Rising Culinary Rock Stars

Written by Bryan Lavery


We at eatdrink have always been dedicated to supporting and mentoring emerging talent in the culinary and hospitality industry. Rising Culinary Stars are young, up-and-coming chefs and culinary professionals who represent the vanguard of the modern Ontario culinary scene and have a reputation for originality and creativity. They have exceptional, compelling culinary philosophies and are committed to fostering a cutting-edge farm-to-table culinary repertoire by sharing their knowledge with fellow professionals. Ultimately, it’s innovation, ambition, exquisite presentation and most importantly, delicious cuisine that combine to win a chef the designation.

We have asked each of our three chefs, and this year’s “Honourable Mention” Alicia Hartley, to offer recipes for Valentine’s Day that reflect their particular style and encompass their culinary philosophy.

Chef Danjiel “Dacha” Markovic

Chef “Dacha” Markovic of Kantina

Chef “Dacha” Markovic of Kantina

He’s an uncompromising artist and culinary innovator. Chef Danjiel “Dacha” Markovic, an early adopter of the modern farm-to-table culinary repertoire, is not just advancing “eating and sourcing local” and “eating seasonal,” he is vigorously and ingeniously enhancing and developing a new region-specific cuisine in the tiny kitchen at Kantina on Talbot Street. Markovic is London’s reigning culinary rock star.

By the age of seven, Markovic’s precocious skills were already developing, from cooking and working with his mother in the family kitchen in former Yugoslavia. His father was a professional cook. A combined sense of necessity, economics, tradition and culture has infused his culinary instinct.

His realm is a scratch kitchen, and all items are made in-house and by hand. The menu selections are thought-provoking riffs on iconic cuisines imbued with contemporary techniques and quality ingredients. Markovic’s talents so far have been underappreciated, and he is in the rarified company of a handful of chefs who show enormous potential in this part of the province.

After graduating from a culinary high school in Belgrade, Markovic entered a hotel/culinary college, where gastronomy was his main focus. He studied and worked at the same time. After graduating from college,

he was hired at the Metropolitan Grill in the Hyatt Regency (a 5-star hotel) in Belgrade as a line cook. His natural talent and abilities quickly propelled him forward.

At the young age of 25, Markovic is already a seasoned professional and culinary zeitgeist with a big future. Yet, Kantina remains one of the city’s best-kept secrets.

Beet Potage with Chèvre and Smoked Egg

Rising_potage_body1 cup (250 mL) white wine

1 cup (250 mL) onion, chopped

1 cup (250 mL) carrots, chopped

4 cups (1 L) red baby beets, blanched, peeled and chopped

½ cup (125 mL) olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 lemons, juiced

6 cups (1.5 L) stock (add more as required)

½ cup (125 mL) butter

salt/pepper to taste



smoked egg


basil pesto


1 In large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and sauté until golden brown.

2 Add garlic, carrots, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to sauté.

3 Add white wine, reduce.

4 In same pot, add beets and stock. Cover and simmer until beets are tender.

5 Remove from heat, add butter, lemon juice, and seasoning as desired. Blend and strain. Consistency of soup should be thick (pureed vegetables).

6 Garnish with smoked egg, chevre, and basil pesto.


Smoked Egg: 

1 Heat woodchips in pan until they begin to smoke generously. Place hard-boiled egg (peeled) in steamer and place on top of pan. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 2 hours.


Tip: If Potage is too thick, stir in more stock.


“Happy Ending” Habitual Chocolate Crème Brûlée with Coffee Ice Cream

2 ½ cups (625 mL) cream

5 egg yolks

½ cup (125 mL) 74% Peruvian chocolate, chopped

½ cup (125 mL) organic sugar

Rising_brule_bodySugar for caramelizing


Ice cream: 

1 cup (250 mL) 35% cream

1 cup (250 mL) 2% milk

1 vanilla bean

½ cup (125 mL) liquid glucose

5 egg yolks

3 tablespoons (40 mL) ground coffee

¾ cup (175 mL) organic sugar

Toasted almonds for garnish


Ice Cream: 

1 In mixer bowl, beat egg yolk and half the sugar until mixture becomes foamy.

2 Add remaining ingredients.

3 Place mixture in pot and bring to 80°C (176°F), stirring constantly. Let cool overnight.

4 Place in ice cream maker. Store in freezer up to 2 months.


Crème Brûlée:

1 Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

2 In pot, heat cream to 80°C (176°F).

3 In separate bowl, beat egg yolk and sugar together. Add cream and chocolate. Mix well.

4 Pour mixture in cups and place in baking tray with hot water. Water should reach ½ to ¾ up crème brûlée cup.

5 Bake for 30-45 min until mixture sets (slightly firm). Remove from oven and allow to cool.

6 Put about 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar on top of crème and caramelize sugar with torch.

7 Garnish with ice cream and toasted almonds.


Chef Joshua Fevens and Chef Chad Steward

Speaking of big futures, the collaborative gastronomic vision of Chef Joshua Fevens and Chef Chad Steward is influenced by a strong commitment to advancing the economic, ecological and social values of our local culinary and agricultural communities. Both chefs were mentored by culinary gymnast and chef/educator Wade Fitzgerald. Steward and Fevens breathe new energy into Garlic’s monthly menus to reflect high-quality seasonal availability and a system of farmers and producers that provide flawless patriotic ingredients.

Stewart’s and Fevens’ menus are a synergetic exercise. Stewart is the creative one and Fevens is more practical. Fevens and Stewart recognize that provenance and direct farmer relationships have become instrumental to the restaurant’s success and have helped to cement their own culinary reputations. Stewart and Fevens are at the top of their game.


DelMac Farms Rack of Lamb

with Gratin Potato, Glazed Beets, Swiss Chard, and Red Wine Reduction

1–2 pounds (½ to 1 Kg) rack of lamb — trimmed, frenched, and individually removed from rack.

Marinate with fresh chopped garlic, rosemary and olive oil (this can be done 2 hours prior to cooking).

Potato Gratin:

2 lb. (1 Kg) Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled

3 cups (1.5 L) whipping or heavy cream

1 teaspoon (5 mL) kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon (0.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper

Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

¾ cup (175 mL) finely shredded Gruyere or aged cheddar


1 Heat the oven to 400°F. Using a very sharp knife or a mandolin, carefully cut the potatoes into 1/8-inch slices (no thicker).

2 Put the potatoes into a large heavy-based saucepan and add the cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until the cream is boiling, stirring occasionally (very gently with a rubber spatula so you don’t break up the slices).

3 When the cream boils, pour the mixture into a 2-½– or 3-quart baking dish. If you don’t want a tender but garlicky surprise mouthful, remove and discard the garlic cloves. Shake the dish a bit to let the slices settle and then sprinkle the surface with the cheese.

4 Bake in the hot oven until the top is a deep golden brown, the cream has thickened, and the potatoes are extremely tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes. Don’t worry if the dish looks too liquid at this point; it will set up as it cools a bit. Before serving, let the potatoes cool until they’re very warm but not hot (at least 15 minutes), or serve them at room temperature.

Glazed Beets

2 pounds (1 Kg) red beets

2 tablespoons (25 mL) sugar

2 teaspoons (10 mL) red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt

1 Remove stem and bottoms of beets, rinse well and bring to boil with remaining ingredients until fork-tender. Once cooked all the way through, strain and peel while they are still warm, using a cloth or tea towel. Cut into large chunks and set aside.

2 Once ready to prepare dish, heat beets in medium-high nonstick pan with a tablespoon (15 mL) of olive oil, nub of butter, and sugar or honey, salt and pepper.

Swiss Chard

1 large bunch of fresh Swiss chard

1 small clove garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons (25 mL) olive oil

2 tablespoons (25 mL) water

Pinch of dried crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon (5 mL) butter



1 Rinse out the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest third of the stalk and discard or save for another recipe.

2 Heat a saucepan on a medium-heat setting, add olive oil, a few small slices of garlic and the crushed red pepper. Sauté for about one minute. Add the Swiss chard leaves. Cover. Check after about 5 minutes. If it looks dry, add a couple tablespoons of water.

3 Flip the leaves over in the pan, so that what was on the bottom is now on the top. Cover again. Check for doneness after another 5 minutes (remove a piece and taste it).

4 Add salt to taste, and a small amount of butter. Remove the Swiss chard to a serving dish.

Red wine reduction

Olive oil for coating the pan

¼ cup (50 mL) shallots, minced

½ cup (125 mL) red wine

½ cup (125 mL) beef stock

2 tablespoons (25 mL) butter, to taste

1 tablespoon (15 mL) rosemary, chopped, optional


1 In a sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the shallots and cook until translucent.

2 Add the red wine and stock and reduce by half.*

3 Add the butter and chopped rosemary.

Tip: If you would like a smoother sauce, you can strain the shallots out at this point then return to the pan and add the butter and rosemary.


Chef Alicia Hartley


Chef Hartley, of Blu Duby

Alicia Hartley is the head chef at Blu Duby. The restaurant’s tagline is “A remarkable experience designed to accommodate every budget.” The result is a streamlined operation with a recession-friendly gourmet menu that appeals to a broad demographic.

Hartley prepares almost everything in-house from scratch. Earlier in the year, at the Onyx Supper Club, her menu combined international classics with a modern Hungarian twist imbued with contemporary farm-to-table ideals.

Hartley is a native of Guyana, the home of classic fusion cuisine, and although she immigrated to Canada at age thirteen, her background influences her cooking. Hartley’s culinary approach is both instinctual and thoughtful. She is a proponent of combining ingredients from various cuisines and regions with contemporary ideas. Hartley is known to ramp up the spice quotient, which she does to great effect. She credits the Asian influence in her cooking repertoire to her mother, who is part Chinese. Hartley is a dedicated culinary professional on her way up.

Bryan Lavery is a well-known chef, culinary activist and writer. Mr. Lavery has spent many years in teaching, consulting, and advisory roles with various culinary businesses and initiatives.


Alicia’s Seafood Cakes 

Serves 8

0.75 pound (350 g) assorted seafood (use crab, salmon, haddock, shrimp & scallops)

4 eggs

1 ½ cups (375 mL) potato flakes

¼ cup (50 mL) chopped dill

2 tsp (25-30 mL) diced red onion

Salt and pepper mixture to taste

1 Dice seafood (set aside 3 oz salmon prior to dicing). Mix diced seafood, onion, dill, salt and pepper.

2 Blend 3ounces (90 g) of salmon and eggs in a food processor. Add the egg and salmon mousse to the diced seafood mixture.

3 Slowly stir in potato flakes until mixture can form patties. Divide mixture into 16 2oz cakes.

4 In a very hot oven-safe pan, place cakes into a 400°F oven for 1 ½ minutes. Flip and continue to cook for 2 more minutes.


Lemon and Horseradish Aioli:

1 cup (250 mL) mayonnaise

2 lemons, both juice and zest

3 tablespoons (40 mL) freshly grated horseradish

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.