YP Fusion: Mixing Culture with Cuisine

Young professionals (YPs) are particular when it comes to our culinary preferences – what we cook, where we dine and how we entertain. These days, most commonly YP-frequented restaurants typically offer two things: sharable plates and fusion cuisine. Fusion cuisine and its combining of elements of different culinary traditions has resulted in no shortage of Asian, Italian, French, Mexican and Indian-inspired menus and menu items in our favourite spots to dine. Fusion also involves modern twists on comforting nostalgic classics. We asked four top Canadian chefs to offer a little more insight with regards to culinary trends, with an emphasis on the idea of fusion in particular and what the concept means to each one personally.

Chef Sergio Mattoscio, who appeared as a cheftestant on Top Chef Canada, Season 2, is the executive chef and owner at the popular Macaroni Bar (pictured above) in Montreal. When speaking of fusion, he tells us that his signature dish is a gnocchi poutine, a reflection of Quebec and Italy, with gnocchi a signature dish of Italy and poutine, of course, of Quebec. In his classic recipe (a beloved staple at Macaroni Bar), gnocchi replaces the french fries and is deep fried, tossed in veal demi-glace and topped with St- Guillaume cheese curds. Mattoscio says that a major trend in the culinary world is a heavy focus on local products and the use of signature local ingredients with cultured twists offered by the chef. In other words, it’s a fusion of the extremely local with the international. 

Fellow Montreal local Antonio Park is the chef and owner of Park Restaurant in the city’s Westmount neighbourhood, a favourite sushi place of the in-the-know YP set that opened in February of this year. For Park, the idea of fusion involves infusing elements in dishes to reflect the chef’s personal life experiences. This involves his Argentinean and South Korean roots, training experience in Japan, work experience in Tokyo and experiences growing up in Canada. In general, he cautions against doing things you know nothing about and to instead really draw on your personal experiences from your travels and every day life – the things you are familiar with. In general, he attributes the trend in cultural culinary fusion to the cultural diversity in cities across the country, because “people want to share the flavours of their cultures.”


Adrian Niman is the young owner of coveted catering company The Food Dudes and co-owner of Toronto’s swanky resto-lounge Bloke & 4th. For Niman, fusion is what he refers to as a “global cuisine” and involves “borrowing ingredients and techniques from different parts of the world and bringing them together into one masterful dish.” An example of this is a long-time Food Dudes staple and Bloke and 4th menu item, Fire Roasted Shrimp with Guacamole, which borrows from Mexican, Asian and French cuisine. Fire roasted shrimp is paired with an Asian lemongrass chili honey with a Mexican guacamole and offers a crunch via a French technique of using garlic chips, whereby the garlic is shaved, seeped in milk and flash fried. “Today, if you’re not going to do simple and stay true to a specific culture, I suggest incorporating specifics from different countries,” he tells us. “In a city like Toronto, our diversity makes it easy to find fresh and authentic ingredients from places like Kensington Market with its Mexican and Asian offerings.” 


Fusion can also mean a mix of old with new. As Josie Weitzenbauer, internationally trained pastry chef and owner of the recently opened and highly acclaimed Montreal pastry shop Léché points out, we are really seeing a fusion of traditional home-style comfort food with a modern twist. This means everything from countless options when it comes to burgers, poutine, grilled cheese and even macaroni and cheese. For Weitzenbauer the fusion of old and new is reflected in the doughnut, a typically unchanged coffee-accompanying indulgence for over 100 years. Her artisanal doughnut boutique reinvents the doughnut with natural, local ingredients (“now it’s not questionable what the doughnut is actually made of” she tells us) with fun twists on flavours, like the signature Lemon Meringue Pie or the Peanut Butter and Jelly.  


The way we think of it, the term fusion itself means the best of all worlds. We live in vibrant cities, rich with diversity, culture and hungry YPs who are at times difficult to impress (we’ve seen it all) and food should reflect this social fibre. To us, fusion is food with a twist, something outside of the typical or expected that leaves people talking.