Thursday, January 29, 2015

Master Chef Canada could be a Haligonian

Meet Andrew Al-Khouri, the lone Halifax representative in the Master Chef top 50

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Mr. Donair Gnocci himself - VIA MASTER CHEF CANADA
  • Mr. Donair Gnocci himself
  • via Master Chef Canada

I chatted with Andrew Al-Khouri—a musician and tax man who cooks everything from scratch, doesn't watch TV and happens to be Halifax's representative in Master Chef Canada's second season—over a piece of carrot cake. Get to know him before the show premieres this Sunday, February 1 on CTV after that big football thing.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What are you doing when you're not cooking?
I'm one of those people who tries to get their hands into everything. So, I've been cooking my whole life, but I used to be a musician full-time, and I actually just recorded an album called Whiskey Burns. I was born and raised in Cape Breton, came up for university and stayed here. And now I work as a tax officer. The whole story for me [on Master Chef] is that I work in an office job that I and I want to make a change, and move into the culinary industry.

So you're a tax officer, a musician, a cook...
It doesn't stop there. I have a woodworking company as well, Exotic Woodcuts, which makes serving boards made out of olive trees. I sell those to restaurants and craft shows. I started a catering company in December called Zatar Catering, it's mostly private chef services, and I've been doing that on the weekends, on the side.

How'd you get into food in the first place?
For Middle Eastern families, food is very central. My parents moved over from Syria and came to Cape Breton, of all places, but in traditional Middle Eastern culture men don't really cook a whole lot in the family setting. I had a troubled relationship with my father and for me cooking was a sort of rebellion. My first memories of cooking are sitting on the countertop when he wanted me to the be out in the yard doing labour-type work. As I grew up I just got obsessed with food. Obsessed. I don't own a can or a loaf of bread, I make everything from scratch...pasta, everything. Something I believe is you get comfort from logical processes, and happiness from creative processes.

Does a lot of your inspiration come from Middle Eastern style food?
I match ethnic cuisine, Middle Eastern at the centre but all ethnic cuisine, I match that with French technique. That's where my creative fusion is usually based. I think it lists my audition dish, donair gnocchi, which is pretty hilarious... [bursts into laughter]

Yeah, what the hell is that?
They asked me to provide a "signature dish" and I have some really beautiful ones, but I wanted something that spoke to Halifax and represented my vibe for this competition. So, one of my favourite things to make is gnocchi and I often host donair and shawarma parties in the backyard, so when I was coming up with the concept I was like—this is going to be the stupidest thing ever. It was a novelty, but when I made it I was like 'this is damn good'. The judges are either going to love it or hate it. The dish cost less that two dollars to make, it's essentially ground beef, flour, eggs and a sweet donair sauce.

What made you want to be on the show?
I wanted to be able to spark a change for myself. I'm in a rut, I'm doing something that doesn't give me happiness day-to-day so I thought this might be able to insight some change into my life so I can transition into something that fulfills me. And I'm a little bit of a show off, generally.

There's a lot of strategy involved in reality TV, what do you think you've got going for you?
I'm extremely competitive and I'm a strategist. If I play boardgames or video games it has to be a strategic game, I love chess. I think that's going to play in my favour, because I know it's not only about what you cook. I went into it with the mind set that I'm running my own race. Whenever anyone asked me for advice I always gave my honest opinion, and never tried to screw anyone over or anything like that…it's just not my style. I like to win fair and square. I'm not going to knock anyone's knees out to get ahead.

Watch this season's trailer here.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ocean to table with Afishionado

Dive into Afishionado’s Chef Series Cooking School for lessons on seafood cleaning, handling and prep.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 5:49 PM

Do everything with fish (except catch it yourself) at this week’s Cooking School. - JESSICA EMIN
  • Do everything with fish (except catch it yourself) at this week’s Cooking School.
  • Jessica Emin

Owner of Agricola Street's Afishionado Fishmongers, Hana Nelson, has launched a cooking series teaming up with local chefs and businesses to educate Halifax on cooking local seafood. The Afishionado Chef's Series Cooking School hosted its first session last month, with Dan Vorstermans, chef and co-owner at Field Guide. The theme of Vorstermans' evening was the handling and preparation of raw seafood and fish.

This Tuesday, February 3, Nelson will host alongside Bishop's Cellar for an evening of oysters, wine pairings and shucking know-how at Lion & Bright. The following Tuesday (February 10), Frederic Tandy, owner of Ratinaud French Cuisine, will focus on other shellfish like clam and urchin, which can be intimidating for some. Both cooking school sessions will aim to provide easy ways to clean, handle and prepare seafood, says Nelson.

These classes are only the beginning, though. Nelson hopes to put them on every few weeks, and has already reached out to a handful of cooks, including The Canteen's Renée Lavallée, to run the upcoming classes. The chefs have creative liberty with their designated evening, says Nelson, and some will be more demonstrative while others will have more hands-on participation, depending on the venue and the chef.

Either way, "you get to eat what is being cooked and benefit from the expertise of these cooks."

Lion & Bright + Bishop’s Cellar: Chef Series Cooking School
2534 Agricola Street, Tuesday February 3, 8-10pm, $60, tickets at Bishop’s Cellar and Local Source

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seventy3 reinvigorates the former La Perla

Canadian Fusion from your pals at Celtic Corner

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 4:26 PM

  • via Facebook

"In many ways this is the phoenix of the La Perla story. A beautiful institutional restaurant that for a long time was the star of dining in the city, but its time has come and gone," says Jeff McLatchy, owner of the dearly departed La Perla's next-door neighbour Celtic Corner (69 Alderney Drive), which has taken over the old 73 Alderney Drive to create Seventy3. "We went in and didn't changed the layout, we just reinvigorated it."

The recently opened Canadian fusion restaurant offers up a 40-seat space and what promises to be a sweet summertime patio that looks over the Dartmouth waterfront. "It's casual but upscale," says McLatchy, who even scored a baby grand piano for the space. Hello, live tunes.

He says with Jeff Jarvis, Mike Hubley and new addition and pastry chef, Kelly Griffin in the kitchen, Seventy3's diners are in good hands. Its lunch and dinner menus feature treats like pork belly mac and cheese balls, the east meets west clubhouse (that's lobster and avacado), lamb cannelloni, Acadian jambalaya and slow-roasted short ribs. Take a peek at the entire lineup of locally and internationally inspired eats here.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Home Grown Organic Foods signs off

End of an era

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 11:30 AM

  • via Facebook

After 15 years in the organic food delivery business, and a year-and-a-half after opening its 2310 Gottingen Street storefront, Home Grown Organic Foods dropped off its final food boxes on December 22 and announced it was closing up shop for good.

In a newsletter HGOF's founder and owner Geordie Ouchterlony wrote:

As much as we believe in the health benefits of organic produce for people and the environment, sadly, our move to Gottingen St has not been embraced altogether by the North End Halifax community. Despite our competitive pricing and abundance of parking in a neighborhood that has been described as a food desert, retail sales of fresh, organic produce in store have been extremely disappointing over the past year and a half.

Ouchterlony encourages those interested in the buying the business, or leasing the space to contact him at

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