TORONTO - When chef Marc St. Jacques set out to create a uniquely Canuck menu to serve the high commissioner in London for Canada Day, he cast his mind back to the summers of his childhood.
"We ended up thinking about going up north to a cottage or sitting on a (dock) and we tried to take family classics ... so things like potato salad and coleslaw and steak on a barbecue, macaroni and cheese, all these things you do at a picnic," he said in a recent interview.
With a fine dining twist, of course.
St. Jacques recently hosted an event at Toronto's Auberge du Pommier restaurant, where attendees helped him decide which canapes to serve about 150 guests in London for a Canada Day feast hosted by the high commissioner.
Among the homegrown selections on offer at the tasting party?
A peameal bacon sandwich with gougere, Dijon mustard, frisee and pickled jam; elk sausage with blueberry mustard; bloody caesar (horseradish custard and shrimp salad) and deviled egg with foie gras mousse.
There was also a potato salad with potato gaufrette, domestic caviar and chive blossom, and a "Kraft Dinner" croquette.
"(It's an) iconic dish for my generation and certainly the Barenaked Ladies made it that much more famous," St. Jacques said with a laugh when asked why he chose the famed boxed pasta.
The 37-year-old chef landed the Canada Day gig after winning the Gold Medal Plates competition in Kelowna, B.C.
After votes at the recent tasting party were tallied, the winning canapes were: the deviled eggs, the elk sausage (St. Jacques will be substituting venison in London), the Kraft Dinner croquettes and the potato salad.
He also planned to prepare coleslaw with chilled lobster, steak on the barbecue, fruit cocktail and butter tarts.
St. Jacques — who grew up around the corner from Auberge du Pommier and is now executive chef there — says Canada's mulitcultural identity makes our gastronomic reputation difficult to define.
"I think we're still finding our foothold. For a long time it was poutine and maple syrup and not necessarily a specific cuisine," he said.
"As a whole it's become more and more eclectic and representative of the people that are here and the farmers."
He added: "I think it's evolving ... we're at a very exciting time."
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