Carl Heinrich has a thing or two to say about the four-course menu that won him the title of Top Chef Canada on Monday night -- namely, that he only thought he'd be cooking three.
"When you look at Top Chef, usually, it's a three-course menu," the chef said over the phone from Toronto just minutes after the season finale of Top Chef Canada ended. "I stayed up all night planning the menu, only to hear that it was going to be a four-course. Now, looking back, I certainly would have done another course before the trout rather than another one before the dessert."
Heinrich is speaking, of course, of his third course -- a bowl of orange sorbet -- that Top Chef Canada's head judge disparaged in the episode's broadcast. It was a good course -- McEwan obviously enjoyed it, as did Top Chef host Lisa Ray and resident judge Shereen Arazm -- but one that could have cost Heinrich the title. But, of course, it didn't.
Heinrich, 26, who cut a stoic figure throughout the season, beat out fellow competitors Jonathan Korecki, 27, of Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen and Bar in Ottawa, and Trevor Bird, 28, of the recently opened Fable in Vancouver.
"The challenge was standard the whole way through: cook the best food you can," says Heinrich. "You're always cooking for the judges, there's no doubt about it, but I was at a definite advantage in that Mark and I have very similar cooking styles."
That style is, of course, one that fellow competitor David Chrystian called "commendable" -- Heinrich is deeply committed to the farm-to-table culinary philosophy. And in Top Chef Canada's final episode, Heinrich cashed in: the competitors were able to raid the garden of Hockley Valley for fresh ingredients with which they would prepare their final meal.
"Being from Toronto, I was also at an advantage in that I was able to say exactly which producer I wanted my product from," Heinrich says of the final challenge, which saw him cook a four-course meal of smoked trout salad with ranch dressing, haricots, pickled radish and sunflower shoots, roasted elk loin carved tableside, orange sorbet with orange tuille, lemon confit, fennel and Ontario plum, and finished with a peach cobbled with brandy caramel sauce, spiced ice cream and candied walnuts.
Last night's episode also saw the three finalists judge a surprise wildcard Quickfire challenge that saw eliminated chefs David Chrystian, Trista Sheen and Xavier Lacaze cooking it out for a chance back in the finale elimination challenge. Chrystian was selected to compete against Korecki, Bird and Heinrich, but unfortunately his second act would not see him through to the title of Top Chef Canada.
"It was the hardest secret ever to keep," Heinrich says of his win. "I was really afraid that I had lost at the last second. That's what we all went there for really, and I never thought I'd make it as far as I did."
Henrich goes home with a new kitchen from GE Monogram and a $100,000 cash prize. The chef is formerly of Marben in Toronto, and will be opening a new restaurant, Richmond Station, in Toronto in August.