Chef Chris McDonald in Chefs #LoveCNDBeef

Chef Chris McDonald of Cava in Chefs LoveCDNBeefI’m delighted to announce that Chef Chris McDonald is our next chef in the Chefs #LoveCDNbeef series.


Chris has been challenging Toronto’s expectations of food for years and I’m excited to share the how he taken to the Chefs #LoveCDNBeef challenge (but more on that soon.) Now it’s time to get to know Chef Chris McDonald.

Chef Chris McDonald

Chris’ current restaurant, Cava, was one of the first places in town to start serving tapas and small plates and to incorporate nose-to-tail dining.

Chris and his partners at Cava have created a comfortably elegant restaurant with fantastic flavours and an accompanying great wine, cava and sherries list. They usually have at least one cider too. In fact, we’ve celebrated quite a number of special occasions at Cava

B'day Churros!

The first time I met Chris, he was leading a chocolate and cheese pairing at the Coupe Space Tasting Club featuring chocolates from Xococava. Seriously! Chocolate and Cheese. It was really really interesting and tasty.

Chef Chris McDonald at Coupe Space

Chris walked us through his approach to pairing intense and wild flavours with chocolates from white to dark at Xococava.  Xococava was Chris’ adult chocolate shop with wild and fascinating confections. Then together we explored pairing those chocolates with cheeses focusing on mouth feel and melding vs contrasting effects on our palate.

I was really into this tasting, and I felt there wasn’t enough spruce in the chocolate, so I challenge him. If you tell me you’ve got spruce chocolates I want spruce chocolate! (Yes, I was opinionated and mouthy back then too.)  Chris was gracious, but moved on to talking to someone else pretty quickly.  I completely understood.

The next time I had the chance to actually chat with him was at Toronto’s first Diner en Blanc.  My first order of business was to apologise. Again, Chris was gracious, luckily this time I didn’t rant much and we really had the opportunity to get to know each other. (Okay we both ranted a little. It was great.)

Chris & Chris

I got to hear Chris speak at one of the first Terroir Symposiums. He gave a really interesting and personal talk about the evolution of dining in Toronto from the 80s to the present.  Having lived through some of that myself, I found it compelling to hear how a Chef had navigated the shifting landscape and kept himself current and even cutting edge. (I mean – chocolate & cheese pairings!)

Our paths cross regularly these days and we seem to have gotten into the practice of getting a photo with each other at Toronto Taste.
Lex & Chris at Toronto Taste 2013

I love how Chris dives into philosophy and the culture of the food he’s creating, whether it’s the churros at a street food event, a carefully layered tapas like the Super Gilda … (Embarrassingly, it took a trip to Spain for me to realize that his Super Gilda’s weren’t named after Gilda the Good Witch, oh right… Glinda.)

Cava's Super Gilda

or simply an order of fries, the flavours are beautifully balanced, the dish well thought-out and the presentation intelligent.

Cava Fries

It’s why I was so excited to see what Chris would offer up as his recipe for Chefs #LoveCDNbeef.  But I’ll share that very very soon.  In the meantime:

A bit more about Chef

Chef Chris McDonald is one of Canada’s most respected chefs, known for a creative, first-principles approach to cooking, and an exceptional knowledge of the intricate relationships between food and wine. Much of this knowledge was derived from a 15-year educational odyssey of learning both the spoken and culinary languages of the world’s great cuisines. Highlights include Dodin Bouffant, one of New York’s finest French restaurants; Paris’s famed La Varenne Cooking School; chef at La Bottega del Vino in Verona, Italy; opening chef in the kitchens of two luxury hotels in Zihuatanejo, Mexico; in San Francisco, cooking at legendary restaurants Stars and Chez Panisse; and Santa Fe, where he worked at the iconic Coyote Café.

Chef Chris McDonald @ Toronto Taste

Chris has been influential in bringing his experience to several acclaimed projects in Canada, acting as chef at the VIP lounge of the Ontario pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver; as chef de cuisine at Centro, a project that introduced the emerging California cuisine to Toronto; as opening chef at Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Toronto, a highly successful project showcasing his southwestern and Mexican culinary skills; and at Massimo Rosticceria in 1990, which drew on an intensely personal vision that grew out of his experience in Italy. In 1995, he opened Avalon restaurant in Toronto, an 11-year project investigating the culinary boundaries of urban fine dining. Today, Chris is the Executive Chef and President of the award-winning Cava Restaurant.

You can follow Chris on twitter @cavachef and check out what he’s up to with Cava at

Chef Chris McDonald’s #LoveCDNBeef Recipe:

Chef Chris McDonald's Anticuchos

Chefs #LoveCDNBeef on - Top Canadian Chefs share their recipes using Canadian Beef

Notethis post is part of my Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador series.  For more information on my relationship with Canada Beef Inc read about my Foodie Adventure: I’m a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador. #LoveCdnBeefand my disclosure statement

Alexa Clark

Alexa is a digital marketer and author with over 20 years in digital & interactive communications in the food and tech industries. Alexa's CheapEats Restaurant Guides, for both Toronto & Ottawa, were Canadian best sellers. She is a recognized authority on social media and has been named one of Canada's 20 Leading Women in Social Media.

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