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Works at le Bremner

 

 

http://cultmontreal.com/2013/05/top-chef-canada-danny-smiles-le-bremner-montreal-chefs-canadian-cuisine/

 

 

 

Danny Smiles in the Le Bremner kitchen. Photo by Dominique Lafond.

 

Danny Smiles is repping Montreal cuisine in this cycle of Top Chef Canada, and as the show hits mid-season, the le Bremner chef is well positioned to take the title, especially after winning last week’s elimination challenge.

The challenge was to create Canada’s Next National Dish, with the carrot of a 10 G cash prize for the winner and the stick of two chefs’ elimination from the show. Smiles won the contest with his creation, which he calls the “Coast-to-Coast” roll — a shrimp and crab roll, served in pretzel hot dog bun with maple bacon and a side of house-smoked BBQ chips.

 

The Coast-to-Coast roll.

“It was a weird choice that I made, to do seafood. It was 40-something out, and we knew it was going to be hot. We knew it was going to be an outdoor event, and I was just like, I’m ready for the challenge. I wanted to go big or go home,” says Smiles, meaning it literally. “Those are the only options.”

Smiles wanted to move beyond the usual signifiers of Canadian-ness — maple, pork and poutine. “That was the whole focus, a new national dish. I wanted to showcase fish. I’m a very fish-oriented chef,” he says, his point proven by the shrimp and albacore tattooed prominently onto one forearm.

“There’s not a lot of countries that border two of the biggest oceans in the world, too, so that’s really cool,” he continues. “I used B.C. Dungeness crabs and Nordic shrimp from Quebec,” while the overall concept references an East Coast foodie fad du jour, the lobster roll.

Smiles explains that he wanted to create a dish that draws not only on Canada’s geography, but its history as well. “Smoking fish and preserving goes back to First Nations; it’s a huge part of Canadian history,” he says. “I was trying to also come up with a story, something that realistically made sense with the history of our country. I’m a huge history buff, so I decided to go back a bit and readapt that into what I thought would be the new national dish.”

Smiles may be following in the footsteps of mentor (and le Bremner’s executive chef) Chuck Hughes, who rose to celebrity chef status after becoming the first Canadian to win the US Top Chef — an increasingly necessary career move for chefs as they emerge from the obscurity of the kitchen and into the limelight of cooking shows, contests and book tours in order to establish themselves. Top Chef Canada made sense to him as a next move, he explains. “I liked the show, and also just wanted to see where I match up to the rest of Canada, almost like a personal challenge.”

The best part of doing Top Chef Canada, he admits, is that it actually gives him room for his first love, cooking. “Unfortunately, being a chef, you’re not always focusing on cooking,” he says. “You’re lucky when you get into the kitchen and start cooking. That’s like a bonus, because there’s food costing, there’s menu planning; you’re plumbing, gardening. Those are all fun things that I love about my job, but in a small restaurant, you kind of do everything. And now, for six weeks, your main focus — you’re not contacting anyone, you’re not phoning suppliers; that’s all supplied for you, and you’ve just got to focus on cooking. So it’s like it brought me back to when I first started on the line.” ■

Top Chef Canada airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Food Network Canada.

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