TORONTO - Canada's fields, forests and frigid waters form a stunning visual backdrop as talented chefs seek the ingredients for their culinary creations in the TV series "The Chef's Domain."
The 10-part show features extraordinary field-to-table feasts cooked up by acclaimed chefs from coast to coast. The second season begins airing Tuesday with back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET on Discovery World as part of the channel's month-long free preview.
Each episode features a chef from such far-flung areas as St. John's, N.L., Saskatoon, Calgary, Niagara, Prince Edward County and Cambridge in Ontario, Montreal and Sherbrooke in Quebec and Tofino and the Okanagan in British Columbia. Their task is to create a memorable meal using locally grown, harvested, hunted and foraged ingredients.
"(Discovery World) really wanted us to capture the wonder and awe of the landscape of this country, and really what we thought we did, and I hope we did, is to get Canadians to know about these places that we may have all heard of but not been to and understand them through the food that is available there," said executive producer Leanna Crouch, whose Toronto-based company Lively Media shot the series.
"I understood the needs of a chef in Saskatchewan or understood the land there and what it had to offer," she said.
"I think in this show you see the challenges and the limitations but also the ingenuity that comes with having to figure out how to present on a regular basis locally sourced meals."
Chefs Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith, co-owners of Joy Road Catering in the Okanagan, are featured in the second episode. They specialize in long-table dinners, feeding about 40 diners in an exquisite setting with menus they've concocted based on what is available from local farmers and producers.
"When you can work directly with a farmer you can get product that's that fresh it's just going to taste better," Smith said by telephone.
The pair set themselves the challenge of using ingredients from within 40 kilometres for their dinner to thank the farmers and suppliers who have contributed to their success. They visit a winery, where the vines are heavy with grapes ripe for plucking, and an apiary where viewers see honeycomb dripping with sweetness.
Along the way, the pair realize that along with the chickens, Asian pears, honey, prosciutto and eggplant they plan to serve, they'll need olive oil, salt and pepper, which are not within the parameters they have set.
Most of the chefs in the series, with the exception of Jeremy Charles of Raymonds in St. John's and Jonathan Gushue of Cambridge's Langdon Hall, are not well known.
"They aren't those sort of typical TV chefs," Crouch said. "We tried to find personalities who would be interesting to our viewers and had great food and a hook or angle or something that made the story special."
Ewart, 36, and Smith, 38, who trained in Ontario, moved to the Okanagan with a station wagon and $2,000, and eight years later they are booked solid.
"Being caterers allows us certain freedoms in menus that you don't have in a restaurant," Smith said.
"When we moved out here we saw a real opportunity, a real demand to work with the wineries, to work in people's houses, to do things in a different format, but we still strive to do it at the same quality that we would have working in restaurants," he explained.
Ewart said their dinners have a flavour of Europe. "You're with a bunch of strangers and you're best friends by the end of dinner and everybody ends up talking about food and history and their history with food."
Lively Media found out they were doing the show in mid-August last year and scrambled to film the 10 shows ahead of the frost.
In September produce is plentiful. "But when you're pushing into late October and November, and you're trying to follow the ball with these chefs as we try and find local food, that was very challenging," Crouch said.
She dreamed of being able to shoot fields of wheat, mustard seed and sunflowers in Saskatchewan. "Well no, they were gone."
Crouch said the chefs provided many special moments during filming.
In the first episode, "the two Jeremys" — chef Charles and sommelier Bonia — go moose hunting and have to make alternate plans for Raymonds' second anniversary dinner when they fail to snag one of the huge creatures.
"But getting them out into the landscape they love so much I think conveyed that passion to our viewers," said Crouch.
Episode 3 features chef Stephen Treadwell and sommelier James Treadwell of Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine, now in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
"Stephen's an incredible character," said Crouch. "I've never had to bleep out more expletives in any show ever. I've been doing this over 20 years. But it was so drop-dead funny and so amazing."
Chef Matt DeMille of Pomodoro in Prince Edward County's Wellington milked a water buffalo during his episode.
"It was hysterical. The crazy-eyed thing," said Crouch. "They said she was the quietest one available to milk. And it was like, oh my God, it was frightening and funny all at the same time."
Crouch said there's been a slow evolution in Canadian cuisine. "I think increasingly it's the talented chefs across the country who are defining that almost solely through what's available to them locally," she said.
"They're experimenting and they're creating brilliant food. So I think it might be eye-opening for other people to see what's possible."