Chef Derek MacGregor ready to rumble at #TGCCF

Chef Derek MacGregor (left) has joined Mike MacKenzie at Seed to Sausage.

Chef Derek MacGregor (left) has joined Mike McKenzie at Seed to Sausage.

The name Derek MacGregor is quite synonymous to the local food scene in Ontario. His food philosophy is all about simplicity and fresh quality ingredients, especially Canadian cheese. The concept of farm to table is true to his heart, having grown up in a small community near Cornwall surrounded by fresh foods and grandmas who were exceptional cooks in the kitchen. He is a firm believer of embracing the local food community and has created great rapport with many of the farmers, cheesemakers and artisans.

Chef Derek states that shopping local supports our local economy and when in season, the local produce is so fresh, often picked that morning and quite regularly organic or pesticide free.

As chef of Le Chien Noir in downtown Kingston for just shy of 10 years and in restaurant kitchens for the past 20 years, there has been a change in this chef’s life. He joins Seed to Sausage as production manager and. most recently, he steps up to the plate at the Grilled Cheese Chowdown at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on the Sunday of a two-day-long cheesy affair from June 4-5 at the Picton Fairgrounds. The challenge? To compete alongside thee chefs making grilled-cheese sandwiches for 1,000 cheese lovers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

First 1,000 tickets holders admitted to #TGCCF on Sunday get to chow down on a free grilled-cheese sandwich.

First 1,000 tickets holders admitted to #TGCCF on Sunday get to chow down on a free grilled-cheese sandwich.

Chef Derek’s passion for food is still as strong as ever and he admits that his transition to Seed to Sausage was by need of change of scene as the pressure of running a line nightly was beginning to take a toll. A strong sense of loyalty and friendship with founder Michael McKenzie solidified his next move all while still continuing to work with good food. His love for food allows him to continue his journey and inspire others around him to come together.

With the title of chef also comes a love of cheese—fond of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, Derek has always impressed with this characuterie boards and dishes in the past. Of course picking one favourite Canadian cheese is quite the tough decision; his favourites include Grey Owl, Alegretto, and Seine d’Helene as well as a hometown cheese from Glengarry with its 4-year-old Lankaaster.

Chef Derek will be quite the contender at this year’s Grilled Cheese Chowdown and a crowd favourite with his enthusiastic spirit. As a proud locavore, he certainly is a prime choice for the competition.

Support Derek MacGregor this weekend June 4-5 at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton because, really, who doesn’t love grilled cheese? For complete information and tickets, please visit cheesefestival.ca.

—Rosalyn Gambhir
A food writer and photographer who calls Kingston home. She blogs about food, fashion and other good things life at www.rosalyngambhir.com.

 

Chef Lili Sullivan: Grilled-cheese champion at #TGCCF

All hail Chef Lili Sullivan of Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estate Winery!

All hail Chef Lili Sullivan of Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estate Winery!

Chef Lili Sullivan showed three chefs of the male persuasion how its done in the County when she easily defeated them in a grilled-cheese showdown at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Chef Sullivan, who runs Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estates Winery in Prince Edward County, grilled 250 cheese sandwiches in 34 minutes flatwhile the men were barely halfway. Total focus and fast hands not afraid of heat were her secret weapons.

The competition—to see which of the four chefs could grill 250 cheese sandwiches the quickest—was the method Cheese Festival organizers concocted to feed the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Sunday, June 7, in a fifth-anniversary celebration called Grilled Cheese Chowdown.

Total focus and fast hands not afraid of heat.

Total focus and fast hands not afraid of heat. Chef photos and graphic by Jane Churchill.

Chef Sullivan grilled her sammies with Black River Cheese cheddar, Stonemill Bakehouse Prince Edward County Rye and Stirling Creamery unsalted butter.

Her prize? A cheque for $1,000 paid on her behalf by the Cheese Festival to the charity of her choice, Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Click here for a Grilled Cheese Chowdown photo album.

While grilled cheese does not make an appearance on the menu at Gazebo Restaurant in Waupoos, Chef Sullivan certainly brought her A-game to the competition.

After studying culinary management at George Brown College, Sullivan went on to Toronto’s Auberge du Pommier, later taking the lead as head chef at Chapeau Bistro and The Rebel House. As an advocate of the slow food movement in Ontario, she spent nine years on the board of directors of Organic Advocates’ Feast of Fields. The organization, which was co-founded by Chef Jamie Kennedy, brings chefs and farmers together to raise awareness of organic eating and its benefits to the environment and to humans. As the movement took hold in bucolic Prince Edward County, the wine region’s magnetism was evident.

A long-time supporter of Countylicious, Sullivan’s cooking draws crowds during the County’s twice annual prix-fixe celebration of local food. Countylicious’ goal is to introduce diners to the bounty of local food that’s still available during the “shoulder seasons” of fall and spring, when most farmer’s markets have wound down for the year or have yet to open up.

Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estates Winery in Prince Edward County.

Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estates Winery in Prince Edward County.

“Locally grown is not a trend, but a lifestyle,” quips Sullivan. A truly seasonal eater, her family relocated from Europe in the 1960s, bringing their culinary sensibilities with them. “We only ate strawberries when they were in season. It’s just the way I was raised,” said Sullivan, in a Bay of Quinte Tourism Local Food episode last year. The Grilled Cheese Chowdown was the perfect venue for Sullivan to showcase local tastes, with all cheese provided by the Cheddar & Ale Trail producers of Hastings and Prince Edward counties.

The next Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada—takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, 2016, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information, visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—Laura Voskamp

By night, Laura Voskamp is a cheese lover and freelance writer. By day, she’s Communications Coordinator for Bay of Quinte Tourism and Bay of Quinte Living.

Chien Noir chef competes in Grilled Cheese Chowdown

With a Parisian bistro feel, located just a few blocks away from historic Market Square, Le Chien Noir Bistro in downtown Kingston is known for serving up fresh, seasonal, high quality, and local ingredients along with a spectacular wine list. This neighbourhood hangout spot dishes up pleasurable experiences and offers feel good classics with an innovative twist and friendly service in a beautiful art deco inspired setting.

Chef Eric Brennan.

Chef Eric Brennan.

Offering traditional French dishes such as Duck Confit, Boeuf Bourguignonne and Tartare, this bistro would not be complete without highlighting charcuterie and Canadian artisan cheeses that will be featured among many more at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival where Sous Chef Eric Brennan will swing into action against three other Ontario chefs at the Grilled Cheese Chowdown.

Who can cook 250 grilled-cheese sandwiches the quickest? Well that is yet to be determined but Kingston native Chef Eric of Chien Noir is certainly ready for the challenge as the winning chef will have $1,000 donated to his favourite charity and where the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Sunday, June 7, will receive a free grilled-cheese sandwich as part of the fifth anniversary celebrations at the biggest cheese show in Canada. It doesn’t get better than that!

Chef Eric’s grilled cheese creation you may ask? It pays homage to local products—from Stonemill Bakehouse and its Prince Edward County Rye, Stirling Creamery butter and of course the pièce de résistance, a two-year white cheddar from Wilton Cheese on the Cheddar & Ale Trail in Bay of Quinte Region.

Le Chien Noir: The Kingston resto definitely looks like a bistro.

Le Chien Noir: The Kingston resto definitely looks like a bistro. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

Let’s take a moment though to appreciate Chef Eric’s passion for creating uncomplicated dishes using locally sourced ingredients and embracing the local food movement – this truly makes him the perfect addition to the Grilled Cheese Chowdown with his unique flair in the kitchen. He rose to this level as he climbed the culinary ladder at Chien Noir after completing his apprenticeship at George Brown College while he gained first-hand experience at several popular Toronto dining establishments including Chippy’s Fish & Chips, The Harbord Room and Frank’s Kitchen.

While with every man, the true motivation that keeps Eric going is the love of food and having grown up surrounded by his parents big garden—sitting in the dirt rows between the plants, picking beans and peas and eating them is where the true appreciation for good fresh food commenced and has yet to leave him. So it is no surprise that Chef Eric is a great supporter of local Canadian cheese as well—his favourite being Wilton cheese curds or “squeaky cheese” as he calls it. He relishes in the fact that the options are almost endless with cheese. With so many styles and ages, there is always room for a slice or shred of the good stuff!

Cheese and charcuterie locally sourced at Le Chien Bistro.

Cheese and charcuterie locally sourced at Le Chien Bistro.

With all this talk about cheese be sure to visit Chien Noir’s Sous Chef Eric Brennan as he competes at the Grilled Cheese Chowdown at the fifth anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada as it takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—Rosalyn Gambhir

A food writer and photographer who calls Kingston home. She blogs about food, fashion and other good things life at www.rosalyngambhir.com.