Ottawa

Hot cuisine: Abundant local farms create high foodie expectations

The abundance of local farms really helps the local restaurant industry, but it also lifts the expectations of customers and creates more competition among Ottawa's restaurant industry, says a local food critic.

Ottawa restaurateurs know customers 'want to taste Ottawa,' food critic says

Food critic on Ottawa's unique position

7 years ago
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Ottawa has many local farms, which helps chefs and producers work together on local foods. 0:25

The abundance of local farms and farmers markets have created an educated group of eaters in Ottawa, forcing local restaurants to try new recipes with new technology as they search for their next masterpiece, according to local food critic Anne DesBrisay.

As a result, DesBrisay adds that Ottawa is becoming a vibrant food destination.

"We in Ottawa have more agriculture, more working farms, more greenhouses than Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton combined," she says. "And the ease with which producers and chefs can have chats and access to each other is pretty remarkable in this city, as well."

DesBrisay says the abundance of local food at numerous farmers markets has fostered higher expectations not only critics such herself, but among consumers as well.

Each new restaurant is challenged to take on local food in new and unique ways.

"Ottawa diners know what’s out there, they’re smart. So when they come to restaurants they want to taste Ottawa," DesBrisay says. "And chefs are giving us Ottawa on plates. It’s not Montreal, it’s not Toronto, it’s Ottawa."

Food laboratory features new toys for new recipes

When eaters expect more, chefs need to dig deep into a new bag of tricks. Marc Lepine, chef and owner of Atelier, says modern technology helps him create new plates.

"We like to play with toys basically," he says. "We wanted to work with just fun equipment that allows us to produce fun food."

Local chef Rene Rodriguez says talking with fellow chefs and local producers helps Ottawa's restaurant scene. (CBC)
The Atelier kitchen is like a food laboratory with no gas ranges or deep fryers or exhaust fans. Instead, Lepine uses cotton candy machines, vaporizers, immersion circulators and different types of tanks with various gases.

When it comes to the food, Lepine says it's all locally grown organic produce, as well as herbs he harvests daily from a garden behind the restaurant.

That mentality of growing his own food is also shared by several restaurants in Ottawa. Bread made in-house has become one of the most common local restaurant features.

It's something consumers now expect from a growing and competitive restaurant industry in the capital.

Poll question

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Sandra Abma. (CBC)
Hot cuisine

This is the second in CBC reporter Sandra Abma's four-part series on Ottawa's changing restaurant scene, called Hot cuisine. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #hotcuisine, and let us know what you think of the city's food industry.

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