From slinging charcuterie to competing on a nationally regarded cooking competition, NL’s Chef Shaun Hussey dishes on his Top Chef Canada experience
Local culinary enthusiasts may know Chef Shaun Hussey from his inventive and delectable restaurant/deli, Chinched in St. John’s. From pig ear fries to chicken liver ravioli and the most divine charcuterie you can experience anywhere, Hussey and his partner in crime, wife and co-owner Michelle LeBlanc, have poured decades worth of culinary experience across North America into one of the finest eateries on either side of the pond.
Having mastered Newfoundland’s foodie-culture, Hussey takes his talents to a national stage this April, appearing as a contestant on the latest season of the internationally regarded cooking competition Top Chef Canada.
“The experience was amazing,” Hussey tells The Herald ahead of the April 13th season premiere on Food Network Canada. “I got to meet some amazing chefs. I got to see what it takes to make TV. I got to challenge myself personally. Overall, it was an experience that I don’t know if it would be possible to get anywhere else.”
Entering its eight season, Top Chef Canada boasts a diverse and fearless group of culinary warriors coming from every corner of Canada, who will compete in intense culinary challenges and cooking for some of the biggest chefs and in the world. Expecting the unexpected is a key component to the gruelling challenges.
“You know, it’s definitely tough to be prepared and ready for what Top Chef could throw at you,” Hussey explains. “Even though I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, it’s not the same. You’re constantly under pressure, you’re watching the clock, and you’re trying to make sure everything is good to go.
“You’re also on camera and you’re trying to dodge around a bunch of other people and you don’t know where everything is. They throw however many monkey-wrenches in as they possibly can. There’s no being prepared for the challenges they throw at you on Top Chef Canada, but it wouldn’t be the same if you were.”
Hussey is not the lone Newfoundlander and Labradorian to grace the Top Chef Canada kitchen. Local favourites Todd Perrin and former series winner Ross Larkin both filled Hussey in one some of the do’s and don’ts as it comes to tackling the intense culinary competition.
“I had talked to Todd about the show before, years ago. All the things you’re asking me I was asking him. How was the whole experience? Did you enjoy it? Was it worth going up? I know Todd quite well and have worked with him a fair bit. His basic answer was that if you get the opportunity to do it, go. Same thing applies to Ross. I know him pretty well through our local industry, and it was the same type of thing. Go for it, you got to go for it. Half of the experience is not knowing what you’re getting yourself into, but they were both really positive with pushing me to apply and giving it a go.”
While the unpredictability of the series is beyond dispute, Herald readers have plenty of reasons to bet on their homegrown favourite.
Our built in work-with-watcha’-got attitude as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as well as Hussey’s reputation of elevating product that other chefs would find inaccessible, could prove invaluable to the competition.
“Most people around here know us for our charcuterie program, for pig ears. And the fact that we don’t need to take the greatest cuts of meat to present the tastiest dish. I think that people commonly come to Chinched to try something a little bit different. Our approach to food maybe a little bit outside of their wheelhouse when it comes to the comfort level.
“When people ask me what kind of chef I am, I consider myself like a technician. I’m pretty comfortable around butchering meats and being able to handle different cuts and so-forth. That’s part of what I was relying on, just my overall knowledge of product. That’s an area that’s very deep, but you can’t really be prepared for everything that’s being thrown at you.”
‘I learned a lot’
Now that the dust has settled and Hussey can sit back and reflect on his Top Chef Canada experience, would he do it all over again?
“I’m super glad that I finally decided to apply on the show and very grateful that I was chosen from the many to be on the show,” he says without hesitation. “I feel like I learned a lot about me and where I am in my career and that I’m very comfortable where I am in my career. I met a lot of chefs and learned a lot of stuff in that amount of time that I don’t think I would have ever been able to in any other scenario.”
Tune into the season premiere of Top Chef Canada on the Food Network Canada, Monday April 13th at 10 pm ET, 11:30 pm NL.