Our Food Panel

Our Food Panel is made up of some of the country’s leading professionals in the culinary, service and media industries, who recommend notable openings in their regions.

Meet our Panelists

For more than 15 years, Air Canada has set out in search of Canada’s Best New Restaurants. It all starts with our national panel of food experts, who nominate recently opened restaurants in their regions that they feel are worthy of notice. Based on their recommendations, we send one writer to dine anonymously on a month-long eating marathon in search of the top 30 openings from coast to coast. The restaurants on the long list are contenders for the annual Top 10 ranking of Canada’s Best New Restaurants – these are places that stand out for the quality of the food, level of service and original contribution to the Canadian culinary landscape. On October 19, the Top 10 will be revealed at the Canada’s Best New Restaurants public gala in Toronto and on this site; winners will be showcased in the November issue of Air Canada enRoute magazine.

Mary Bailey

Mary Bailey is the publisher of Edmonton’s The Tomato food & drink, a Gold Medal Plates judge, wine instructor and bubbles lover.

Lesley Chesterman

Trained pastry chef, culinary instructor and food critic Lesley Chesterman has been reviewing restaurants for the Montreal Gazette for almost two decades, and is a contributor to Radio-Canada’s Médium large.

Cornel Ceapa, PhD

Based in Carters Point, New Brunswick, Cornel Ceapa is the owner of Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar, the only company in the world producing wild and sustainable caviar, as well as land-based farmed caviar and sturgeon from local sturgeon species.

Dan Clapson

Dan Clapson covers Alberta restaurants for The Globe & Mail and EatNorth.com, and regularly appears on Cityline, CTV Morning Live Vancouver and Global Calgary.

John Gilchrist

John Gilchrist is a restaurant reviewer for the Calgary Herald and for CBC Radio, and is the author of 11 guides to dining in Calgary and the Bow Valley.

Alexandra Gill

Vancouver-based journalist Alexandra Gill has been the British Columbia restaurant critic for The Globe & Mail since 2005, and contributes to Vancouver MagazineWestern Living and Maclean’s. Her foodie guidebook to Vancouver appears in late 2017.

Ian Harrison

Associate editor at Ricardo, the nationally distributed cooking magazine, Ian Harrison is also the founding editor of Eater Montreal.

David Hawksworth

As Air Canada’s Culinary Partner, David Hawksworth, chef/owner of Vancouver’s Hawksworth and Nightingale restaurants, has created signature dishes exclusively for Air Canada flights in International Business Class and Maple Leaf Lounges.

Gary Hynes

A former sommelier and chef, Gary Hynes is the founder and editor of Victoria-based Eat Magazine, which covers the food and wine scene on Vancouver Island, and the editor of Island Wineries of British Columbia.

Kathy Jollimore

Former EatHalifax blogger Kathy Jollimore is a co-founder of Wild Card Creative, specializing in recipe development, prop styling, food styling, food photography and food writing.

Pierre Jury

Based in the Ottawa area, Pierre Jury covers trends in food and politics for the daily newspaper Le Droit.

CJ Katz

CJ Katz is a food marketing and communications consultant, host of cooking show The Wheatland Café on CTV and the author of TASTE: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table.

Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives has covered politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation for CBC Manitoba and the Winnipeg Free Press, has contributed to The Guardian and is the author of three books, most recently Stuck in the Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. 

Justin Leboe

The chef behind Calgary’s Model Milk and Pigeonhole, Justin Leboe has finished three times among the top three Canada’s Best New Restaurants.

David McMillan and Fred Morin

With Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon, Montreal restaurateurs Fred Morin and David McMillan have made the Top 10 of Canada’s Best New Restaurants three times. Their new cookbook will be published in 2018.

Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison is the editor and publisher of Vancouver’s Scout Magazine and co-author of Vancouver Cooks 2, The Sobo Cookbook and Araxi, Roots to Shoots: Farm Fresh Recipes.

Omar Mouallem

Edmonton journalist and author Omar Mouallem’s writing on food, culture, business and politics has appeared on NewYorker.com and in Rolling Stone, The Guardian and Wired.

Chris Nuttall-Smith

A restaurant critic for The Globe & Mail and Toronto Life for over a decade, Toronto-based journalist Chris Nuttall-Smith is a host of Top Chef Canada.

Eric Pateman

The founder of Edible Canada, British Columbia-based chef and entrepreneur Eric Pateman showcases the country’s culinary artisans on an international stage.

Véronique Rivest

As Air Canada’s Sommelier, Véronique Rivest, owner of Soif wine bar in Gatineau, Quebec, has selected wines from across the world exclusively for Air Canada’s International Business Class.

Katerine-Lune Rollet

Katerine-Lune Rollet is a Sutton- and Montreal-based journalist who contributes to Ricardo magazine and Radio-Canada radio, and blogs for Châtelaine. She has also maintained her own blog about Montreal’s restaurant scene since 2010.

Amy Rosen

Amy Rosen is a James Beard-nominated, award-winning freelance journalist. Her latest cookbook, Toronto Eats, is a bestseller, and she’s also the owner of Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns in Toronto.

Shelora Sheldan

Based in the Okanagan, Shelora Sheldan writes about food, travel and design for several B.C. publications, including Eat Magazine.

Gail Simmons

A food writer, cookbook author and original Top Chef judge, Toronto native Gail Simmons’ newest cookbook is Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating.

Michael Smith

Prince Edward Island’s culinary ambassador, chef Michael Smith is a Food Network host, cookbook author and nutritional activist, and the restaurateur behind FireWorks at the Inn at Bay Fortune.

Arlene Stein

Now based in Berlin, Arlene Stein is the founder of the Terroir Symposium, an annual conference of the Canadian hospitality industry.

Vikram Vij

Vikram Vij, co-owner of Vij’s, Rangoli and My Shanti by Vikram Vij, is a certified sommelier, the author of Vij: A Chef’s OneWay Ticket to Canada with Indian Spices in His Suitcase and the co-author of three Vij’s cookbooks. He developed on-board meals for Air Canada flights to India.

Karl Wells

Karl Wells is the longstanding restaurant critic with The Telegram newspaper in St. John’s, and a former CBC journalist, television host and personal chef.