Like many Canadians, when asked where I come from I instinctively start with Canada but, sensing that this answer isn’t quite right, quickly add my cultural roots – in my case, French and British. For those who have called this country home for only a few generations identity can be a complicated topic, which is why I often find myself wondering what it actually means to be Canadian.
Historically, Canada’s heritage is found in First Nations people’s cultures and traditions. However, thanks to travel and immigration, the concept of identity in contemporary Canada has become more diverse. From coast to coast we witness different flavours and rituals, many of which originated across the oceans, that we often come to claim as our own. For me, growing up in a culinary household, this is most evident in our food. Although ideas about what constitutes the modern day Canadian may be fluid, we can gam a better understanding of ourselves, and our development, through the ways we eat.
In Toronto, one of our most multicultural cities, the food movement reinforces this patchwork image of Canadian identity. Chefs are not only experimenting with flavours from their own heritage but mixing them with others, while paying attention to native ingredients. Although classic dishes can be enjoyed (long live the weekend brunch), the fusing of foreign cuisines with local produce is now typically Canadian.
In this photo essay I explore the art of three chefs who capture this fascinating cultural phenomenon in the most delectable way. Rob Gentile, Chef Director of King Street Food Company, combines his Italian and Canadian backgrounds to create beautiful dishes that blend Italianate culinary customs with local produce. Nigel Didcock, Culinary Director at Nous et Vous, which specialises in classes and supper clubs, fuses British and French styles, while Patrick Kriss, Executive Chef at Alo, has modernised the tasting menu by mixing French fine dining observances with Canadian flavours. We may be a mélange of cultures but our kitchens are all the more enticing for it.