We’re familiar with the United States' Michelin-starred dining scene - but what about in Canada? It might surprise many that in 2020, Canada still has no Michelin starred restaurants. Is the food in Canada no good? Are restaurants in the Great North just not up to par?
Quite the contrary. In fact, the only reason Canada has no Michelin starred restaurants is because the Michelin Guide has not made it’s way over there - yet.
There’s certainly no lack of good restaurants in the country. The vibrant biodiversity and wildlife means there’s abundant local produce and game available to chefs and cooks, from the eastern to western coasts. Those ingredients are in turn transformed into star-quality dishes through mastered techniques and multicultural creativity, making for astounding mixes.
While there are no Michelin star restaurants in Toronto, the city boasts a full roster of quality and innovative restaurants, specialty food shops, and eateries to visit. With a vibrant multicultural scene, options abound - from Scaramouche, a fantastic classic and epitome of elegant Toronto cuisine, to Sushi Kaji, unassuming strip plaza sushi hub with a stellar tasting menu of quality sushi. There are no Michelin star restaurants in Vancouver either, but that doesn’t mean the food scene isn’t bustling. From craft beer to food festivals to fantastic dim sum, the west coast city has options to astound even the most jaded of foodies.
So why can none of these stellar establishments lay claim to a prestigious star? Directors of the guide haven’t given any direct input on the matter. When asked, a spokeswoman for the guide responded with an elusive answer about always being on the lookout for new destinations, but with no direct referencing to Canada at all. It is true that the Michelin Guide is by no means reflective of the entire global culinary scene. No restaurants in Africa or South America are yet represented, for example. California only got a guide in 2019, joining other states like New York City and Chicago, despite having a vibrant and reputed culinary culture that’s been active for the last few decades. There have been rumors that the Guide takes commissions from cities and countries that actively want to promote their tourism sector, something that the Canadian Tourism sector hasn’t proclaimed particular interest in.
Yet, there are alternatives to the Michelin guide that have recognized Canada’s reputable cooking. Canada’s 100 best restaurants list debuted in 2015, and one of the country’s most renowned chefs, Normand Laprise - who opened the famed Toqué in 1993 - was the first to make the World’s 100 Best Chefs list. A few Canadian restaurants have also made the World’s 50 Best since it’s launching in 2002.
Canadian restaurateurs and chefs don’t really seem to mind the missing stars. The pressure that comes with gaining a star is famously hard to deal with, and not all who receive the accolade are grateful for it. There’s also a certain hierarchy that comes with the starring system, a hierarchy that some feel is not in alignment with the innovation seen across the Canadian fine dining scene. And, as many a Canadian chef will tell you, the quality of the food - whether it be in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal - speaks for itself and needs no validation from external sources. In fact, many have recognised the opportunities offered by the Canadian landscape. Daniel Boulud and David Chang have both opened outposts in Toronto. Sushi Masaki Saito, also in Toronto, was opened by Michelin-starred chef Masaki Saito, making it the first restaurant to have a starred chef cooking in-house.
Famous Canadian Chefs
Whilst no chefs cooking in Canada have received stars, that doesn’t mean the talent is lacking. Here’s a list of some of the top Canadian chefs.
Smith is perhaps one of Canada’s most well-known chefs and a best-selling cookbook author. Part of his TV repertoire includes Chef Michael’s Kitchen, Chef at Home, and Chef Abroad. He is also the owner of The Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island and is the head chef of Fireworks.
Cushing is not only famous for hosting various TV cooking shows, but also has a number of cookbooks and a line of artisan foods. Her shows have been broadcasted around the world, including Fearless in the Kitchen on the Oprah Winfrey Network and Confucius was a Foodie on National Geographic Asia.
McEwan made his mark as the youngest executive chef of Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel, a prestigious establishment. He’s since come to open a number of well-known Toronto restaurants such as North44, ByMark, One Restaurant, and Fabbrica. He is also the head judge on Top Chef Canada.
Crawford is owner and manager of one of Toronto’s most well-known restaurants, Ruby Watchco, where she showcases locally grown produce cooked with the utmost respect. Crawford also hosts Food Network’s Pitchin’ In.
Yet another celebrity chef, Rainford is a grilling expert. His book Born to Grill and TV show License to Grill have made a mark on the home-cooking demographic, teaching easy, garden-based entertainment.
In addition to being a restaurateur, cookbook author, and TV host, Mooking is also a recording artist. Some of his TV shows include the well-known Man Fire Food, Everyday Exotic, and he holds a role as judge on Chopped Canada.
Long has a big reputation in the Canadian culinary scene; he worked for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment where he oversaw the meals and dinners at Toronto’s Air Canada Center and BMO Sports Field. Long has helped open numerous restaurants and has also appeared on the Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover.
Feenie’s pedigree runs strong, having worked at various three-star restaurants across France and the United States as well as many reputed Canadian restaurants. He now is head chef at the Cactus Club Cafe which boasts several outposts across Greater Vancouver, and has published four cookbooks.
Hughes is a classic modern chef - a celebrity chef with numerous tattoos of food, he owns restaurants Le Bremner and Garde Manger in Montreal. Hughes is also a TV personality, having won Iron Chef America in 2011 and going on to become the host of the culinary show Chuck’s Day Off, popular in both Canada and the United States.
Olson is a pastry chef who’s made a name for herself in Canada. Perhaps best known as a baking superstar, Olson hosts three food shows on the Food Network: Bake with Anna Olson, Fresh with Anna Olson, and Sugar.
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