Food Trends 2011: Part Two: Chefs Derek Ingraham, Tony Le, and Brett Yasukawa

A Chef’s Perspective

Following my Personal Reflection about Food Trends for 2011, I asked three of my favourite Chefs to provide their personal perspectives regarding food trends for 2011. I met Chef Ingraham at Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge this past November and was blown away with his food, his food philosophy, and his future goals for Jasper Park Lodge. Chef Tony Le is one of our Edmonton Icons and an Edmontonian since birth. I met him at the Slow Food Edmonton Grilled Cheese Olympics last March and have been impressed with his passion for good local food. I also met Chef Brett Yasukawa at Christmas in November and was enamoured with his humour, his knowledge, passion, and incredible range of cheffing experiences. I was thrilled each took the time to respond to my request and I trust you will find their answers revealing, passionate and insightful! I did!

What promise each of these young Chefs hold for our future!

  1. Major local trend?
  2. Trends throughout Canada and the US?
  3. Hopes and Wishes?

Chef Derek Ingraham: Executive Chef Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

  1. As far as trends go, it seems we are always behind the States as a mass with food trends; places like California were 10 years ahead of us pushing local sustainable (Alice Waters) and it is still one of the strongest trends down there. We are still pushing and educating our clients on this and I don’t see it going to the back burner for quite a few years. I think healthy eating is on a huge issue in Canada and people are really starting to look for this now; it is something that has come up over and over again for 30 years and nobody paid attention, but they are now and we need to offer this to them. I would guess Alberta is one of the worst as here it is all about huge portions and that is on us in the industry to change. As I mentioned in my demos, 50% of healthy eating is portion control. You can eat what you love and have always had but instead of that 14oz ribeye we need to get portions down to 8oz.
  2. I think parents are really jumping on the healthy trend with there kids and it is important we get on board. I am working on a new banquet menu and one of the things we are doing is getting rid of all the junk on kids menus. It still needs to be fun and kid friendly, but it all doesn’t have to be deep fried! Edmonton is starting to catch up to cities like Toronto and Vancouver with their interest in ethnic food. We have seen it here, this summer, with butter chicken being our 4th best seller on all menus, and talking to guys in the city it is the same there. People are venturing away from steak and potatoes and will continue to get more bold and realize how good other cuisines are. Another key issue in 2011 are going to be food allergies; 10 years ago, if you were Celiac, you ate around the menu. Today we need to make menus around allergies and cater to these as we are seeing more and more requests in the restaurants.
  3. One of the things we are going to push at the Lodge in 2011 is focusing on the senses, not just in the restaurants, but in all areas: the spa, lobby, etc.. We want an aroma to be prominent when you walk in: the presentations, flavors and textures all to be there and to really hit you. Again, in the restaurants, we will be doing this while trying to use as many local and sustainable ingredients as possible. I will be travelling to farms and getting pictures done with the farmers in their fields and having story boards done up for guests to see when they walk into restaurants so they can see what they are eating and where it came from and sense the relationship that needs to be there from kitchen straight through to the farm.  One last thing: I am getting four bee hives on the roof this spring and we are going to make our own honey as well as we are doing a much more extensive garden than ever done here before, and we will use a lot of that product on special menus through out the summer!

Chef Tony Le: Executive Chef Lux Steakhouse and Bar

  1. I think with the growth of the Food Network and many reality cooking shows people are being more adventurous and a big trend in 2010 was comfort food done well with locally sourced ingredients. So, for 2011, I see chefs pushing forward with more comfort food done with flare and done well. I see lots more artisan and specialty shops opening up. We can never have too many. Food trucks and late night eats will likely be a big trend with the popularity of local markets and festivals our part of the world offers.
  2. With the success of simple foods done well in the past year, a lot of chefs are plunging into comfort food. Fine dining restaurants are starting to become extinct, but great food and service will always be BIG! Examples: Sunday Night Dinners with Tom Colicchio, Graham Elliot with his new sandwich shop: Grahamwich, wine bars aren’t just for snobs any more, and locally sourced is no longer a niche, but a staple. I love that these chefs introduce new flavours and ideas in a package that is familiar to the average Joe but appealing enough to the well-travelled foodie. With trends like these, I think food in North America is in for a treat.
  3. My most sincere hope for 2011 would be for chefs to continue to push boundaries here in Edmonton. More specialized restaurants that focus on a certain type of cuisine rather than trying to make everyone happy.

Chef Brett Yasukawa: Now a “Free Lance” Chef, former Executive Chef for Fairmont San Francisco, worked with Wolfgang Puck and a (sensei) Japanese trained Sushi Chef

  1. I believe there’s actually two branches of food evolution in which the culture will grow in 2011. Going to the extreme of food science but incorporating them into stylish, trendy food presentations is one aspect. Dehydrated foods like the intense flavor of powdered mushroom “œdust” you can use to sprinkle over an elegant food setting is one unique method. The other end of the spectrum will follow economic trends of today’s still sagging economy. Gourmet food trucks are a great example of something quick, easy, cheap, and evolutionary in which you only need cooking technique and a little touch of the imagination to really pull off a great meal. It is not just about that greasy, pre-frozen, breaded chicken sandwich with a half eaten slice of rotten tomato anymore. It is about using braised chicken leg with some sort of perfected sauce ala king stuffed in an evolutionary pita pocket. All for some spare change, probably small enough in both price and quantity for you to order two.
  2. My most sincerest hopes for food trends in 2011 are with the red tuna industry and farmed fish in general. With the explosion of the “œhack” sushi bar around the world and the influence of the farmed fish which has been exposed as the worst thing to put in your mouth besides dead squirrels or chunky dirt, there is some truth to the matter as well as pure, naive fact. The facts simply state that due to the rising greed to catch wild, red meat tuna that some experts will predict the possible extinction of the species in the next 10 to 20 years. I am one of those who back this prediction or maybe not use such a drastic word like “œextinction” but let’s factor in the 8 to 10 years it takes for a baby, red meat tuna to grow, mature and make other baby tunas. Let’s also factor in the “œlimit laws” on what you can or cannot catch”¦there are none. Rules are now being enforced but not strict enough to bring back an entire species. Now let’s add in how much money fisherman make from a huge red meat tuna, a gigantic oil spill in a breeding ground, and how many sushi bars around the world that have spicy tuna rolls on the menu… For over a decade, I do not create a menu that involves red tuna. Valerie’s food blog only knows me as a “œsushi chef” but in fact, I have not been in a sushi bar for over 15 years. If I was a sushi bar proprietor, my sushi menu would not include red tuna creations as well as writing menu’s for the “œhot kitchen line”. Searing tuna with mango salsa and some type of new-fangled tuna tar tar are so overdone in the culinary world that I tend to wonder if somebody has a creative mind anymore.
  3. Farmed fish has had such a bad rap and with some concern as well. These are just the beginning stages of something that have been changing over time. Let the truth be told that there are too many stories of, “œMan, we used to catch a ton of stripped bass 10 years ago and now we hardly get our fishing line teased.” Doesn’t matter what type of fish in our oceans, they are all depleted and in need of a miracle. Fish farms are that miracle in disguise. More laws are being passed to regulate fish farms. Some salmon farms are considered to be “œall natural” with the consideration of using carotene to give salmon their pinkish colour vs. dyes or actually watching the limit of feed they eat so none is wasted into our oceans and create other problems. No growth hormones and that sort of thing are also being considered. One guy in Japan has figured out how to raise red tuna in captivity. Something that has riddled farms forever but now there’s at least hope for the red tuna and our oceans. But, sometimes you need more than hope to help a worsening situation”¦We need a global team effort!

Tomorrow’s post will include the opinions of some of our local bloggers. Please chime in with your response to these insights for the coming years. What are your hopes, wishes and resolutions?


  1. says

    I really enjoyed reading this, Valerie. This is such an interesting topic and the chefs you talked to really put a lot of thought and effort into their answers. I especially enjoyed reading what Chef Brett had to say about farmed fish…such an important topic!

    Hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas…and Happy (almost) New Year! :)

    • Valerie says

      Thank you so much, Faith.
      I am so glad you took the time to read this lengthy post. I agree! Each took so much time and it is so exciting to hear about restaurant gardens – and that JPL will be making their own honey. That is brilliant… and Chef Brett’s take on the farmed fish certainly does shed a whole new light on that topic, doesn’t it?

  2. says

    What interesting insights! I love the trend of healthy eating and portion control. That’s definitely something important to me. I like to taste and try everything – just in moderation. :-)

    • Valerie says

      Are you in Germany still, or back in Amsterdam! Lucky me to hear from you while you enjoy such spectacular holiday travels.

  3. says

    I loved reading the insights of Chef Ingraham, Le, & Yasukawa. Yasukawa’s passion toward overfishing was especially interesting. As someone who lives about 1 1/2 miles from the east coast of the U.S., I take a sincere interest in the health of the coast lines and deep waters. It’s really a shame that more effort isn’t put int protecting waters from overfishing and contamination. I wish there were more chefs like Yasukawa here in the U.S. putting their foot down on serving endangered or almost endangered fish!
    p.s. To Chef Ingraham, everybody’s behind California. It’s hard to keep up with those guys (smile)…:-)
    p.s.s. Hope you had a great holiday, Valerie!

    • Valerie says

      Hi, Joan!
      Hope you read my personal reflection – too… and the food bloggers will be out tomorrow… then the food writers and the farmer’s last!
      All good reads I hope – thank you SO much for stopping my during such a busy season. I hope to get my readings all caught yo by tomorrow!
      Happy NEW YEAR!!!!

  4. says

    Hi Valerie,

    I think Chef Derek Ingraham brought up a great point about parents jumping on the healthy trend with their kids. As much as I love to cook at home and also enjoy my Mom’s homemade dishes, sometimes the cook does need a break (especially with two young ones). So once or twice a week we like to eat out for a change. Ever since having kids, I’ve noticed that there aren’t really that many “kid friendly” restaurants here in Edmonton. Or when we do find a kid friendly restaurant, the food on the kiddie menu is about the same at most places. Either it’s your typical grilled cheese sandwich, Mac n’ cheese, or chicken fingers; not much variety.

    Today we went to Cora’s for brunch. They are known for having an abundance of fruits plated beautifully alongside your main order. This brunch really showed me that just like adults, children appreciate pretty plated dishes also. K ate more than half her order and also almost all of the fruit on Dad’s plate. The fruit was plated beautifully, and just that alone was enough to make her eat something healthy and lots of it too. So I think if restaurants took the time and effort to make their kiddie plates as pretty and appetizing as they
    did with adult meals, maybe (just maybe) kids would actually enjoy eating and finish their meals. With that said, I’d love to see more kid friendly restaurants serving healthier meals with more meal options. We’ve basically given up on the kid’s menus and just order adult sized meals for our kids to share because of the lack of choices. A lot of the times we choose to eat at home because then I know exactly what’s going into my kids’ mouths.

    I enjoyed reading this post and what all these Chefs had to say. They brought up some really great points. Thanks for another great read, Valerie 😀

    • Valerie says

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Hopefully, local chefs and restaurants are reading this. It would be nice to just have a “child sized portion” of whatever was on the menu… instead of a child’s menu.

  5. says

    I have been so intrigued by all of these predictions for 2011, and I loved being able to read the thoughts of actual chefs. I think that all three of these chefs made some interesting and very valid points. It will be interesting to see what unfolds. Thank you for sharing this with me. I hope you have a lovely week. I wish you and your family the happiest New Year!

  6. says

    Bee Hives on the roof, extensive gardens, pictures of where your food comes from..a wonderful outlook from Chef Ingraham. I also would love to see Chefs pushing their boundaries with local produce and protein, a wonderful read Valerie..


  7. says

    Wonderful comments from these chefs! If we want to be able to ofter fish to the general public on a regular and affordable basis we need to get the farmed fish industry sanitary and healthy.

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