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Kentville chef makes the cut for upcoming season of Top Chef Canada

Stephane Levac, executive chef at Maritime Express Cider in Kentville, is one of 11 contestants appearing in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada. – Food Network Canada
Stephane Levac, executive chef at Maritime Express Cider in Kentville, is one of 11 contestants appearing in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada. – Food Network Canada - Contributed
KENTVILLE, N.S. —

The executive chef at Kentville’s own Maritime Express Cider is getting a taste of life in the spotlight.

On March 3, Food Network Canada revealed that Stephane Levac will be one of 11 professional chefs competing for the coveted title of Canada’s Top Chef in April.

“It’s already super overwhelming,” the Port Williams resident said in a recent interview.

Season 8 Top Chef Canada runner-up Stephanie Ogilvie, a Halifax chef, put Levac on the show’s radar.

“I jumped on the opportunity,” said Levac.

He went through the interview process, offered video submissions and the rest is history.

The self-taught chef’s storyline proved too tempting to resist.

“I have a nine-year-old son and I’m trying to show him that the sky is the limit,” said Levac.

“I never thought I’d be on Top Chef Canada.”

Just eight years ago, Levac was a bingo caller and blackjack dealer in Ottawa, Ont. He relocated to Nova Scotia and set his sights on becoming a full-time chef.

“I don’t really define myself as a chef,” he said. “I’m a father, I’m a forager.”

Port Williams resident Stephane Levac, pictured fifth from the right, will appear in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada. – Food Network Canada - Contributed
Port Williams resident Stephane Levac, pictured fifth from the right, will appear in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada. – Food Network Canada - Contributed

Levac has worked his way up from toiling away in his private kitchen for hours to perfect his bagel-shaping skills, to developing a following as “the bagel guy” at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market. He sampled a variety of jobs in the process of honing his skills in the Annapolis Valley’s food scene before accepting the top chef position at Maritime Express Cider nearly two years ago.

Have to be 'on your toes'

“You’re always learning new tricks and can’t wait to apply them,” he said.

None of his previous work experience, however, quite measured up to the challenges dished out to season nine’s Top Chef Canada competitors.

“You really have to be on your toes to be on this type of show,” he said.

He views the filming experience as a reward paying homage to the personal sacrifices his family made during the countless hours devoted to his culinary pursuits.

“None of that stuff has gone unnoticed,” he said.

Levac, who was adopted at a young age, recently reunited with his biological family and learned about his Indigenous heritage as a member of the Ojibwe community.

He hopes to help Top Chef Canada viewers learn more about the ups and downs faced in many of the country’s Indigenous communities.

“Even today you hear suicide is a big thing in our communities and if I can help somebody get out of a jam, if you will, give them something to look forward to, to keep pushing no matter how hard life is. ... I feel like I might give people some hope.”

Levac can link his passion for foraging local ingredients to a number of opportunities that he has seized as he constantly works on refining his skills.

“I always love introducing something new to the plate,” he said.

$100,000 prize

Season 9 of Top Chef Canada will feature the familiar faces of returning judges Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini and Chris Nuttall-Smith, as well as some well-known special guests.

There’s a $100,000 cash prize on the line and a Lexus RX Hybrid Electric SUV valued at more than $73,000.

“From what I understand from past competitors, you really need to prep yourself for this type of competition. . . ,” said Levac.

"After being on the show, I would say the same,” he added with a laugh.

Levac wants his story to serve as an example of what can be accomplished with hard work. He has the same message for viewers of all walks of life watching the show.

“There’s hope for anyone,” he said.

Closer to home, news of Levac’s upcoming debut has generated a flurry of social media engagement for Maritime Express.

“What we have seen is a swell of pride in the community. The broader community benefits because there is a collective enthusiasm that emerges when someone from the Valley is on a national platform,” said operations manager Genevieve Allen Hearn and cidermaker Jimi Doidge in a joint statement.

“People feel personally invested, and it's really cool to see all the comments of support from the local community. We already know the talent we have here in our corner of the world - but it's validating when it gets recognized nationally.”

Season 9, filmed in Toronto in the fall, will feature the familiar faces of returning judges Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini and Chris Nuttall-Smith, as well as some well-known special guests.

The upcoming season of Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada will premiere on April 19 at 11 p.m. Atlantic time. 

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