Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — If the chefs and diners in this nation struggle to define “Canadian cuisine,” imagine how Europeans must feel. The challenge for Auberge du Pommier executive chef Marc St. Jacques in the coming days will be to introduce diners in England to his take on Canada’s flavours — and hopefully impress them as well with a statement on the nation’s culinary capabilities.
St. Jacques won the Canadian Gold Medal Plates championship this year, taking over the title from Marc Lepine of Atelier in Ottawa. For the first time, the winner of the annual judged cooking competition will prepare the Canada Day menu in London, host of the largest celebration of Canada’s independence outside this country. [Check out Vacay.ca’s coverage of last year’s London event.]
“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a great honour, as well,” says St. Jacques, whose restaurant came up with an inventive way to create the menu for the event that will take place on June 30, the eve of Canada Day.
On Tuesday, Auberge du Pommier invited about 40 guests, including notables such as St. Joseph Media president Douglas Knight and celebrity chef Massimo Capra, to try eight of St. Jacques’ canapés and vote for the four that would be selected for inclusion in the feast.
“It was a fun way to do it. It helps to settle a lot of debates in the kitchen,” St. Jacques says.
The winning items included: a delicious devilled egg with foie gras mousse; St. Jacques’ take on Kraft dinner, which was a cheesy croquette; a “potato salad” that was really a flavourful bite-size chip with caviar and chives; and elk sausage with a fabulous blueberry mustard. The dishes were what canapés should be, playful and packed with taste. They will precede main dishes that include a chilled lobster cole slaw and barbecue steak.
Canada Day Menu for London is Set
Is that a Canadian enough menu? There’s no poutine or tourtiere or west-coast salmon or First Nations bannock. As St. Jacques points out, a nation this size shouldn’t be concerned about precisely defining its cuisine, or about what others say about it.
“I think when we start to express more confidence as a culinary nation, then we will take the next step,” he says.
A thoughtful chef, St. Jacques took the time to greet all of the guests at the event and was eager to learn the results of the vote. The trip to London will be his second overseas voyage this month. St. Jacques just returned from Paris, where he dined at L’Arpege, which ranked 16th in the 2013 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, ahead of all other eateries in the French capital.
“The great thing for me was feeling proud about what we do here. That’s not to sound arrogant, but it makes me realize we’re not that far away from that level. We’re very close, actually,” he says of his restaurant that is owned by Oliver & Bonacini, the Toronto-based company with several fine-dining establishments in the city.
More About 2013 Canada Day in London
When: July 1 festivities will fill Trafalgar Square. The Canada Day menu prepared by Marc St. Jacques will be served on June 30 at Canada House, a building in the square that dates to 1827 and is home to the offices of the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom.
Musicians: The Tragically Hip headline the July 1 concerts, which will also feature the Sheepdogs, the Arkells and Jann Arden. [See a video of the guys from the Hip talking about the influence of travel on their lives and careers.]
Events: Organized by RainMaker Global Business Development, the Canada Day festivities hosted more than 7,000 people last year and more are expected this year. A hockey competition will be held in Trafalgar Square early in the day.
More About Auberge du Pommier
Address: 4150 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON (see map below); restaurant is a short walk north of the York Mills subway station.
Reservations: Telephone 416-222-2220 or book a table online.
Menu Price Range: Three-course tasting menu is $100; a la carte entrees range from $41-$48.
Vacay.ca Rank: Auberge du Pommier placed 84th in the 2013 Top Restaurants in Canada Guide.
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