© Stephen Brun/Journal Pioneer
Chef Mark McEwan, right, the main judge on "Top Chef Canada", watches as Chef John Pritchard of Charlottetown cooks up a dish during the Fall Flavours Beef 'N Blues Show on Friday at Credit Union Place, Summerside.
SUMMERSIDE - Mark McEwan is no stranger to P.E.I. food.
The celebrity restaurateur, and host of the Food Network's "Top Chef Canada", may be the only chef in Toronto with an exclusive deal for Island products.
While McEwan has always been a fan of P.E.I. seafood and potatoes, it wasn't until just over a year ago that he entered into an exclusive contract with five Island beef farmers.
"I love the story of the Island. You couldn't find a more pristine environment to grow a potato or raise a steer," McEwan said.
"It's a great Canadian story and the product has been really well-received. The big problem now is keeping up with supply."
McEwan was in Summerside on Friday for the Fall Flavours Beef 'N Blues Show. He prepared four dishes made with Island beef for the sold-out crowd at Credit Union Place.
The beef farmers McEwan works with on the Island make up his Blue Dot program, which delivers "top echelon" P.E.I. beef to the chef's Toronto food emporium called McEwan, as well as his restaurants like Pronto and North 44.
The cattle are completely pasture-fed and are not given antibiotics.
While McEwan said most diners in Toronto weren't aware of the benefits of Island beef before, they're learning quickly.
"We had to educate them. They were interested in the news, but you still have to prove it to them," he said. "I think we're the first ones in Toronto to do something exclusive to P.E.I., but I think everybody buys P.E.I. products without a doubt. As the economy diversifies here... the market is there for them. If you cater to our needs and show us good product, I guarantee everyone in Toronto will buy it."
Of course, having the main judge from one of Canada's top food programs touting P.E.I. beef also raises the product's profile considerably.
And with Season 2 of Top Chef Canada upcoming, McEwan will be back in the spotlight once again.
While he couldn't say much about the 16 chefs who will compete for $100,000 this season, McEwan said Island residents may see some familiar faces among the contestants.
"We have some chefs, not that were working here, but started here and went on to other places, and have worked themselves onto the show," he said. "And the cooking at the end - wow, was it ever good."