Top Chef Canada is back, Canada’s favourite culinary cooking show, this Monday, April 1st at 10pm. We sat down with Chef Erin Smith, one of this year’s competitors, born and raised right here in Ontario. The mother of three young boys, Erin shines in this season as the one to watch. We got to know her and found out how she manages the pressure cooker environment, both at work and at home!

Erin Smith- Top Chef Canada Competitor- Photo Courtesy Food Network Canada

LR– Tell us how you got your start in the culinary world. Were you always in the kitchen as a kid?

ES- I have always loved to cook. Even from a young age, I always found myself standing beside the stove whenever my mother or grandmother were cooking. After high school, I was interested in going to school for advertising or to become a chef. I asked myself where I saw my life ten years down the road and immediately, I saw myself cooking. And I haven’t looked back.

LR- You worked with Mark McEwan at Bymark, a Toronto institution. Tell us what it’s like with him not as your boss, but now as your judge. Do you have the inside scoop on what he likes?

ES- To start my career at Bymark, from such a young age, is something I will always be grateful for. Working for Chef McEwan taught me a certain standard of cooking that not many young chefs get to experience. And having just opened the new McEwan Foods at 1 Bloor East, I know the food Chef McEwan likes and what he expects from his chefs. Having said that, there are four judges to impress and I will always make food that I want to eat. My style of cooking is my own, and I will always stay true to that.

LR- You’re currently on maternity leave, tell us about how working in a high pressure kitchen and managing life with young sons. Were you competing while pregnant? Or with a newborn at home? We want specifics on how you manage this hectic schedule!

ES- I have always thrived in a high-pressure environment. Being able to do 200 covers at Bymark on grill while eight months pregnant seemed normal to me. My husband and I have three beautiful sons and I really couldn’t do any of it without him. I always love to push the limits for myself, and with each maternity leave I’ve done a cooking competition. With my first, I won Chopped Canada, my second I won a Toronto-run competition called The Chef Cartel. Now for my third and final maternity (with a 9-month-old, 3 year old and 5 year old at home), it only seemed natural to compete in Top Chef Canada. I am a strong believer that you can be a successful chef and also have a family – it doesn’t have to be one or the other. My husband Brandon and I are truly a team and we tackle everything together. There isn’t much down time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What are you most excited about to show Top Chef Canada audiences about?

All of the chefs on this season’s Top Chef Canada were so different and some from opposite ends of the country. We all connected right away, and I have made some great friends. I’m really happy to be a part of this small group of talented chefs. Now we all have a coast to coast connection; this can help bring the Canadian culinary community that much closer together.

LR- Why was it important for you to compete on Top Chef Canada?

ES- For me, I feel if I am not always trying to grow as a person and as a chef, then I can feel stagnant. I have never feared failure and with that I have always pushed myself to try new things. I was approached by the casting director for Top Chef Canada to start the interview process, and I guess the rest is history.

LR- What advice do you have for young women entering the culinary world? Has your view of the industry changed since becoming a mother?

ES- My advice to young female chefs is to not worry about those around you. Have a goal and work your ass off every day to achieve it. Once you do, set yourself a new goal. Now that I am a mother, I have a lot more patience in the kitchen (to a degree). I think my cooks are grateful for that.