Let’s face it, Canada isn’t exactly known for its cultural cuisine. Our namesake dishes include fried potatoes soaked in gravy and cheese curds, elbow macaroni doused in neon powdered cheese sauce and something called the “Figgy Duff.”
Compared to other cultures of the world, these recipes don’t sound very appealing as far as cultural richness is concerned.
Canadian restaurants rarely make the U.K based Restaurant’s influential World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Also, no homegrown restaurant has cracked into the list’s top 50 since 2003.
The Michelin Guide – the most influential restaurant rating system in the world, doesn’t even bother with us.
It’s not just that we aren’t home to a single restaurant holding a much-coveted star; the Guide doesn’t even send inspectors to Canada anymore.
For years, Canada has been assumed to be a lost cause by the international gourmet food community.
When Anthony Bourdain visited Toronto in 2012 to film a segment for his former show “The Layover”, he had some thoughts on what the city could do to become an internationally recognized food mecca: “Maybe you just need a good slogan”.
Maybe you already had it. “Hogtown. Hogtown, eh?”
The advice seemed less aspirational and more of a blunt suggestion that, perhaps, we should just come to terms with the fact that there’s not much to be done about our culinary status.
We are what we are, and there’s a lot we’ll never be.
However, things have changed since Bourdain’s visit. In just four years, Toronto’s food scene, which used to boast only a handful of must-eat restaurants, is now so full of them it’s hard to keep up.
Several international stars opened outposts in the city, including Daniel Boulud with The Four Seasons’ Cafe Boulud and David Chang with Momofuku. But, more importantly, Canadian chefs have been stepping up to the plate, as well.
These results aren’t merely restaurants imitating the French greats or recreating derivatives of New York trends, either.
Torontonians are witnessing a rise in uniquely Canadian restaurants that celebrate our nation’s diversity. Some of these include Chinese-Jamaican hybrid Patois, Byblos’ mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, DaiLo’s French-inspired Chinese fare, Antler’s local forest-to-table dishes and Alo’s modern take on French tasting menus.
With so much hype surrounding Canada’s newfound food scene, is it high time the Michelin Guide gave us a shot?