To make things a little more challenging, Lucy decided to request that these recipes be created black-box-competition style. Each would have to include specific ingredients — maple syrup, dried berries, root vegetables, and a grain and dairy product of the chef’s choice. They could add a protein if they wished and draw upon a pantry of other products.
We had no idea what to expect, but when the recipes came in, we were thrilled by how imaginative, delicious and different they were. Each was as unique as the stories of our three local heroes — though they do have one thing in common. Whether they were born there, left and returned, or ended up in that part of Canada almost by chance, they have all chosen to stay in the north.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Owner and chef at Antico Restaurant
“The north? I love it and hate it at the same time,” says Arturo Comegna. “I love the peace and quiet, but it’s discouraging to see how many people don’t really understand food. It’s tough sometimes, but luckily there are enough people who like and appreciate what I do.” Arturo was born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy, and started working in restaurants as a waiter when he was 12. In the late 1970s, he fell in love with a Canadian and ended up moving to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where he acquired a restaurant called Rico’s in 1982. “I wasn’t a chef, but I always kept my eyes open and watched what they did in the kitchen,” he recalls. “I started cooking, taking Italian dishes and adding a little twist to make them my own.”
Now in his sixties and the proud owner and chef of Antico, Arturo still loves going to work every day. “I'm lucky,” he says. “I like what I do.”
Cornflake-Crusted Arctic Char Fillet on an Apple Beet Salad
Arturo had never seen beets until he came to Canada. Now he loves them, especially for the colour they bring to a plate.
Thunder Bay, Ont.
Co-owner of The Blue Door Bistro
Craig Napper is a chef; his wife, Hollie, is a baker. Together they own and run The Blue Door Bistro in Thunder Bay, Ont., the sort of place locals describe as a hidden gem. Both of them left Thunder Bay in their youth — Craig worked in Calgary and Banff, Alta. — but they came back in 2008. “Our kids were six and eight at the time,” says Craig, “and we both had parents living here. It felt like home after somewhere the size of Calgary.”
They opened the 35-seat Blue Door in 2012, “a quaint, small place,” says Craig, serving breakfast and lunch every day of the week with occasional themed dinners. They also do catering and offer an increasingly popular service delivering frozen meals to people’s homes. “We’re lucky,” concedes Craig. “Hollie and I are both on the same wavelength, and we both enjoy what we do very much.”
Cranberry Oatmeal Biscuits with Poached Eggs, Maple-Roasted Root Vegetable Hash & Orange Hollandaise
Craig is famous with Blue Door customers for his hollandaise sauce (it’s always freshly made), but he had never tried making these biscuits before. The lovely colours of the hash work so well in the dish.
Manitoulin Island, Ont.
Owner of Ultimately Chocolate
Born in Sudbury, Ont., Lisabeth went to university in Ottawa, where she turned her master’s degree in international business into a career in marketing. In the evenings, she liked to bake cakes and make chocolates for her colleagues at work, and that became her new occupation when she and her husband moved back to his hometown of Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, Ont., to start a family. Working from her in-laws’ farm, Lisabeth started selling to local cafés, such as Loco Beanz, and to Salute Coffee Company in Sudbury. Now her chocolate bars are winning awards in Seattle and the U.K., and can be found at The Candy Bar in Toronto and JoJo CoCo in the Ottawa region — or ordered online through foodiepages.ca.
“Craft chocolate has always been a passion,” says Lisabeth. “I go to conferences and come home with suitcases full of samples. I also try to educate the world about craft chocolate through my blog, The Ultimate Chocolate Blog.”
Triple-Chocolate Carrot Cake with Blueberry Compote
“This cake is truly island-inspired,” explains Lisabeth, “from the dried wild blueberries to the maple syrup (the sugar bush is only 10 minutes away) to the carrots that grow by the thousands in my backyard.”