Meet the Panelists Who Helped Us Find This Year’s Standout Restaurants

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Here’s how we selected Canada’s Best New Restaurants in the strangest of all years.

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The last time we made our cross‑country trek to find Canada’s Best New Restaurants, in 2019, the country (like the world) was a different place. Since March 2020, we’ve been watching as restaurants have organized, reorganized and pivoted. Some, sadly, were forced to close. But others have sprung to life, and their inspiration has been met with great enthusiasm:  Because, while much has changed over the past two years, the power of a good meal has remained ever‑present. 

Air Canada enRoute has been around long enough – 2021 marks 20 years on this beat – to know that launching a new restaurant is challenging at any time. In this year where lockdowns and travel restrictions meant that we could not send our writer to test out the best new kitchens from coast to coast, we followed closely and stayed in touch with our expert food panel. Scroll down to meet the incredible chefs, producers and food journalists who are the eyes and ears – and, most importantly, the palates – of the 2021 edition of our Canada’s Best New Restaurants list. Thanks to them all.

This year’s list, you’ll see, is not ranked but categorized, a twist that has allowed us to feature both a crop of must‑visit new restaurants and other inspiring stories from across the Canadian food and drink scene. All of it will be revealed November 3; in the meantime, dig into our digital exclusives including a 20‑year retrospective of Canada’s Best New Restaurants and interviews with the chefs who’ve made their marks along the way. 

September 20, 2021
Suzanne Barr

Suzanne Barr
Suzanne Barr is a chef with a signature flair for Afro‑Caribbean comfort food (True True Diner, Saturday Dinette), as well as a prominent social advocate, author and TV personality.

Christa Bruneau-Guenther

Christa Bruneau‑Guenther
Christa Bruneau‑Guenther is a home cook turned executive chef and owner of Feast Café Bistro in Winnipeg, serving modern dishes rooted in Indigenous culture.

Twyla Campbell

Twyla Campbell
Twyla Campbell is CBC Radio Edmonton’s food columnist, and she sits on several national and local food judging panels. She is the author of Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup: The Inspiring Life of Chef Gail Hall.

Cornel Ceapa

Cornel Ceapa
Cornel Ceapa is the King of Caviar, PhD in sturgeon ecology, on a mission to produce sustainable local sturgeon and caviar and educate Canadians that caviar is a treat, not a luxury!

Mohammad Cemawi

Mohammad Cemawi
Mohammad Cemawi was born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents, grew up in Vancouver and has lived and travelled across Canada. He currently works as a Building Assessor for the Government of Nova Scotia. When not in Halifax, he's searching the world for something delicious.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, known as the “Food Professor,” is director of the Agri‑Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He has published over 500 peer‑reviewed journal articles and has authored five books on global food systems.

Shane Chartrand

Shane Chartrand
Shane Chartrand, of the Maskêkosak (Enoch Cree Nation, Treaty 6), is the co‑author – along with Jennifer Cockrall‑King – of the award‑winning cookbook,  tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine  (Ambrosia / House of Anansi, 2019). (Photo: Hilary McDonald)

Cinda Chavich

Cinda Chavich
Cinda Chavich is an award‑winning food and travel writer, and bestselling cookbook author, based in Victoria. She contributes to publications, including YAM, EAT and Edible Vancouver & Wine Country magazines.

Dan Clapson

Dan Clapson
Dan Clapson is The Globe and Mail restaurant critic and columnist for the Canadian Prairies and the creative director of Eat North.

Suzanne Crocker

Suzanne Crocker
Suzanne Crocker is an award‑winning film director. She spent one year feeding her family of five only food that can be fished, hunted, gathered, grown or raised around her home of Dawson City, Yukon, 300 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle.

Connie DeSousa and John Jackson

Connie DeSousa and John Jackson
Connie DeSousa and John Jackson  are the co‑chefs and co‑owners behind Calgary’s Charcut Roast House, Charbar, Chix Eggshop and their newly opened Connie & John’s Pizza.

Aman Dosanj

Aman Dosanj
Aman Dosanj is known for her ability to educate, connect and tell stories through  The Paisley Notebook.  The culinary entrepreneur also writes for  ELLE Canada  and  Quench Magazine.
(Photo: Froehler Photography)

Jessica Emin

Jessica Emin
Jessica Emin is the hype girl for good food in Nova Scotia. She is a photographer, food stylist, and video and TV host. She’ll also shuck all your oysters and bartend your party. 

David Hawksworth

David Hawksworth
David Hawksworth is an acclaimed Canadian chef who owns and operates celebrated Vancouver restaurants Hawksworth, Nightingale and Bel Café. As Air Canada’s Culinary Partner he also designs seasonal inflight and lounge menus for Signature Class passengers.

Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives
Bartley Kives  is a reporter at CBC Manitoba and is the author of the Canadian bestseller  A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba.

Catherine Lefebvre

Catherine Lefebvre
Catherine Lefebvre is a nutrionist and co‑host of the podcast On s’appelle et on déjeune on Radio‑Canada OHdio. She is also a contributor of food writing and culinary travel pieces for the daily Le Devoir. (Photo: Cindy Boyce)

Stéphane Levac

Stéphane Levac
Stéphane Levac, an Indigenous chef and forager, has made a name for himself with Frais Catering, alongside his partner Sarah Morrison. Since then, he’s appeared on  Top Chef Canada  and is currently the chef at Oak Island Resort, in Nova Scotia. 

Celeste Mah

Celeste Mah
Celeste Mah honed her craft in Vancouver before moving to St. John’s in 2014 to be the pastry chef at Raymonds Restaurant. She is currently working on a new project with the owners of Raymonds and her husband, Ross Larkin.

Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto
Nancy Matsumoto is a Toronto‑ and New York City‑based writer and editor who covers food, drink and agroecology. She was the Canada’s Best New Restaurants writer in 2018 and 2019.

Roger Mooking

Roger Mooking
Roger Mooking is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, television host, author and award‑winning recording artist. He is best known as the host of grilling and barbecue show Man Fire Food on Food Network.

Ren Navarro

Ren Navarro
Ren Navarro  launched  Beer. Diversity.  in 2018 and has become a known name at breweries, wineries, distilleries and beyond. In addition to being a diversity educator, she is a craft beer consultant for bars and restaurants.

Tara O'Brady

Tara O’Brady
Tara O'Brady is a food writer and author of the award‑winning cookbook Seven Spoons. She is a regular contributor to Epicurious , The Globe and Mail, and others.

Laura Osborne

Laura Osborne
Laura Osborne, former editor‑in‑chief of the award‑winning RICARDO magazines, is a content creator for authority publications and creative agencies such as Air Canada enRoute and Sid Lee.

Mijune Pak

Mijune Pak
Mijune Pak is an international food and travel personality, founder of Follow Me Foodie and resident judge on Top Chef Canada and Iron Chef Canada.

Eric Pateman

Eric Pateman
Eric Pateman is a 4th‑generation Vancouver native and top global culinary consultant, chef, entrepreneur and founder of ESP Culinary Consulting.

Robert Pendergast

Robert Pendergast
Robert Pendergast discovered his love for cooking by eating his way through the many cities (and countries) he’s lived in. Since returning to PEI, he focuses on heritage foods, oyster shucking, bread baking and traditional music events. 

Gabby Peyton

Gabby Peyton
Gabby Peyton is a food and travel writer based in St. John’s, where she is the city’s restaurant critic for The Telegram.

Véronique Rivest

Véronique Rivest
Véronique Rivest is owner of Soif wine bar in Gatineau, Quebec. As Air Canada’s Sommelier, she has selected wines from across the world exclusively for Air Canada’s Signature Class.

Jenn Sharp

Jenn Sharp
Jenn Sharp is an author, filmmaker and journalist from Saskatoon. Her first book, Flat Out Delicious: Your Definitive Guide to Saskatchewan’s Food Artisans was published in 2020. Jenn co‑produces and hosts Flat Out Food, a field‑to‑plate docuseries based on her book, on Citytv Saskatchewan’s network.

Shelora Sheldan

Shelora Sheldan
Shelora Sheldan is based in British Columbia where she writes about food and travel for EAT Magazine and Western Living. She also writes the Urban Forager column for the Penticton Herald, is a culinary judge for the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards and is a cookbook hoarder.

Valerie Silva

Valerie Silva
Valerie Silva is a Montreal‑based writer and editor who currently heads Eater Montreal.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith
Michael Smith  is PEI’s food ambassador and the  chef  behind the restaurant FireWorks at the Inn at Bay Fortune. He is also a Food Network host, nutritional activist and cookbook author.

Vikram Vij

Vikram Vij
Vikram Vij is a chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur. Since coming to Canada from India (via Austria) he has launched award‑winning restaurants in B.C., including Vij’s and My Shanti

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