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About the competitors:
Jonatan Gomez Luna Torres (Mexico):
Jonatan Gomez Luna Torres was born in Mexico City and studied cooking at the Ambrosia Culinary Center. After finishing his studies, he was invited by Chef Abdiel Cervantes to be part of his team in the city of Puebl. Jonatan has continued to develop his culinary skills at the best (two and three Michelin-starred) restaurants in the world.
Jonatan was the executive sous chef at the Azul Blue boutique hotel in the Riviera Maya for six months, after which he worked as a chef for Karisma Hotels & Resorts for two years.
In 2008, after three years of work, Le Chique was opened by Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Now as executive chef of Le Chique, Jonatan brings bold, fun, cutting-edge cuisine, full of memories based on the most innovative cooking techniques without forgetting essential culinary foundations and traditions. Today, Le Chique is catalogued as one of the best restaurants in the Mayan Riviera and, for some culinary critics, it is one of the best restaurants in the country.
Le Chique is operated by 21 chefs, including 16 students from various culinary schools in Mexico. This year, Le Chique was selected to prepare a dinner tribute to Ferran Adria and also served at the Madrid Fusion Mexico conference. Chef Jonatan also recently participated in several conferences and gastronomic congresses, and has been featured in several articles and gastronomic magazines.
Special thanks to partner
Marvis Brade (Antigua and Barbuda):
While growing up as a boy, chef Marvis Brade’s grandmother was known for butchering her livestock in the backyard, as well as having a bountiful garden that helped supply her neighbours when times got rough. As a result, he is no stranger to fresh meats and produce. His culinary journey continued in the town of Attleboro, Mass., where he began his work professionally as a student in the school’s culinary programme. After graduating high school with a diploma and culinary certificate, he immediately went on to Johnson & Wales University where he began developing his skills and acquired a degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. While in college, he worked as a cook at restaurants such as The Federal Tavern, The Post Office Café, and The Grill on Main, among others.
Upon arriving in Antigua he began to get a taste for the local ingredients and started working as kitchen manager at the Antigua Beachcomber Hotel, before moving on to the Sticky Wicket as a Sous Chef. This was a very fortunate opportunity as he was able to work with chef Andrew Knoll, Jeremy Lattimer, Brandon Benack, Albert Creese and Winfield Gordon in the Stanford Hospitality Group. After being promoted to executive Sous Chef he felt the need to expand further when an opportunity presented itself at Sugar Ridge. The rest, as they say, is history.
Special thanks to partner
Ross Warhol (USA)
Ross Warhol is the executive chef at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Ross went on to the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in Napa Valley.
In 2010, Ross was selected and competed in Western New York’s second season of Nickel City Chef, a local version of Iron Chef. He won the audience vote for outstanding chef and creativity
In 2010, Warhol was chosen to work at El Bulli in Roses, Spain. After completing the season at El Bulli, Warhol went on to do a short stint at Alinea in Chicago. Warhol returned to Napa Valley to work at Ubuntu, a Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant with their own biodynamic farm. Warhol returned to the Athenaeum Hotel for the 2011 season.
Through the wide range of culinary training that Warhol has received, he has developed his own unique style. The marriage between modern techniques, flavours, and presentations with a traditional background has earned him “Best up and coming Chef in WNY” by Buffalo Spree Magazine. Warhol’s passion and drive continues him on a path in search for any educational instruction that will further his growth as a chef.
Nick Liu (Canada)
Known for his delicate hand with bold flavours, weaving Asian influences through imaginative dishes founded by traditional French techniques, chef Nick Liu leads his guests through an exciting and deeply satisfying dining experience influenced by his work in Toronto, Sydney and London.
Fostering discipline and a deep respect for the study of food, chef Liu spent nine years working under chef Keith Frogget at Scaramouche, which led to several travel opportunities. One of these experiences included several months working at The Fat Duck. Heston Blumenthal’s daily presence in the kitchen and distinctive manipulation of flavour and texture using avant-garde culinary techniques had a tremendous influence on chef Liu.
Returning to Canada, Chef Liu was offered the position of Sous Chef at Splendido, widely considered in Toronto to be the closest to a Michelin starred venue. For the past three and half years, Nick Liu has been widely recognized on a national and international level for his work as Executive Chef of Niagara Street Café. It is with great passion, precision and a sense of playfulness that Chef Liu brings his modern Asian style to the forefront of Toronto’s dining culture.
About the judges:
Elizabeth Baird’s life in food started when she took her first home economics class in Stratford, Ont. She had, like so many kids of that time, made the usual fudge and cookies. But it was actually making her first peach crisp that lured her forever to the food world. She learned that a recipe plus ingredients will turn out a successful dish... and people will love it. However, it was not home economics, but French that she studied at University. A year in France, cooking classes at George Brown College, with chef Neil Baxter of Rundles in Stratford and in many culinary schools in Canada and abroad, have kept alive that passion for learning about food and how to cook it well. Over her career she has been the food editor at Canadian Living magazine, columnist for the Toronto Star, co-host of Canadian Living Cooks on Food Network Canada, author of about 30 cookbooks, from the first in 1974, Classic Canadian Cooking, to the most recent, Canadian Living, The Slow Cooker Collection. Although officially retired, she is an enthusiastic judge and supporter of Harbourfront Centre's Hot & Spicy Food Festival, volunteer historic cook at Fort York National Historic Site, weekly columnist for the Toronto Sun and SunMedia, and co-author of the upcoming Canada’s Favourite Recipes, due to hit kitchens this October.
Born and raised in Toronto, Kevin Brauch has been a fixture on televisions around the world since 1994. Today, armed with a backpack and a terrific thirst for adventure, Kevin holds title as having “the best damn job in the world!” traveling the planet drinking the world’s finest spirits, wines, beers and eating the best food imaginable as The Thirsty Traveler. When not jet-setting to the next brewery, distillery or vineyard Kevin also manages significant time in NYC to be the floor reporter for Iron Chef America.
Steven D'Souza graduated from Ryerson University in 2000, joined CBC News, and soon picked up a camera to become a video journalist. He's had a chance to meet people like Wayne Gretzky, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and filmmaker Michael Moore. He's covered national and local stories that have taken him from the lawn of the White House during the 2004 State of the Union Address to inside the Confederation Bridge in PEI to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton. Steven grew up in Richmond Hill and loves being back home in Toronto.
Follow Steven D'Souza on Twitter.
Hot & Spicy: Past, Present Future
As part of our 15th anniversary celebrations for Hot & Spicy, we have been reaching out to chefs from past years to recommend local chefs to watch in Toronto’s food scene. Nick Liu will be participating as our Canadian competitor in Iron Chef thanks to a glowing recommendation from Joshna Maharaj who participated in Iron Chef in 2010.
Joshna Maharaj is a busy chef with big ideas about good food! Joshna’s strong social justice and sustainability ethics flourished during her time as the chef at The Stop Community Food Centre, where she created and facilitated innovative and delicious community food programming, putting a grassroots kitchen on par with the rest of the kitchens in the city. Joshna has just recently completed a project at The Scarborough Hospital to reboot the inpatient menu, focusing on serving patients locally sourced, wholesome, homemade food. She is also a regular guest chef on CBC Television’s Steven & Chris, and teaches both young kids and university students about the glory of time in the kitchen. Last September Joshna was a speaker at the TEDxToronto conference, and this year the Toronto Star named her as one of the 12 people to watch in the city for 2012.