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Vikram Vij, Connie Desousa among chefs selecting Canada’s best restaurants

Celebrity chefs Connie Desousa of CHARCUT and Vikram Vij of Vij’s are among the judges for the 2014 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Report by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Managing Partner

Canada’s Top 50 Restaurants 2014 logo

TORONTO, ONTARIO — The best restaurants in Canada will be decided by the nation’s leading chefs.

The 2014 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Dining Guide will be announced on Thursday, May 22 and will include selections from the following celebrity chefs:

• Vikram Vij, Vij’s in Vancouver and a “Dragons’ Den” judge on CBC

• Connie Desousa and John Jackson, CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary; Desousa was a “Top Chef Canada” finalist in Season 1 and a judge in Season 3

• Dale MacKay, Ayden Kitchen & Bar in Saskatoon and Season 1 winner of “Top Chef Canada”

• Patrice Demers, Patrice Pâtissier in Montreal, cookbook author and TV chef

• Matt Basile, Lisa Marie and Fidel Gastro in Toronto and star of TV’s “Rebel Without a Kitchen”

• David Hawksworth, Hawksworth in Vancouver

More than 50 judges from across all 10 provinces will decide the third-annual selection of the best places for Canadians and visitors to Canada to dine out. None of the judges can vote for restaurants they own, are employed by or are affiliated with.

Vacay.ca’s list was established in 2012 to champion Canadian cuisine and serve as a definitive dining guide for anyone travelling in the nation. In 2013, more than 10,000 Canadians teamed with a roster of elite judges to name the Top 50 Restaurants and 50 runner-up restaurants.

“In 2014, we’ve turned the judging over to the people who know Canada’s dining scene the best — our country’s wonderfully talented and discerning chefs,” says Janine Kennedy, the Chair of the Vacay.ca Judges Academy and one of five internationally based judges. “The Vacay.ca list has become the go-to resource for anyone wanting the best recommendation for a place to dine out in Canada. We are thrilled with the level of enthusiasm chefs in the nation have shown for participating in this celebration of Canadian food and thrilled also that so many of them respect what the Vacay.ca list means to their industry.”

Patrice Demers, known for his ingenious pastry creations, is one of the most acclaimed chefs in Quebec. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

In 2012, Vij’s was crowned the inaugural winner of the Vacay.ca dining guide. Last year, Montreal’s Joe Beef was named No. 1 overall, while Vij’s landed at No. 3 and Langdon Hall (Cambridge, Ont.) retained its No. 2 spot. This year could see significant changes as numerous new restaurants have opened to rave reviews, including Vancouver’s Farmer’s Apprentice and Saskatoon’s Ayden.

“We expect a big shake-up in the rankings for 2014,” Kennedy says. “It’s going to be exciting to see who ends up No. 1 and, more importantly, to learn once again how great Canada’s food scene really is.”

The list will be released in a Twitter countdown, as it has the previous two years, and be housed in its own section on Vacay.ca’s popular website. Foodies can follow the hashtag #Vacay50 for news related to the list. Last year, the hashtag drew more than 2.5 million impressions in less than one week.

Judges include top chefs, food industry professionals, travel and food writers, and international judges. Several Vacay.ca judges also help determine the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. For a complete roster of the judges see below. Visit Vacay.ca’s Top 50 Restaurants in Canada web page for more details and to see the 2013 and 2012 rankings.




Stephen Lee (Regional Chair), Newfoundland & Labrador (Twitter: @Mallard_Cottage)
Stephen is the co-owner and sommelier of Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village of St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador.

Kyumin Hahn, Newfoundland & Labrador (@KyuminHahn)
Kyumin is the sous chef at Raymonds in St. John’s.

Jonathan Howse, Newfoundland & Labrador (@JonFixedCoffee)
Jon is the co-owner and barista of Fixed Coffee & Baking, a popular coffee house on historic Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s.

Kathy Jollimore, Nova Scotia (@kathyjollimore)
Kathy is the owner and operator of EatHalifax.ca, a popular food blog focused on the culinary scene in the Nova Scotia capital.

Michael Howell, Nova Scotia (@ChefMHowell)
Michael is the executive director at Devour! The Food Film Fest, the consulting executive chef at Green Turtle Club, and the corporate chef at Sustainable Blue.

Andrew Stevens, Nova Scotia (@thebeefgeek)
Andrew is Culinary Instructor at NSCC, a restaurant consultant and industry advocate. In his spare time he eats beef.

Norm Zeledon, Prince Edward Island
Norm is the executive chef of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio, a unique culinary tourism attraction that involves experiential cooking with PEI’s bounty of products.

Ross Munro, Prince Edward Island (@ChefRossPEI)
Ross is the chef and owner of PEI Culinary Adventures, a tour company that gives visitors the chance to catch and cook their meals while visiting Canada’s smallest province.

Jesse Vergen, New Brunswick (@JesseVergen)
Jesse is the executive chef of the acclaimed Saint John Ale House, which ranked 39th in the 2012 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada. Jesse brings farm-to-table dining to a casual pub atmosphere.


Dustin Gilman (Regional Chair), Montreal (@FoodGuyMTL)
Dustin is the owner and operator of Food Guy Montreal, a popular food blog focused on the culinary scene in Montreal.

Patrice Demers, Montreal (@Patrice_Demers)
Patrice is a celebrated pastry chef, cookbook author and celebrity TV chef. Formerly of Les 400 Coups, Patrice is now operating Patrice Pâtissier in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood.

Martin Juneau, Montreal (@martinjuneau)
Martin is the Canada Gold Medal Award-winning chef and owner of acclaimed Pastaga.

Olivier Perret, Montreal (@ChefPerret)
Olivier is the executive chef at Renoir Restaurant at the Sofitel Montreal. He is from Burgundy, France and once worked at the celebrated Le Bouchon in Lyon, France.

Sharman Yarnell, Montreal (@showtimesharman)
Sharman has worked professionally in television, radio and theatre for over 20 years. Her broadcast credits include The Chris Robinson Travel Show and top-rated Showtime on CJAD (Astral Radio).

Richard Taitt, Montreal (@BistroNolah)
Richard is the chef and owner of Bistro Nolah. The Montreal restaurant takes its name from an acronym for New Orleans, a city that is an inspiration for Bistro Nolah’s cuisine.

John Winter Russell, Montreal (@winter_russell)
John has worked at notable restaurants on both the east and west coast of canada. And will opening a restaurant in Montreal before the end of the year.

Mayssam Samaha, Montreal (@mayssamaha)
Mayssam runs the Will Travel for Food blog and is also an accomplished food writer. Will Travel for Food is a finalist for the Saveur Best Food Blog awards.


Rebecca LeHeup, Prince Edward County and Toronto (Regional Chair; @OntarioCulinary)
Rebecca is the executive director at Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance.

Anthony Walsh, Toronto (@ChefWalsh)
Anthony is the corporate executive chef at Oliver & Bonacini, owner of several fine restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area, including Auberge du Pommier and Canoe.

Jonathan Gushue, Toronto (@jonathangushue)
Jonathan is the principal of Gushue Hospitality Inc. and the owner of a forthcoming restaurant in downtown Toronto. He is the former executive chef of Langdon Hall, where he earned a reputation as one of North America’s finest culinary talents.

Matt Basile, Toronto (@fidelgastros)
Matt is the host of the Travel & Escape show “Rebel Without a Kitchen.” His food truck Fidel Gastro’s has been hugely popular in Toronto. He also owns the restaurant Lisa Marie and its complementary food truck, Priscilla.

Marc Lepine, Ottawa (@MarcLepine)
Marc is the brilliant chef and owner of Atelier, which has ranked in the top five of the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada in 2012 and 2013. Marc’s take on molecular gastronomy has earned him rave reviews and legions of fans.

Geoff Hopgood, Toronto (@chefhopgood)
Geoff is the executive chef and owner of Hopgood’s Foodliner in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood of Toronto. A Nova Scotian, Geoff also worked at the Black Hoof and the Hoof Cafe.

John Placko, Toronto (@johnplacko)
John is a culinary consultant and culinary instructor at Modern Culinary Academy and Humber College.

Paul Brans, Toronto (@ChefBrans)
Paul is the executive chef at Artisan, an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant in downtown Toronto.

Gizelle Lau, Toronto (@TorontoEats)
Gizelle is a food and travel writer/photographer whose work is published in Toronto Life and other publications. She is also a digital content and social media specialist.

Renee Suen, Toronto (@rssuen)
Renee writes about restaurants and culinary issues for Toronto Life and is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Toronto in Cardiovascular Sciences.

Anne Desbrisay, Ottawa (@CapitalDining)
Anne is a restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine and the managing editor of Taste & Travel magazine.

Rod Charles, Toronto (@rodalcharles)
Rod is the deputy editor at Vacay.ca and a judge for the Ontario Culinary Awards. He is the former travel editor at the Huffington Post Canada.

Joseph Caturay, Toronto (@LittleRoomInc)
Joseph is a principal owner of Little Room Agency, which won the gold medal for innovation at the 2013 Media Innovation Awards.


Jody Robbins (Regional Chair), Alberta (@Jody_Robbins)
Based in Calgary, Jody is an award-winning writer for Vacay.ca and other publications.

Deborah Son (co-Regional Chair), Manitoba (@sulkison)
Deborah was the 2013 Vacay.ca Foodie of the Year winner and is a law student at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Adam Donnelly, Manitoba (@SegoviaTapasBar)
Adam is the owner and executive chef at Segovia Tapas Bar, a popular Winnipeg restaurant in the city’s Osborne Village neighbourhood.

Robin Summerfield, Manitoba (@RSummerfield)
Robin is a journalist, food and travel writer based in Winnipeg. She also operates the popular food blog PegCityGrub.com as well as notethetime.wordpress.com.

Colin Enquist, Manitoba (@cenquist)
Colin is a lover of food and beer and recent Creative Communications graduate. He blogs at cenquist.com and co-hosts the beer based podcast Pub Chat.

Connie Desousa, Alberta (@CHARCUT)
Connie is the co-owner and chef of CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary, which ranked No. 5 in the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada. She was a finalist for Season 1 of “Top Chef Canada” and a judge on Season 3.

John Jackson, Alberta (@CHARCUT)
John is the co-owner and chef of CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary. He was the former executive chef at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. Along with business partner Connie Desousa, John is opening charbar in Calgary’s East Village in 2015.

JP Pedhirney, Alberta (@Chef_Pedhirney)
JP is the executive chef at Calgary’s Muse Restaurant, which ranked 17th in the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Dining Guide. JP will soon open Starbelly in the Seton area of Calgary.

Liane Faulder, Alberta (@EatMyWordsBlog)
Liane is the outstanding food columnist for the Edmonton Journal.

Julie Van Rosendaal, Alberta (@dinnerwithjulie)
Julie is a cookbook author, food columnist for the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio, food editor of Parents Canada magazine, writer for Swerve, Avenue, the Calgary Herald, and others.

Dan Clapson, Alberta (@dansgoodside)
Dan is a food and travel writer for the Food Network Canada and Avenue Magazine. He is also the author of “StreetEats: Calgary”. You can find his work on his blog dansgoodside.com.

Dale MacKay, Saskatchewan (@chefdalemackay)
Dale is the owner and executive chef at Ayden Kitchen and Bar, an acclaimed restaurant in Saskatoon. Dale was the Season 1 winner of “Top Chef Canada” and the former executive chef at Daniel Boulud’s Lumiere in Vancouver.

Cary Bowman, Saskatchewan (@luckybastardSK)
Cary is the co-owner of Saskatoon’s Lucky Bastard Distillery, a boutique maker of spirits such as rum, vodka and gin. Lucky Bastard’s products have won international awards and are increasingly popular in Western Canada.


Adrian Brijbassi (Regional Chair), Vancouver/Toronto (@AdrianBrijbassi)
Adrian is the founder of Vacay.ca and a digital media expert. He founded the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada to celebrate Canadian culinary achievements. He is an award-winning writer and frequent CTV News guest.

Shaun Layton, Vancouver (@shaunlayton)
Shaun is the esteemed bartender at L’Abattoir. He is considered to be one of the top mixologists in Canada.

Vikram Vij, Vancouver (@Vijs_restaurant)
Vikram is the chef and owner of Vij’s, the internationally recognized restaurant in Vancouver’s South Granville neighbourhood. He is a TV personality who appears on CBC’s “Dragons’ Den,” Food Network Canada’s “Top Chef Canada” and “Chopped Canada.” Vikram and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala, also own and operate Rangoli, My Shanti and the food truck, Vij’s Railway.

David Hawksworth, Vancouver (@ChefHawksworth)
David is the chef and proprietor of Hawksworth, an award-winning restaurant in the luxurious Rosewood Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver. He has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe and is considered one of Canada’s finest chefs.

Terry Pichor, Vancouver and Sonora Resort (@SonoraResort)
Terry is the executive chef at Sonora Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. Terry also blogs for the Vancouver Sun.

Lucais Syme, Vancouver (@LaPentolaChef)
Lucais is the chef and co-owner of La Pentola della Quercia, an outstanding Italian restaurant located in the Opus Hotel in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood.

Matt MacIsaac, Vancouver and Tofino
Matt is an owner of Tacofino, the popular food truck in Vancouver, Tofino and Victoria, and of Commissary restaurant in East Vancouver. He is also a founding partner of MMCAP Fund Inc.

Lee Man, Vancouver (@cnklhd)
Lee is a food writer for Vancouver Magazine who is widely recognized as a leading expert in Chinese cuisine in Canada.

Kasey Wilson, Vancouver
Kasey is the co-host of the Best of Food and Wine Show on AM 650 radio and is a member of the British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame. She has worked as the food editor of Wine Access magazine and has written for numerous publications.

Sophia Cheng, Vancouver (@ChengSophia)
Sophia is a PR consultant and food aficionado. Many of her clients are top-rated restaurants in British Columbia.

Katie Marti, Revelstoke (@KatieMarti)
Katie is a writer for Vacay.ca and adventure traveller based in Revelstoke in central British Columbia.


Janine Kennedy (Chair of the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants), Ireland (@CookWithCraic)
Janine is a professional cook and Vacay.ca Food Columnist who is originally from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Follow her culinary adventures on her blog CookingWithCraic.com.

Niamh Shields, England (@eatlikeagirl)
Niamh is the author of the cookbook “Comfort & Spice” and has been named one of the Britain’s 500 Most Influential People by the Sunday Times. You can find her on her popular blog EatLikeAGirl.com.

Steve Dolinsky, United States (@stevedolinsky)
Steve has won 12 James Beard awards for food journalism and is a reporter for ABC 7 in Chicago. He has recently started The Feed Podcast with renowned chef Rick Bayless. Steve is also a Regional Academy Chair for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Arlene Stein, Germany (@ArleneStein)
Arlene is the director of the Terroir Symposium, an annual gathering of the global food industry in Toronto. She co-founded Terroir in 2006.

Janet Boileau, Singapore (@TasteTravelMag)
Janet is the publisher of Taste & Travel magazine, which is focused on culinary travel experiences around the world. She is starting an Asian-focused version of the magazine.


Rod has previously worked for Canoe.ca and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.


  • Chef Macewan

    May 23, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Sooooo. The judges can’t vote for themselves yet quickly glancing at the list it seems like 100% of the restaurants owned by or worked at by the judges all won?

    Great non bias list!

    • Vicky Vacay

      May 23, 2014 at 4:46 am

      Um, not sure about either your eyes or your math on that one. Only 10 restaurants among the Top 50 are owned or operated by judges who determined the list. That would be 20%, not 100%. Hope you get out there and enjoy all of them!


    • Vicky Vacay

      May 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Um, not sure about either your eyes or your math on that one. Only 10 restaurants among the Top 50 are owned or operated by judges who determined the list. That would be 20%, not 100%. Hope you get out there and enjoy all of them!



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