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Chef David Mottershall On Quitting PEI And Embracing Toronto

Photo: Dave Mottershall

David Mottershall, former chef at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island's Terre Rouge, is headed to Toronto. Over the course of seven years, the Port Elgin-born chef helmed a series of high-profile PEI restaurants, was named PEI Chef Of The Year in 2012, but made history with Terre Rouge. Featuring locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, snout-to-tail practices, and big city cocktails, the restaurant has forever changed the face of island dining. When describing the menu, Mottershall could be talking about any fine-dining establishment in the world: "We started with roasted bone marrow, in-house charcuterie boards, and stinky cheeses from the Maritimes and Quebec. Recently some of our most popular items have been crispy braised pigs head and smoked sweetbreads with foie gras." This is not the way a PEI menu usually reads.

Rob Lantz, a Charlottown city councillor, puts it plainly: "everything on the menu makes you go 'wow'." At this point, Mottershall has no work lined up – citing a desire to be closer to family – but the creative force is fired up to make his mark on the Toronto scene. Mottershall talked with Eater about how PEI has become a culinary mecca, why it's going to be hard to leave, and the restaurants he can't wait to try once he lands in the Big Smoke.

In your seven years on the Island, how did the food scene change?
I have watched the dining scene turn completely on its head. When I first arrived, buying local was just a buzzword for summer tourism, and it would quietly disappear during the long winter months. Fortunately events like Fall Flavours, Winter Dine, and the PEI International Shellfish Festival, brought light to the incredible produce, meat, and seafood we have right here, and people started realizing we had a culinary mecca at our feet.

What will you miss most when you leave PEI?
There is a real sense of community. We save vegetable scraps and give them back to feed the animals. I have a forager who shows up at my door at night to show me what he's picked all day.

How would you describe your cooking style for Toronto diners?
I would describe my style of cooking as approachable and focusing on local, seasonal food without being too fussy. I don't believe you need tweezers to make food look beautiful. I don't believe you need tweezers to make food look beautiful.

Why are you excited to come to the Big Smoke?
The diverse cultural influence that mold and shape the abundance of new restaurants really intrigues me. The dining scene has really exploded and I really want to put my own mark on it. And craft beers: to taste more of them and learn how they are produced.

What are three Toronto restaurants you can't wait to hit?
Buca - I keep hearing amazing things. Porchetta and Co. - I have been following the moves of these guys for a few years and have yet to make it. Daisho - having dined in (David) Chang's NYC space, I am interested to see what influences are showcased in Toronto.

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