8 Questions for Mark McEwan, Chef

(Canadian Restaurant Foodservice Association’s HostEx show chef profile)

1. You were born in Buffalo. What has that contributed to your cooking?

Buffalo gives you an appreciation for good bar food.

2. You’re now 50. What are you most proud about having accomplished?

I still like the business very much at the ripe old age of 50. Typically a lot of chefs get burned out by this age. I’m having fun. I’m most proud of having a consistent long career in Toronto and still moving forward. My 22-year-old son is now working with me.

3. You’ve said, “The only thing that gets me excited now is super quality ingredients and classic preparation.” Is there room for innovation with those components?

Oh sure. It’s always up for interpretation. What I try to impart to young cooks is to be incredibly competent before you try to be magical. Accomplished chefs always fall back on tremendous basics.

4. On “The Heat,” you’re under fire all the time. How do you manage to keep it all together while being filmed for a live event?

If you think about it, you’d probably not want to put yourself in that position. But I’ve never failed at a catering event. Things come out of left field but I always feel comfortable that we’ll somehow know what to do. What I like is I don’t have to act [laughs]. There’s always enough angst to create the art!

5. What have you learned from doing the show?

I’ve really connected with my client base. I have men come up to me telling me how much they love the show because of the mechanical stressful nature of it. The male demographic is huge.

6. Your favourite Toronto restaurant?

I have so many….. the diner down the street from North 44. I think it’s like it was in 1952.

7. What city is doing the most exciting things right now for cuisine?

I always find New York inspirational. Chefs there are very good on their stoves and in their offices. Best food I’ve had there is Per Se, Thomas Keller’s place. The Spotted Pig for comfortable neighbourhood food with a very cool crowd.

8. If you weren’t a chef, what career would you have pursued?

I never had the math grades but probably would have pursued a business career. Navy fighter pilot? When I first told my grandmother I was going to be a chef, she said what are you going to cook? A chicken? I fell into cooking, and cooking and I got along very well. The physical nature of the job was very well suited to my skill set. And money has always made sense to me. No. 1 is you have to be able to make money or you can’t run a good restaurant.


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