Tag Archives: NAC

Celebrity Chefs of Canada

This is the highlight of my foodie adventures this year for sure. Big congrats to Chef Michael Blackie and crew for a fabulous event full of good food, wine and great people. He really pulled off an exciting evening, I think his creativity and innovative style is a big bonus for our fair city.

Chef Michael Blackie

An afternoon of really wonderful demo’s led into an evening of delicious indulging of wine and food, followed by a great after-party of dancing, oyster-shucking, and more wine. I brought several guests who are emailing me this morning already talking about next year!

Another shout out to my fellow food bloggers, your hardwork and the passion you show is inspiring!

Chef Vij and Chef Santaguida rocked it and I was so honoured to be paired with them. Thank you Chef Vij for teaching us to eat with our hands and really experience the food!

Chef Santaguida and Vij's Encrusted Lamb Lollipop and Butternut Squash Ravioli

Ottawa has some fabulous culinary talent we should be proud of. Along with the visiting Chefs they all worked hard to make the program a huge success! I can’t wait until next year, I think you should consider joining us. Maybe these will help:

Stacy Lafleche and yes, Susur Lee!

Chef Lynn Crawford and CTV's Leanne Cusack

Dan Sullivan owner and winemaker of Rosehall Run and Jillian Blackie

Chef Vikram Vij and Celebrity Chefs of Canada

In 1997 I picked up a copy of Elm St. magazine, the now defunct publication (2004) was fabulous. There was an article about a Chef in Vancouver named Vikram Vij. I have been hooked ever since. I still make the tumeric potato recipe from that issue.

I have been cooking Indian food for well over 20 years. His influence has only made the dishes I create more exciting.

Fast forward to this past fall, when I found out he was going to be part of Celebrity Chefs of Canada event, March 25th at the NAC. I was thrilled, and I actually asked if it was at all possible that I be given a chance to interview him. When I found out I was the food blogger paired with Chef Vij and Chef Santaguida, well needless to say, there was a lot of excitement in our house.

Last week during a long wait at Pearson International on my way to Los Angeles I got a chance to interview Chef Vij by phone. He immediately put me at ease, and was a pleasure to speak with. It was almost like I had imagined it would be all along do you know what I mean?

Of course there were a thousand questions I didn’t ask, because our focus was the event.

Are you excited to be part of Celebrity Chefs of Canada?

Very excited. What a great line-up. I think Chef Michael Blackie is really showcasing Canada’s culinary scene. I am really interested in seeing the food profile, what other teams are putting together for this event.

Where do you get your inspiration?

From my Grandfather who just wanted me to create the best Indian food possible. I like to bring awareness to our culture and its cuisine, and making Indian food more accessible. My passion and love of food is what motivates me.

How are you preparing or how will you prepare for this event?

I will arrive in Ottawa a few days before, and would like to get to see the city, go out and wander about and get a feel for the place. I also want to prep for the event. It is important that I am fully involved in what I am going make. I need to physically chop the onions, prepare the food that will be part of our recipe.

Have you worked with any of the other Chefs participating in the event?

I worked with Susur about 15 years ago at a fundraiser. I met Lynn once at Mildred Pierce. I look forward to working with Chef Santaguida.

Do you regularly cook Indian food at home?

Rarely do we cook Indian food at home. My background is French food, so our meals at home are predominantly French.

How do you involve the family in making dinner together, in particular your daughters?

I ask them to chop garlic, simple tasks like that. Even conversation while I am prepping dinner about their day, whats going on at school, what their friends are doing. During these times they are watching me prep, learning, slowly getting them involved.

What does Sunday dinner look like at your house?

We really do a more formal setting for Sunday. Plates, cutlery, candles and music, oh and red wine always red wine.

What is your guilty pleasure food or meal?

I can’t think of one in particular, but for an example, last night we had pork ribs for dinner and I made a red wine glaze with whipping cream for the ribs and a potato rosti.

Sounds delicious….

We also talked about his partnership with his wife Meeru Dhalwala on their book, “Vij’s at Home” how easy that book is to use, and some of my favourite recipes from it. Please stay tuned to The Lemon Kitchen this week for a chance to win a copy of this awesome cookbook.

Our conversation ended with Chef suggesting some restaurants for me to visit in Santa Monica and him revealing that he is now in talks with a major new potential partner about carrying Vij’s line of products. How lucky for us.

Check out Vikram and Meeru’s home kitchen on The Kitchen.

Get your tickets for this great event here.

Chef Cesare Santaguida and Celebrity Chefs of Canada

I had the opportunity last Monday to go for lunch with the lovely Lynne Frappier of The Twisted Chef blog, one of the bloggers involved with Celebrity Chefs of Canada. It was great to catch up with her, and of course to share our excitement over this event (also to talk about her appearance on CTV this week).

We met up at Vittoria Trattoria in the Byward Market. The restaurant owned by one the Chefs I am paired with for the event, Cesare Santaguida. Its a beauty of a spot. White table linen (personal fave), dark wood, outstanding bar and prestigious wine list. It was a delicious, long lunch, filled with all my favourites, not to mention the attentive and enthusiastic staff. What a pleasure for a Monday afternoon.

Grappa Steamed Mussels

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad


The Sophia

Chef Cesare Santaguida

Yesterday I had a chance to sit down with Chef Santaguida, to ask him a few questions and discuss the event March 25th. He is paired with Chef Vikram Vij from Vancouver’s Vij’s, a Chef I have long adored, I found out Chef Santaguida is also a fan of Vij.

We started off the conversation by talking about his Grandmother, his inspiration for cooking. I could tell by the sound of his voice, the way his eyes lit up when he spoke of her what she meant to him. She actually worked in the kitchen of the old Vittoria on Bank St. for half days (sometimes the whole day) until they moved to the Byward Market. Sadly, she passed away just last month at age 100.

How long have you been in the business?

Before having the restaurant (20 years), I have always worked in the restaurant business, all Italian. I started by chopping vegetables in my Grandmother’s kitchen when I was a child. We have been at the Market location for 16 years and we have our other location on Riverside.

I know your Grandmother was a big inspiration to you, what other people or things inspire you?

I am inspired all the time. A walk through the Market on my way here and all the vendors produce inspire me. I am inspired by my Fathers garden. My Father will bring by peppers, or basil or whatever he has picked fresh from his garden that day.

What is your favourite menu item here, or what do you order most frequently?

I love the Margherita Pizza. I eat that all of the time.

What is your favourite guilty pleasure food?

Junk food. I am huge fan of junk food. Oh and burgers and fries.

When you sit down with your family to eat a meal, whats on the table?

Pasta and a meat dish, always pasta. In the winter months my Mother puts pasta in soup.

Do you have a favourite Ottawa restaurant?

I have lots, but the one that comes to mind first is Atelier, its a special place, and a great experience.

Last year I noticed your whole family attended the event? Do you expect the same this year?

Yes, in fact last year my parents weren’t even supposed to attend but arrived in town last minute and were able to come. yes they will be there.

We had the opportunity to talk about a number of things, his partnership at this same event last year with David Rocco, his favourite NYC restaurants and his up coming trip to cook at a food event in Rome, just making it home in time for Celebrity Chefs of Canada.

I am looking forward to seeing what this team has in store for us. Last year we were blown away by Chef Santaguida’s scallops cooked on a Dean and Deluca salt block.

My time with Chef Santaguida just further confirmed for me what a fabulous and exciting food community we have. Celebrity Chefs of Canada is a must attend. I am also thinking Chef Santaguida is going to have a little angel cooking right along side of him.

For ticket info visit Celebrity Chefs of Canada.

Celebrity Chefs of Canada

What excites a foodie more than seeing his/her favourite Chef creating something amazing on television? Seeing that happen right before your eyes! Foodies get set for the culinary adventure of your dreams right here in Ottawa with Celebrity Chefs of Canada Sunday, March 25th at the National Arts Centre. It promises to be a day filled to thrill the food community.

The brainchild of Executive Chef Michael Blackie of the NAC’s Le Cafe. This event pairs Ottawa’s amazingly talented Chefs with celebrity Chef talent from across the country. What a treat, an afternoon of demos, an evening of tasting, and an opportunity to extend the night with a private after-party where you can mingle with your favourites.

The Chef line-up looks like this:

Hosting Local Chefs

Michael Blackie, National Arts Centre
Matthew Carmichael, Restaurant 18
Jonathan Korecki, Side Door
Marc Lepine, Atelier
Patricia Larkin, Black Cat Bistro
Clifford Lyness, Brookstreet
Cesare Santaguida, Vittoria Trattoria
Jason Duffy, ARC Lounge

Visiting Chefs Confirmed to date:

Susur Lee
LEE, Toronto

Vikram Vij
Vij’s, Vancouver

Jason Bangerter
Luma, Toronto

Patrick McMurray
Star Fish, Toronto

Quang Dang
West Restaurant, Vancouver

Ned Bell
Four Seasons Hotel, Vancouver

Jason Parsons
Peller Estates, Niagara

Lynn Crawford
Ruby Watchco, Toronto

Jeremy Charles
Raymond’s Restaurant, St. John’s

What else can I say about this genius event? As a foodie I am so there and bringing all my foodie friends with me.

BTW-stayed tuned at the lemon kitchen as I am one of the bloggers associated with the event, paired with Chef Santaguida and Chef Vij (you can’t seem me right now, but I’m grinning like a thirteen year-old with a crush). I have a cookbook give-away coming up:

And lots more about Celebrity Chefs Canada. See you there!

For ticket information please visit the NAC’s Celebrity Chefs of Canada page.


An Evening at Le Café

We treated ourselves to dinner at the NAC`s Le Café recently for our anniversary and what a treat it was. We were lucky enough to be able to choose from the prix-fixe menu offered Monday through Saturday at 8pm. This was fabulous food at a sinfully, exceptional price (two can dine for $39…yes, you heard that right).

We both started with Goodnight Irene a hurricane maki roll, spot prawn and oyster mushroom with house pickled daikon and sticky soy BBQ paint (yum). These were lovely, fresh little rolls, even the non-sushi man ate them.

In keeping with a fish theme, for my main I chose Swim with the Fishes which is an EV olive oil seared striped bass filet over sun-dried tomato chèvre orzo with fennel basil relish.

This dish was brilliant. The star of the plate was cooked to perfection, tender and flaky. The added attractions were stars on their own, a deliciously creamy orzo left me wanting more and my fave, baby bok choy was heavenly. All of this served in generously perfect portions.

My good man chose Roast the Beast a triple AAA roasted beef rib eye with veal marrow jus served with Yukon potato hay and a side of truffled parmesan aioli. He is learning that beef shouldn’t be cooked well and is enjoying it. The veal marrow jus was a big hit.

For dessert Adrian ordered the CMP. C.hocolate M.arshmallow P.eanut Valrhona chocolate ice cream, hard crack sugar top, marshmallow topping, organic honey baked peanuts. This was a sweet lovers dream. It was a bit of work to get him to share.

I chose the Jerry Garcia cheese cake with graham and pistachio crumble and a neat little serving of the best blueberry sorbet I have ever had. Again, perfect serving sizes which I especially like for dessert.

This fine dining room leaves the sterility of formal behind. It is warm and welcoming, with beautiful lighting and views. The hosts and wait staff were so accommodating. Excellent service all around.

I think the creativity and thoughtfulness that went into developing this menu was genius (love the names and descriptions). Each and every item intrigued me and I will now take the opportunity to try more and take family and friends with me. Well done Chef Blackie!

A Taste of the Prairies

I have been neglectful this week with an extremely busy work schedule, so I am finally getting around to posting on the fabulous Taste of the Prairies Event held at the NAC last week and hosted by Chef Michael Blackie.

What a lovely, intimate food event this was. Approximately 100 guests were able to interact with the Chefs as they prepared their recipes on a 360 degree stage. Lots of good questions and friendly banter back and forth between Chefs and guests really made this a particularly special event. Chef Blackie’s staff was bang on delivering plates as soon as the Chefs were through with their demos and keeping wine glasses fresh.

One really delightful part of this experience was that the Chefs included their family members in the evening a side the public does not get to see often.

My personal highlight of the night, Chef Alexander Svenne’s Pickerel Cheek Ceviche and Chef Blackie’s Crispy Baked Hazelnut Glutinous Rice Ball with Tarragon Cheesecake Core and Saskatoon Berry, Green Peppercorn Pull.

A Taste of the Prairies

Looking forward to another wonderful food event at the National Arts Centre!

A Taste of the Prairies

Live Cooking Demonstration and Tasting Event
May 4, 2011, 7pm
National Arts Centre – Le Salon

Chefs Alexander Svenne of Manitoba, and Saskatchewan’s Dan Walker will be demonstrating their signature culinary styles. Hosted by NAC Executive Chef, Michael Blackie, this event will feature five tasting plates and wine.

Alexander Svenne is a Red Seal chef who pioneered regional cuisine at several popular Winnipeg restaurants before opening the popular Bistro 7 1⁄4.

Dan Walker took home the prestigious 2010 Saskatoon Gold Medal Plates gold award, and is the Executive Chef of Saskatoon’s Weczeria Food & Wine.

The Prairie inspired menu goes like this:

From Chef Dan Walker:

Northern Pike Roe/Peas/Fresh Pasta


Saskatoon Raised Wagyu Rib Eye/Potato/Red Onion/Roast Garlic

From Chef Alexander Svenne:

Pickerel Cheek Ceviche/Pickerel Mousseline/White Fish Caviar/Fried Pickerel Cheek/Red Beet Borscht/Horseradish Creme Fraiche


Red Wine Rosemary Cured Elk Loin/Pickled Radish/Rye Caraway Cracker/“Sweet Nicky Brown” Braised Elk Shoulder/Jerusalem Artichoke Puree/Beer-Marinated Crispy Onions

From Chef Michael Blackie:

Crispy Baked Hazelnut Glutinous Rice Ball/Tarragon – Cheesecake Core /Saskatoon Berry – Green Peppercorn Pull

So after reading that menu, how can you not attend? Click on the Taste of the Prairies link above for ticket info.