In the early years of Canada, to the late 1800s, pigeon pie was one of the most common dishes on our tables. Made from the passenger pigeon, at the time the most common bird in North America that numbered in the billions, this popular dish provided readily available and hearty sustenance. Indeed, the Quebecois tourtière would have originally been made with passenger pigeon meat. However, because of over-hunting and habitat destruction the passenger pigeon was wiped out, and has now been extinct since 1914. The last bird, “Martha,” died in the Cincinnati Zoo. Read the rest of this entry »
Elizabeth Rivasplata; photo courtesy of Top Chef Canada
Elizabeth Rivasplata, sous chef at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s FRANK Restaurant, was selected to compete on the Food Network’s reality cooking show TOP CHEF CANADA, which premiered on March 12 and airs every Monday at 10 p.m.
My name is Elizabeth Rivasplata. I am 32, and I have been working at the AGO for three and a half years – first as production chef and now as sous chef at FRANK, the restaurant at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I was born in Lima, Peru and I’ve been living in Canada for almost eight years. Recently I had the great privilege of being chosen as a contestant in the Food Network show TOP CHEF CANADA.
You can watch for me on TOP CHEF CANADA, Season 2, which premiered last night, every Monday at 10 p.m. on the Food Network. Follow me @rivasplata1 on Twitter for more updates from the show and my experiences as the season progresses. The challenge is on!!
Photo from the premiere; courtesy of Top Chef Canada
Participating on TOP CHEF CANADA has been an amazing experience. I’m so excited to be part of this season and to meet and work in the company of so many great people.
I truly respect and admire all of the contestants and the members of the production team. It’s so complicated to put the show together and there are many people involved in making it happen. I would never have believed it and could not understand the stress and the hard work if I had not been through it. There were very long days and nights; I was exhausted and pushed to the limits again and again, but I would do it all over without hesitation.
As for the question that most people ask me: “Why?”… Why did I apply to compete on the show? Well I guess I am just a born competitor. Watching past seasons, I used to dream about being on the show. I was a little bit scared (to be honest not a little… a lot), but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and that I am good enough. So after much thinking and deliberating, and urging from my boss Anne Yarymowich – who provided awesome support – I decided to apply. And the rest is history.
The main elimination challenge for the first episode was to cook something that represents you. I had given this some thought as it had been a challenge on other seasons. I knew that I wanted to represent a little of my native cuisine and showcase Peruvian ingredients. There are so many incredible ingredients that are native to Peru, and this one really came from the heart.
Photo of Elizabeth’s Peruvian dish from the elimination challenge; courtesy of Top Chef Canada
I made pan-seared fish with red quinoa (an ancient grain native to Peru) and roasted vegetable salad, a coulis of aji amarillo (hot yellow Peruvian peppers) and foam of purple corn (also native to Peru). That put me into the top four for the first episode. Way to go! I was soooo happy. One step closer to the TOP.
We will be featuring this dish that I created for the challenge at FRANK Restaurant for the rest of the week. Please come by and see me. I’ll be the one at the stoves, where I am happiest.
Elizabeth’s Peruvian dish from the premiere of TOP CHEF CANADA will be featured this week at the AGO’s FRANK Restaurant during lunch and dinner. Elizabeth will also be on hand to personally meet and greet diners. Join us for this special TOP CHEF CANADA inspired dish, for lunch Wednesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., or for dinnerTuesday to Saturday, 5:30 – 10 p.m.
Congratulations to the AGO’s Elizabeth Rivasplata has been chosen to participate in this season’s Top Chef Canada, which premieres March 12 at 10 pm on Food Network.
Top Chef Canada will challenge 16 competitors’ culinary skills to see who can cut it as Canada’s Top Chef, taking home the grand prize of $100,000.
Guest judges this season include: Chef Marcus Samuelsson (Top Chef Masters winner), Mike Holmes (Holmes on Homes, Canada’s Handyman Challenge); Toronto Maple Leaf forward Colby Armstrong; actor Alan Thicke; Spencer “Spenny” Rice (Kenny vs. Spenny); and country music star Johnny Reid.
Hosted by celebrated actress and self-confessed foodie Lisa Ray, the competition is judged by Head Judge, Chef and restaurateur, Mark McEwan, as well as Resident Judge and LA restaurateur, Shereen Arazm.
We go behind-the-scenes with the AGO’s Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich to find out where she gets her ideas for a menu to complement a show like Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde and to find out about some of her favourite dishes from shows past.
Anne collaborates with chef de cuisine Martha Wright to create contemporary comfort cuisine: food that is warm and inviting, prepared with honesty and integrity. FRANK’s menu showcases an exclusively Ontarian wine list and seasonal ingredients, striving to support local producers with a dedication to global concepts of sustainable farming and slow food. But a meal at FRANK or in our cafe is about more than just tasty eats . As Anne explains, it’s all about enhancing the visitor experience by creating a relationship between the art and the food….
“When I’m planning a menu based on a show at the Gallery my inspiration comes from a number of places. One is the point of origin of the artist or the place that he or she worked. For example, Matisse is French but his work, such as his Odalisque pieces, has Moroccan content from when he visited the French North African Colonies. I also look to the subject matter of the paintings. Sometimes we go shopping for specific vessels, like tagines for Morocco.
In Chagall we have a Russian Jew working in Paris so there are many rich sources of inspiration. We always ask ourselves (of the show) ‘is it food friendly?’ I’ve got a vast collection of cookbooks and magazines that I can turn to for ideas and inspiration, including a great book on Jewish cuisine.
We wanted to make sure that the menu for Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde was respectful of Jewish culture. We’re not a kosher kitchen but we chose a menu that didn’t use any pork or shellfish.
Then there’s Paris, where Chagall such a crucial period of time. It’s a great culinary destination and one we can invoke with food like croissants and confit – the kinds of food Chagall might have eaten at that time. It takes about a month to brainstorm, test and mull over new concepts for our menus.
We try to stay true to the Frank brand, but with tweaks and nods to what’s going on in the Gallery. Our ultimate goal is to enrich the visitor’s experience of the show. Using tastes and sounds and bits and bites we help to create an immersive experience for the visitor that uses all of their senses. For example, when we had the William Wegman show made up exclusively of pictures of his Weimarner dogs we decided to do ‘dog biscuits’ for the café. I definitely think of the food as part of the Gallery as a whole, as another way of enhancing the guest experience.
I really enjoy Eastern European cuisine as it’s close to my heart. There are so many different expressions of a borscht, and thinking about that tradition reminds me of my mother and grandmother. I’m actually judging a borscht contest soon called ‘Not Your Baba’s Borscht’ as part of a charity fundraiser.’
I also look for food in the images of the shows. Once in a while there will be a still life with an eggplant in it that we can use. Inspiration can come from the work itself, the style, the title or the content. When we had our Surrealism exhibition we showed Magritte’s famous The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) – the picture of the pipe with the text below it, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe (this is not pipe). So to complement that piece we served a chocolate dessert with the words ‘c’est ne pas à pied’ written in chocolate sauce below it. It means, this is not a pie.
Food can be very whimsical and tongue in cheek. It’s nice to be playful – when we brainstorm a show everyone in the kitchen will get together with a load of food magazines and swap jokes and banter whilst we come up with ideas.
Art is very sensual and so is food. Both are visual, visceral experiences that use colour, viscosity and textures. We want our guests to feel that relationship. We also know we have to cater to today’s palette and part of the challenge is picking dishes that are exciting but also have that popular appeal. “
Russian-inspired borscht featuring Ontario beets
Pan-fried stuffed egg with horseradish and caviar on a salad of baby arugula, baby beet greens, pumpernickel croutons and Dijon vinaigrette
Pan-seared steelhead trout fillet on buckwheat blini, with roasted baby carrots and lemon-chive sour cream sauce
Braised beef brisket with caraway rye bread pudding, choucroute and caramelized onion
Mushroom barley stuffed cabbage rolls with truffle cream sauce and roasted wild mushrooms
Apple charlotte russe with brandy Alexander sauce and brandied damson plums
Chocolate rum baba with poached pear
You can join us for dinner at FRANK Restaurant for a Chagall-inspired prix fixe menu. To order call FRANK Restaurant at 416 979 6688 or book online.
$65* Chagall & FRANK Restaurant Package:
3-course prix fixe dinner at FRANK
1 adult admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde
1 audio guide
Available October 18, 2011 through January 15, 2012. Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm**
* Price includes taxes but excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities. The FRANK prix fixe dinner is also available on its own for $50.
**Bookings subject to availability. Exhibition Viewing and Dinner must occur on the same night. Offer not transferable to other promotions.
Join Frank Weber from the Tea Emporium in the Sculpture Atrium on Sunday January 30th, 2011 between 2-4pm. Frank will be sampling two popular Indian teas and providing information about tea in India. Come have a taste and ask questions of this industry expert!
Tea for Two in the Members’ Lounge
Join us in the Norma Ridley Members’ Lounge for Tea for Two from January 22nd – 30th, 2011 from noon until 5pm. For only $25 (plus HST), you and a friend can share a delicious pot of tea along with an assortment of finger sandwiches and pastries with crème fraiche, butter, and a preserve made in-house. This special menu item is limited to members only.
You can also read a brief yet fascinating history of tea here.
Cheryl Wallace, Café Manager, Art Gallery of Ontario
A new major exhibition at the AGO is always an exciting time. In the kitchen, we look to the shows for inspiration, designing menus to compliment the exhibitions. Our aim is to evoke the spirit of the culture through the scents, sights, and tastes of the cuisine. Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts has taken us into a realm of cooking that is exciting, challenging, complex, and exquisitely beautiful.
To help us learn about and master some of the techniques and flavours of this wonderfully vibrant and varied cuisine, we enlisted mother daughter team, Arvinda and Preena Chauhan of Arvinda’s artfully created Indian spice blends, to come into our kitchen and conduct a brief overview of some of the basics of Indian Cooking. What we learned in one day was truly inspiring and left us hungry for more.
Arvinda and Preena arrived with an arsenal of exotic ingredients. The array of spices, grouped into various families was akin to an artist’s pallet both in appearance and concept. What followed was unlike anything we had experienced in our formal training as chefs. The vast complexity of this cuisine became increasingly evident as the two accomplished cooks proceeded to walk us through a few chosen recipes and give us a quick primer on the ancient philosophy of the food and gastronomy that is Indian cuisine.
We watched, listened, tasted and tried our hands at samosas, chutneys, curries, dips, snacks and masalas. The care and ritual around the cooking of the rice alone made us truly reverent of the cuisine of India.
We look forward to practicing our new found skills and invite you to taste with us the splendours of India’s exquisite cuisine.
FRANK Restaurant is pleased to host a VIP tasting of beers from Dieu du Ciel, a legendary micro-brewery in Montreal, Quebec, paired with locally-sourced Canadian cuisine designed by Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich.
We will feature a selection of Dieu du Ciel beers, most of which have never been previously available for sale in Ontario. The owners and brewers of Dieu du Ciel will be on hand to discuss their beers, the brew process and the place for local beers with a locally-sourced meal. Join us after work for this special event!
bison sliders with spiced apple ketchup, quebec douanier cheese and caramelized onion
Blanche du Paradis, Belgian-style White Ale
hot dogs with miniature all beef wieners, house made buns and malt vinegar mustard
Corne du Diable, India Pale Ale
mini grilled cheese sandwiches with quebec chevre noire, and pear butter dip
Derniere Volonte, Abbey-Style Blond Ale
french fry cups with house made green peppercorn aioli & mini reubens sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut and gruyere cheese on toasted rye bread
Route des Epices, Peppercorn Rye Ale