Mac and Cheese: recipes and cooking tips from Canada’s top chefs

Apple Beer Mac & Cheese by Chef Nicole Gomes, Executive Chef at Nicole Gourmet in Calgary, AB. 2016 Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off

The secret to the best mac ‘n’ cheese in Canada? Depends who you ask.

“The beautiful thing about mac and cheese is you can make it based on whatever’s in your fridge,” said Chef Alexandra Feswick of Toronto’s trendy Drake Hotel.

Her macaroni and cheese was crowned best in the country at Friday’s Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off in Toronto. It’s pretty much the cheese Olympics. Feswick joked her years of eating cheese helped earn her the title.

What also may have played a role were her creation’s pureed Jerusalem artichokes (which kind of look like ginger and can usually be bought at any supermarket, she said) and the hazelnuts on top.

Feswick competed against Nicole Gomes, who runs Nicole Gourmet catering in Calgary; Thompson Tran, chef and owner of The Wood Boat in Port Moody, B.C.; and Andrew Farrell, chef at 2 Doors Down Food + Wine in Halifax.

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They all agree that the key to making a really great mac and cheese is variety.

“You can really do so many different things with it,” Gomes said. “There are 1,050 different types of cheese in Canada and 195 producers of cheese.”

READ MORE: 4 ways to doctor your favourite comfort food – mac and cheese

“You definitely got to use more than one cheese,” Tran added.

Farrell usually throws in a little blue cheese, maybe a bit of something sharp and something creamy.

He also likes to use ingredients he calls “cheese enhancers” – like mustard and nutmeg. His recipe in the competition included marmite, which he says goes well with cheddar.

READ MORE: Love comfort food? Try this recipe for creamy stove-top mac ‘n’ cheese

You can find all four recipes below. Having taste-tested all of them, we can say they’re worth a try at home.

Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese by Chef Alexandra Feswick, Chef de Cuisine at The Drake Hotel in Toronto. 2016 Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off
Apple Beer Mac & Cheese by Chef Nicole Gomes, Executive Chef at Nicole Gourmet in Calgary, AB. 2016 Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off
"Smoky Cauli-power Mac & Cheese" by Andrew Farrell. 2016 Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off
Cod You Believe It's Shmoked Mac n’ Cheese by Chef Thompson Tran, Chef and Owner of The Wooden Boat in Port Moody, BC . 2016 Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off
This year's competitors at the Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off, hosted by Dairy Farmers of Canada, included Chef Thompson Tran from British Columbia, Chef Alexandra Feswick from Ontario (winner!), Chef Andrew Farrell from Nova Scotia, and Chef Nicole Gomes from Alberta. CNW Group/Dairy Farmers of Canada

“Take your time and enjoy the process,” Feswick said.

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“Feel free to play around with the different amounts of cheese you put in.”

Word of advice, though: don’t make your base as thick as you think it should be.

“Make it thinner,” Gomes cautioned, “especially if you’re going to bake it. And you can overbake mac and cheese.”

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See more mac ‘n’ cheese recipes on Food Network Canada.