The diversity of Canadian food

April 28 2015

When it comes to food and wine, Canada produces an array of high-quality and delicious items. That's why the Naramata Bench Wineries Association has teamed up with the Eat! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival to create the Canadian Flavours Gala. 

This event will focus on the best tastes in the country, and will feature dishes from a variety of experts from across Canada. They will serve a range of dishes using seasonal ingredients that reflect the unique flavours of the nation, reports VanCityBuzz.

"Of course the definition of what is Canadian food is an often-debated one," says chef Ned Bell from YEW Seafood + Bar.

"Depending on whether you live in Canada, where you live in Canada regionally, how old you are, your parents and where they might be from [... it] means different things to different people," he explains.

Bell believes that Canadian food begins with local ingredients, while recipes are guided by culture. He says his own English, Scottish and German heritage influenced the flavours he grew up with, and that these are combined with other global influences found in his area, particularly Vancouver's Asian community.

Chef Connie De Sousa of Calgary's Charcut Roast House adds: "Canada has the best ingredients in the world and a huge diversity of culture and culinary offerings from coast to coast."

For many Canadian chefs, it's the country's multiculturalism that really inspires their creativity. Chef DeSousa explains that many chefs like to play on the strength of culinary diversity - and that can also be the appeal of large-sale food events like the Canadian Flavours Gala. 

"The country is gaining respect, particularly for our humble nature and collaborative spirit, which people gravitate to and sets us apart on teh international stage," she adds.

So what are the top Canadian ingredients? Well, that depends on who you ask. 

Chef DeSousa names several options, including Alberta grass-fed beef and west coast seafood, but says there are many more. "We have so many Canadian ingredients that we love to work with and are continuing to explore. I recently went foraging for wild ingredients in Newfoundland when visiting friends," she explains.

Jesse Grasso from Black Hoof in Toronto believes that Quebec produces the world's bst maple syrup. "I love using it anywhere i can. I've also been super into whelks lately," he says.

Andrew Winfield, chef at the River Cafe in Calgary, agrees about the maple syrup, but adds that lesser-known birch syrup has a unique flavour.

"Saskatoons and honeyberries are great ingredients people can find in their own back yard, but some personal favourites are ingredients like wild sea asparagus, Saskatchewan chanterelles, raw costal oysters, naturally raised bison and Canadian grains and legumes," he adds.

Nick Nutting from Wolf in the Fog in Tofino praises Canadian fish, while local wild mushrooms are also a favourite ingredient. "Foraging for mushrooms is a hobby of mine, and it's such a beautiful part of cuisine when you can go into the woods and pick the mushrooms and berries out there and use them in your cooking," he says.