Born in Toronto, self-described “food voyeur” Lisa Ray is a world-renowned actress, TV host, outspoken cancer survivor, model and now Top Chef Canada’s new host. Unapologetic about her lack of cooking skills (“I’ve spent most of my life on the road,”) and for her weight gain during the show (“It’s part of the job. I went on a vegan cleanse afterward,”), Ray dishes on why the second season is meatier and what Toronto’s food scene is lacking.
Anything you can share about the new season of Top Chef Canada?
You’re going to see a lot of really entertaining challenges. The drama behind the scenes has really stepped up this season and, of course, I get to wear some fabulous outfits.
Are you a big cook?
I do enjoy cooking, but I don’t claim to be proficient at it. I come from a strong food culture; my mom was Polish and my dad was Indian. We had passionate talks about food and cuisine around the table.
Perogies and butter chicken would make a nice combo.
You’ve got something there! I think that should be a challenge. Next season, two challenges I’d love to see are an homage to kids of mixed ethnic backgrounds and perhaps a wedding menu challenge, seeing as I just got engaged.
Are you a better cook now that you’ve filmed the season?
Oh God, yes. Being involved with Top Chef whetted my appetite for actually experimenting in the kitchen a lot more. Now, I’m just waiting for my kitchen island to come! Let’s say I’m also a more empathetic eater.
Do you have any cooking tips?
Watch Top Chef Canada. I really educated my own palate. It was a fascinating experience for me to be able to start defining the flavours in my mouth. I get to ask the silly questions like, “What the hell is confit?” We’re trying to make this season more accessible while still maintaining the mystique around the profession.
You’ve eaten all over the world. So, does Toronto cuisine hold its own?
Toronto offers amongst the best diversity in the world. My only complaint is we don’t have a really great contemporary, upscale Indian restaurant.