It isn't very often that I feel the need to write a reaction to an article, but earlier this week, Jacob Richler, food editor for MacLean's Magazine, came up with a controversial list of the "Top 5o Restaurants" in Canada. Needless to say, he pissed off a lot of people with his opinion of who should be on the list and of course, those that he omitted. While I may not have agreed with the list, at the end of the day it's his opinion - period.
I am more riled up about the comments he made in a recent interview that was published in The Globe & Mail. Specifically, his comments about how he considered the Maritimes to be a "culinary sad sack". Oh, such unsavoury words. This interview was conducted to discuss the release of his new book "My Canada Includes Foie Gras". My Canada includes it too, but I certainly disagree with his comments about my new found home, the East Coast.
I once may have agreed with Mr. Richler; after having done my culinary training in Toronto and cooking in some of the better fine dining restaurants there, as well as Ottawa. Before I moved out east in 2004, to run the kitchen at the well known, Inn At Bay Fortune, I assumed that much the food out here was fried, processed and pathetic. Guess what? I ate my words pretty quickly when I realized it was in fact a bounty of seafood, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and amazing meats. Here was an area of Canada that was still relatively undiscovered in the culinary sense.
I later moved to Halifax, where the culinary scene was very much up and coming. Chefs that had been born and bred here were returning home to open up their own places, with the wisdom they had picked up along the way. Chefs like Craig Flinn of Chives, Dennis Johnson of Fid Resto and Martin Ruiz Salvador of Fleur de Sel. These are but a handful of talented chefs that have set up shop in this province.
What amazes me is the passion for food in Nova Scotia. The number of people that get up at the crack of dawn every Saturday to go to the farmers' market to deal with the producers themselves. Everyone knows each other, and this blows my mind after living in large cities for over fifteen years. Everyone gets their lamb from Bill of Wood 'N Hart Farm. Ted Hutten has some of the best fruits and vegetables in the province. Sweet Williams, Roslane Farm, Boulangerie la Vendéenne, That Dutchman, Fox Hill Cheese House, and the list goes on and on. These are just some of the local producers that sell their products in the Halifax area, but there are many more doing great things throughout the province. Everything from lavender sugar to dried cranberries and blueberries, maple syrup, dulse, beer and of course amazing Nova Scotian wine. These are the products that we are proud of, and that a large number of chefs in the province use.
Nova Scotia is just one of the provinces on the East Coast. New Brunswick boasts chefs like Chris Aerni of The Rossmount Inn and Jesse Vergen of Saint John Ale House; both pioneers, both talented and both passionate.
How about Newfoundland? It's not all scrunchins and Screech. The best new restaurant in Canada is there (Raymonds), where the kitchen is run by the very talented Jeremy Charles. What about Atlantica with Steve Vardy? Here's a guy who made his name in Ottawa at Beckta, but decided to move back to his roots and cook stellar food in the middle of nowhere. Prince Edward Island has had Michael Smith as it's culinary ambassador for years and years, but the talent lies with guys like Gordon Bailey and Domenic Serio.
I could write about the food scene on the East Coast for hours, but do I need to? I think Mr. Richler's ignorance, has only fueled us to discuss, reflect upon and appreciate the amazing assets that we have in our region.
And guess what? Thanks to his ridiculous comments, I'm more motivated than ever to let everyone in on our secret. We have the talent, the passion and the know how to produce, grow and cook the some of the most amazing food in this country.
Who needs to leave a utopia such as this? Not this Upper Canadian gal. A gal who is now proud to call herself a Maritimer.