Pontiac Feb. 5, 2020
A Shawville-born chef will once again be featured on the national stage after being selected to judge one of Food Network Canada’s newest televised cooking competitions.
Renée Lavallée will appear in a number of episodes of “Wall of Chefs” - a competition between a group of home cooks competing to please a panel of culinary greats to hopefully win a cash prize.
The first two seasons of the show were filmed back in August and September of 2019 in Toronto.
So far, Lavallée has appeared in episode one of the show’s first season. Her next appearances will be on March 9 for episode six and on March 16 for episode seven.
She explained that the show boast a rotating cast of over 30 chef-judges, featuring 12 per episode.
“We all rotate on different times for different shows,” she said. “It was nice to always have someone different with you. It was fun.”
Last summer, Lavallée received a call from a Food Network Canada producer regarding an opportunity to be a judge on the show.
For Lavallée, being recognized to be a judge on the show was awesome, noting that it allowed her to experience something she hadn’t before while taking a healthy step back from her busy daily routine.
“It’s nice to be able to do something that’s different than what we do every day, which for me would be going into my restaurant and cooking,” she said. “It’s a nice sort of break and to hang out with other chefs all day long is always fun.”
Surrounded by some of Canada’s most iconic culinary artists on a regular basis, one of the best aspects about taping the shows was exchanging knowledge with them and catching up with friends, Lavallée said.
“It was nice, especially when we had down time to talk, bouncing ideas off of each other,” she said. “Some of us would go out afterwards and hang out. I pretty much knew everybody before. So, it was nice to kind of hang out and reconnect and whatnot.”
“It’s always nice to hear stories about how their restaurants are going and staffing and food trends,” she added.
Looking back on her long list of achievements, including winning the Gold Medal Plates competition in 2014 and being named the Gary MacDonald Culinary Ambassador in 2018, Lavallée feels just as grateful for her latest accolade.
Knowing that her success is a product of countless hours of hard work over more than a decade of dedication to her craft, she wants to inspire others that they can also achieve beyond their grandest dreams.
“I remember working at the bottom of the ranks and always wondering ‘Why does my boss get to do fun things and go on tv?’” she said. “Fast forward 25 years later, now I’m saying the same thing to my staff. Like, ‘Hey guys, if you work hard enough and whatnot, you’ll get recognized for it.’”
“It’s just one of those exciting fun things that you don’t think will ever happen and when they do you’re just thankful,” she added.
Now well-known and respected across the country for her cooking chops to the point where she has appeared in a number of shows on the country’s pre-eminent cooking channel, Lavallée feels extremely grateful for how far she’s come.
“You know what, I didn’t even think I’d still be cooking after 25 years and here I am,” she said. “It’s been a great journey. I wouldn’t trade anything for it. It’s getting better and better. I’m lucky that I get to go to work every day with my husband who’s also my business partner. It’s been more than I have ever expected.”
Having appeared on Season 7 of “Top Chef Canada” and on “Big Food Bucket Lists” as a contestant last year, Lavallée said that being in the judge’s seat took some adjustment, noting that she understood the stress the participants went through.
“It’s completely different,” she said. “I certainly have more sympathy for the contestants.”
Since the competition features regular people rather than professional cooks, Lavallée believes her most important duty as a judge was to rely on her experience in order to provide uplifting feedback and help the contestants out as much as she could.
“It’s really nice to see their enthusiasm and passion for cooking,” she said. “Sometimes being in the kitchen for so long you kind of forget that sort of fun aspect of cooking … I just want it to be positive.”
Lavallée is a graduate of George Brown College’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts program with over 20 years of experience in the food industry working in a number of different continents.
Based in the Maritimes for more than a decade, she’ currently the chef and co-owner of two Dartmouth, NS. restaurants – The Canteen and Little C – with her husband Doug Townsend and they plan on opening a third restaurant this spring.
While she hasn’t been in the Pontiac for a while, Lavallée said she hopes to make it back to attend this year’s Shawville Fair.
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