The top chef with a wicked blade

Story and Video by Adrian Brijbassi Managing Editor


Connie DeSousa isn’t just a great chef, she’s a master butcher, too. (Adrian

TORONTO, ONTARIO — Connie DeSousa has won much acclaim in Canada in the past three years. Where does setting what may very well be a national speed record for deboning a pig’s head rank?

Watching her elated reaction after accomplishing the feat in 49 seconds and you would think the achievement is right up there with accolades such as best chef in the country (presented to her at the annual Terroir Symposium in April), runner-up on Top Chef Canada (in 2011) and top female chef in the nation (as voted by judges last month).

DeSousa has been on a tear lately and the butchery feat may hold special meaning because it is something entirely in her control, unlike awards from the industry or media.

The co-chef and co-owner of CHARCUT in Calgary has emerged as one of the most recognizable faces in Canada’s culinary scene, along with the likes of Chuck Hughes and Mark McEwan. The trajectory of DeSousa’s rise in prominence has coincided with her city’s emergence as a culinary centre.

“The restaurant scene in Calgary is just getting better and better,” said DeSousa, who worked in San Francisco and elsewhere prior to setting up CHARCUT in 2010 with business partner John Jackson and their spouses. “There’s enough people and enough interest in dining to support a culinary movement in the city. It’s terrific to see what’s happening, especially with so many outstanding chefs who can now stay in the city and do what they love, rather than leaving to find work somewhere else.”

Connie DeSousa Shows She’s Sharp

CHARCUT placed first among the eight Calgary restaurants that ranked in the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide. It placed fifth overall in a list determined by 34 judges from across the country and more than 8,000 votes from the public.

At the Terroir conference, DeSousa showcased her skills in a fun, friendly competition against Jason Inniss, a culinary instructor at George Brown College who volunteered to go head-to-head with the Calgarian. “It was awesome to watch,” Inniss said of DeSousa’s speed.

DeSousa’s preferred use of the pig’s head is to stuff it with a mixture of pork, pistachios and truffles, cooking it for seven hours and presenting diners with a marbled mortadella.

“It is just really flavourful, with a lot of texture and a beautiful way to present this kind of a dish,” she said.

While she will still be preparing the mortadella at her restaurant, don’t be on the lookout for DeSousa to be attempting any more deboning records.

After shaving 27 seconds off her previous best time, she hopped with delight in the kitchen at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. Minutes later, she declared she was ready to hang up the competitive carving knife.

“I don’t think I will do it faster than that again. So that’s my record. I won’t try to beat that,” she said with a grin.

That’s just as well. Something tells me — and many other observers of Canada’s culinary scene — that DeSousa has much greater achievements still ahead of her.


More About CHARCUT

Address: 101, 899 Centre Street SW, Calgary, AB (see map below)
Telephone: 403-984-2180. Twitter: @CHARCUT
Hours of Operation: Monday-Tuesday, 11 am-11 pm; Wednesday-Friday, 11 am-1 am; Saturday, 5 pm-1 am; Sunday, 5 pm-10 pm
Menu Prices: The CHARCUT Board that features a variety of meats costs $36. Dinner entrees include Roasted Pork Belly ($27) and Alberta Steak ($24), as well as spit-roasted prime rib available to order by the ounce ($4.50 per ounce, minimum 8 ounces, or $36). Judge Julie Van Rosendaal says: “CHARCUT has become a destination restaurant in Calgary — a place people bring out-of-town visitors for a unique and memorable experience. From creative cocktails to house-cured charcuterie and preserves, the cuisine is innovative, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.”


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Adrian is the editor of and He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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