Quill & Quire
The authors of 3 Chefs are all highly regarded toques. Michael Bonacini co-owns a slew of Toronto-area restaurants, including the top-rated Canoe and the family-friendly Oliver & Bonacini chain. Massimo Capra, owner of Mistura and Sopra, is one of Toronto’s best Italian chefs. Jason Parsons is executive chef at the Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The three also appear regularly on the television series CityLine. This book collects dozens of their recipes, new and from the show.
In terms of value and versatility, this is one of the best cookbooks published in Canada this season. The three chefs work in different but complementary styles that are very accessible to the home cook. Bonacini brings a continental flare, with recipes grounded in hearty bistro-style cookery. Capra, not surprisingly, contributes mainly Italian or Mediterranean-influenced recipes. Parsons steers more toward a New World vineyard style of cooking that emphasizes Canadian ingredients.
The recipes are all splendidly creative but not so esoteric as to alienate, showing how common ingredients can be inventively and tastefully combined. With enticing photography by Ian Garlick, 3 Chefs is the sort of book a home cook will happily return to again and again.
Mark McEwan is one of the most talented and highly regarded chefs in Canada. At restaurants such as Pronto, North 44°, Bymark, and One, he has been a leader in Toronto’s culinary community since the 1980s. In recent years, he has risen to national fame with his Food Network Canada show The Heat, and next year he will appear as head judge on the first season of Top Chef Canada.
With such a distinguished career, it is surprising that Great Food at Home is McEwan’s first cookbook. The volume is an exquisite offering, beautifully printed with dozens of gorgeous photographs by Rob Fiocca, Bill Milne, and James Tse.
The title, however, may be misleading. While the recipes here are indeed great, many of them are beyond the ambitions of the average home cook. Take, for example, Squab Two Ways with Chanterelle-Filled Cabbage Roll and Cauliflower Purée, which starts with the sobering instruction, “The day before cooking the squab, cut off the birds’ heads at the base of the neck.” For most people, that would be a non-starter, never mind that squab (baby pigeons) are not exactly the kind of thing one finds at Sobey’s.
Not all of the recipes are quite so complicated, but there are enough of them to suggest that this book would be more accurately titled Great Gourmet Food at Home. McEwan’s book certainly entices, but its complexity will leave many home cooks on the outside looking in.
With all this gourmet food, we must have some wine. A renowned sommelier in Quebec, François Chartier is virtually unknown in English Canada, even though his book Papilles et Molécules (Les Éditions La Presse) won the prize for Best Cookbook in the World at the highly prestigious Paris Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
For two decades, Chartier has been working to understand how the interaction of molecules released by food and wine into the olfactory system either enhances or diminishes our enjoyment of both. He identifies certain compounds that exist in wine varieties and suggests pairing those wines with dishes made from ingredients containing the same – or similar – molecules.
It is a fascinating and certainly innovative concept; however, Taste Buds and Molecules is so grossly overdesigned that the reader will face frustration just trying to follow Chartier’s text. The volume’s pages are chopped up by intrusive sidebars, bullet lists, and hand-drawn arrows and charts that look like they have been scribbled on chalk boards; it is very difficult to know which section of text follows which.
Taste Buds and Molecules is at heart a guide book to pairing food and wine, and gussying it up with affected graphic design only hobbles it.
On Fabbrica, Toronto:“…the quality of ingredients (exemplified by the dough that tastes ridiculously fresh) surpasses most others in the city…As a whole, Fabbrica’s soup, pizza and panini were fresh, authentic and a wonderful surprise from one of Toronto’s top chefs who to date hasn’t been known for this type of food.” - BlogTO.com
“For Mark McEwan, who’s dedicated a lifetime to culinary perfection, whipping up a work-of-art needs nothing more than a spatula and some quality ingredients…McEwan has become one of the country’s top gastronomic moguls.” - Dolce Vita luxury magazine
McEwan is “the closest thing to a star chef that Toronto’s got… the Toronto chef with the flaming red hair is on fire and, guess what, the blaze is about to get bigger - Martiniboys.com
On One, Toronto:“…the restaurant stands tall and confident among its pricey peers…definitely a worthy Yorkville addition.” - Don Ellis
“The store’s grocery lines are impressive: McEwan boasts an exclusive line of (excellent) Belgian chocolates, and gets its macaroons delivered fresh three times a week. You could eat a different imported, bronze-dye-extruded Italian pasta every night for a month from McEwan’s grocery shelves.” - Globe and Mail
“Besides Mark McEwan…precious few chefs have the skills and the moxie to morph into a manager.” - Globe and Mail
“This excellence as a food city owes something to its stellar chefs in their luxe pleasure palaces – such as North 44…” - Globe and Mail
“This meatloaf, from Mark McEwan’s new cookbook Great Food At Home, is just delicious.” - Bonnie Stern
“The Beretta Organic double-smoked bacon bought at McEwan Fine Foods for a French green lentil dish makes a mockery out of supermarket bacon… Reading Great Food at Home is much like going to cooking school. You’ll discover the best way to make onion rings, how to cure salmon, how to make pasta, and the best way to mash potatoes.” - Jennifer Bain, Toronto Star
“Yorkville’s hottest scene, the wraparound patio out front of the Mark McEwan-helmed resto in the Hazelton Hotel has been celebutante central since it opened with considerable fanfare in time for last fall's film fest.” - NOW magazine
“One’s duck confit…is easily one of the best in town.” - Starred review of One (NNN, or Excellent)
“Mark McEwan…has managed to offer suburbanites something more interesting than the unholy trinity of the Montana-Jackass-Pickle boxes… Fabbrica is a much-needed addition to the Don Mills dining scene.” - Eye Weekly magazine
“…a brilliantly executed beef tenderloin with seared foie gras…is, without a doubt, manna for meat-lovers…Hey, when Mark McEwan puts his name to anything, one expects it [to] be flawless.” - Alan A. Vernon and Sean Kelly Keenan
“One of Toronto’s finest restaurants in the heart of uptown Toronto, North 44 has become a benchmark in Toronto and across Canada for its elegance, impeccable service and exceptional cuisine.” - Food Network Canada
North 44: “beautiful food presentation…smooth-as-silk service…love at first bite.” - Zagat Survey, 2001-2002
North 44: “Within the ultra-stylish multi-tiered space, combinations of lights and shadows, food and wine, play in a magical decor of mirrors, mosaics and flowers. Dinner is an event to be celebrated and remembered. Exotic ingredients combine with flavourful herbs and spices, rather than relying on heavy sauces…Desserts are irresistible.” - 1999/2000 Toronto’s Fifty Best Restaurants