Top Chef Canada winner Tre Sanderson to push Jamaican flavours forward
Tre Sanderson had no doubt in his mind that he would outcook the competition and climb his way to the top to win season 10 of ‘Top Chef Canada’. Creating history as the first black man and chef of Jamaican heritage to achieve this magnificent milestone, he hopes to push island flavours forward into the luxury of fine dining.
The man of the moment told Food, “Becoming Canada’s Top Chef is an exciting honour and privilege. But it also comes with the responsibility of advocacy. I want to push the envelope and modernise Caribbean cuisine. My hope is to inspire the youth who are looking to break into this industry.”
His signature dishes ignite a fusion of Caribbean flavours served with sheer opulence. In the Dutch pot series, he presents a braised oxtail, which is a spiced oxtail jus made with red beans, toasted pimento powder, and topped with thyme oil.
On the seafood line-up, Chef Sanderson brings innovation to poached lobster tails in a carrot-coconut sauce, accompanied by seared scallops and roasted carrots with a coconut crumble. But the all-time favourite is his take on the Jamaican classic, escovitch red snapper. It isn’t complete without pickled carrots, pickled and caramelised onions, Scotch bonnet peppers, vinegar, and a roasted red pepper sauce.
His winning strategy going into season 10 of the competition was not only to showcase his unique skill, but to pay homage to a country that he holds near and dear to his heart, Jamaica. His mother was born and raised in the parish of St Elizabeth. At the age of 18, she migrated to Canada for better opportunities, but she didn’t leave her heritage behind.
In fact, she passed on the knowledge, wisdom, and unique island spices to her son.
He recalls having a love affair with food from an early age, admiring his mother for fusing Caribbean flavours in their Toronto kitchen. “I was always hungry, so you would find me in the kitchen. I was happy to help out my mother with dishes, and I learned so much from her about my heritage,” he shared.
When he got older, he followed the career path by enrolling in culinary arts school. Armed with a diploma, Sanderson went on to grace several restaurants with his cooking skills, until the opportunity to enter Top Chef Canada came into the picture.
Realising that there isn’t enough representation as far as black and Caribbean chefs are concerned, he took a leap of faith, gave it his all, and reaped the fruits of his labour. Chef Sanderson was excited that the finale was recorded in the Cayman Islands. He was happy to go to the farmers’ market to pick up fresh ingredients for his winning dish.
Since then, life has changed for the better. The good chef has made several television appearances doing what he does best: delivering scrumptious dishes with Caribbean flavours.
Regarding his future plans, Sanderson tells Food he has a goal of opening his own restaurant, as he would love to see a shift in the way the industry views Caribbean food.
“I want to take a fine-dining approach to Caribbean cuisine. Jamaica has the best flavours in the world, so why can’t we utilise those rich herbs and spices in a contemporary way? It is high time it gets the recognition it deserves. Jamaican dishes can be coursed in a fancy way. And I will love to bring that to the table in my own restaurant.
Although he wasn’t born and raised in Jamaica, Sanderson was able to visit the island in 2019. The trip felt like a homecoming of sorts for the culinary creative, who spent most of his life hearing and learning about the country through his family. Nothing, however, could compare to seeing, hearing, feeling, and tasting the culture for himself.
High on his list of favourite dishes to indulge in are jerk chicken, oxtail, curried chicken, and jerk pork, all paired with traditional rice and peas.