and really it should have been five or six, with a bit more of a maple-heat combination.  But this will probably be good — there’s some sauce here to spruce it up, I’m so sorry.”

It drives me absolutely bananas, not simply because her food is always excellent, but because she violates a basic rule:  that the kitchen is a rare and magical place, where sins are invisible until you choose to reveal them.

At least, that’s what we thought — and yet how many times did these professional cooks, who have spent the majority of their lives preparing food for people far above our salary grade, openly tell each other and the judges all about the mistakes they made?

BAFFLING, and yet genuinely validating.  So good for you, blabber-mouthed chefs!  It’s good to know we’re not alone in skewering ourselves.

5. We really liked it

Heaven help us, this was the biggest surprise at all.  With the prickly judges, the occasionally blithering chefs, the baffling cooking decisions, it’s like watching three episodes of Chopped in a single hour!  If only Ted Allen were Canadian and doing Thea Andrews’ job, the show might well be perfect.

Plus, it’s possible that Tina has never felt closer to a TV show judge than when they called tonight’s cooking pedestrian, or indeed, vomitous.

So good for you, Top Chef Canada! You have helped us to overcome our bias, and most likely have hooked us on the full season yet another competitive cooking show, when we didn’t think we had the appetite for even a single hour more.


  • Hellcat13

    I didn’t watch the Star Wars trilogy until I was 23 and an ex-boyfriend forced me to. I enjoyed it.

  • http://www.aperfectversionofmyself.wordpress.com Tara

    I’ve never seen Star Wars. I’m almost 30.

    Except, I think I saw The Phantom Menace, or at least parts of it one time when I stayed home sick. That’s the first one, right?

  • emc

    I had the exact same feeling about Mark McEwan. He was surprisingly sufferable.

    I’m happy that Top Chef is one of the higher quality shows out there, because it made it fairly easy to follow the format and not screw it up. And that I’ve actually been to a couple of the places the chefs represent, so I don’t feel distanced from it like I do the American version.

  • Stephen

    Tracy and I really enjoy the Top Chef and Chopped series. However I have some, concerns, about the Canadian iteration.

    I mean look at the contestants. You’ve got the potential avant garde for the future of Canadian haute cuisine, and then some backwoods mumblies whose inspired culinary creations are completely rewriting the rules of gourmet artistry with dishes like beef and taters. “gawlee mister mcewan it shore is nice ta be here with y’all. Whut I made fer you is this here fancy beef dish on account of it havin taters” (note: backwoods mumblies are uncomfortable with the syntactical hegemony of capital letters).

    I mean out of all of Canada, THESE PEOPLE are the best you can bring forward? Really? I can’t help but feel the show slights us as Canadians.

    And I DESPISE Ted Allen.