A Niagara College graduate could be the winner of Top Chef Canada’s largest reward in the history of the show: $100,000, and a Lexus NX are among
Vish Mayekar, a graduate of NC’s culinary management program in 2014, is one of 11 chefs from across the country chosen to compete for the Top Chef title in the popular Food Network series.
He tells The Local the show has already been filmed, and he is now back in Vancouver, where he is a head chef for Caffe La Tana. Sept 26 “is the big date for the premiere, and I am thrilled for all my friends and family members to be watching it.”
Mayekar lived in Niagara Falls for most of his time at Niagara College, along with a short stint in Thorold, he told The Local.
During his co-op time at college, he worked at The Marriott by the Falls, and also at the Benchmark Restaurant on Niagara College’s NOTL campus, as well as spending some time at Trius Estate Winery with Chef Frank Dodd.
“Whilst working at these restaurants I also was heavily involved in a lot of events around the Niagara region,” he says, including volunteering at food and wine events locally.
“I am more than thrilled” about being chosen to compete on Top Chef, he says. “I’ve been wanting to compete on the show for a few years now, but it has come at the right time.”
Mayekar told The Local he owes a lot of his success in the culinary world to the foundations laid at Niagara College, including “the amazing chefs, mentors, and like-minded passionate students,” some of whom he says he feels fortunate to still call friends.
“Niagara College wasn’t just an education institution for me, it was an experience that has helped mould me into a confident chef in the Canadian food scene. I will forever be grateful for it,” he added, mentioning “a couple of the amazing professors who to this date mentor me — Chef Olaf Mertens, Chef Avi Hollo, Chef Alan Kerr and Chef Tony de Luca. These are only a few of the many incredible chefs I was fortunate enough to learn from.”
Mayekar says he has been following the show since its first season, and with his longtime passion for competition, he knew he wanted to be a part of it.
“It’s an absolute honour. You know it’s not something everyone gets to do or is able to do so being selected to compete in one of the most prestigious competitions in Canada feels amazing,” he says.
As a professional chef, Mayekar is known for his unique ingredient combinations and love for infusing flavours and spices from his Indian heritage, says a Niagara College news release.
Trained and well-versed in Italian cuisine, he is currently head chef at Pepino’s Spaghetti House and wine bar Caffe La Tana in Vancouver, B.C. He also cooks for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars every year at the Cannes Film Festival, where he is the head chef at the American Pavilion.
A member of Culinary Team Canada, he is also preparing to represent Canada on the world stage in 2024 at the IKA Culinary Olympics.
He has a lot on his plate, balancing his career with Team Canada and Top Chef competitions, but Mayekar believes where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“I just like staying busy, always being involved in things and always trying to be a better cook and a better person each day.”
Mayekar grew up in Mumbai, India and fell in love with food at an early age. His passion for the culinary arts led him to enrol at NC where he made his mark not only at culinary events and competitions, but on the board of directors for the NC Student Administrative Council and as a volunteer with the international department.
News about Mayekar’s selection as a contestant on Top Chef Canada X is stirring up excitement throughout the college and its School of Culinary Arts.
“The ultimate satisfaction that an educator can have, is hearing about the success of their graduates. At Niagara College, we strive to set our alumni on the right path with a relevant set of tools, but ultimately it’s their own hard work and determination that breeds success,” said Craig Youdale, dean, culinary, tourism and beverage studies.
“Our entire team is very proud of Vish, and we will look forward to cheering him on both on the set of Top Chef Canada, as well as his life’s journey.”
Another NC alumna, Erica Karbelnik, was the winner of Season 9 of Top Chef Canada, while her husband Josh Karbelnik also cooked his way to the top four.
They both graduated from NC’s culinary management co-op program in 2011, and were the first married couple to compete on the show.
Top Chef Canada X will air on Sept. 26 at 10 p.m. on Food Network Canada and will be available to stream through STACKTV.
In addition to the title of Canada’s Top Chef, a cash prize of $100,000 provided by Royale Tiger Towel, and a luxury Lexus NX, the winner will receive a brand-new kitchen outfitted by KitchenAid, an exclusive farm-to-table adventure courtesy of Glad, and a $10,000 cash prize from DoorDash.
For information about Top Chef Canada visit foodnetwork.ca.