Muse kitchen master represents Calgary in next round of Top Chef

Calgary Herald

Monday, February 06, 2012

CALGARY – Calgary’s food scene will once again get national exposure on the small screen as a local chef represents the city on the second season of Top Chef Canada.

Xavier Lacaze, 31, the executive chef of Muse Restaurant and Lounge in Kensington, was announced Monday as one of 16 competitors for the show, which premieres next month.

A fan of both the U.S. and Canadian versions of the cooking competition, Lacaze decided to give auditioning a shot while watching the first season last year.

“I hope they picked me because of my skills, maybe because I’m a foreigner trying to make it in Canada, maybe because of my personality,” Lacaze said.

The difference between watching the show and appearing on it, however, was a big shock to the chef.

“Most chefs are saying, ‘It’s going to be a piece of cake.’ But when facing a challenge, the pressure and the lack of time to prepare anything, it’s interesting to see what you can come up with,” he said. “I don’t know how I did it.”

Lacaze admits to being nervous and excited to see what will actually air on each episode.

“There was a lot of great cooking going on out there,” he said.

Lacaze has been living in Calgary for more than four years, moving here with his wife, whom he met while travelling.

Shortly after arriving in the city he began work at Muse, where he has been cooking dishes ever since.

Originally from the southwest part of France near Toulouse, Lacaze has eight years of training in classic French cuisine and says that influences his love of rich food – cooking with butter, foie gras and any type of duck.

Mostly, however, he says his cooking philosophy centres on flavour.

“I’m really focused on flavour, making sure I respect the product and give it as much flavour as possible.”

Lacaze follows in the footsteps of fellow Calgarians Rebekah Pearse and Charcut’s Connie DeSousa, who were both chosen to compete in the inaugural season of the show.

The finale – which featured DeSousa vying for the top prize against two other chefs – broke records for Food Network Canada as more than 400,000 people tuned in to watch Vancouver’s Dale MacKay claim the title.

This time, Lacaze is representing the city on his own.

“I feel lucky to represent Calgary,” he said.

With filming over, Lacaze is back at Muse and also busy helping care for his two-and-a-half-year old daughter while he and his wife expect the arrival of their second child any day.

The next season of Top Chef Canada premieres March 12 at 8 p.m. MT on Food Network Canada.