Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Taps Ottawa Chef to Feed his Family and Visiting Dignitaries
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his successor Justin Trudeau likely won’t be breaking bread anytime soon, but their respective chefs are part of a tight-knit circle who’ve cooked for Canada and the world’s elite.
They’ve fed ambassadors, high commissioners, prime ministers and presidents — and cooked alongside one another on Ottawa breakfast television. And though Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau “sacked” Tim Wasylko in November, it turns out he’s actually pretty close with his own successor, Neil Dhawan.
Dhawan was quietly named the prime minister’s new family chef by a privy council order that also gives him a salary in the range of $67,168 to $76,151 (and before you start tweeting your sticker shock, that’s actually less than his predecessor was making, 76,002 to $82,171).
But both men are part of the “really tight and small” chef community in Ottawa, according to Steph Legari, himself a chef and owner of the eponymous Steph the Grilling Gourmet.
He said he actually first met Dhawan through Wasylko, and like many of the chefs in the area, they all do the same charity events, and hang out. Dhawan once cooked for the British High Commissioner at the official residence, Earnscliffe, in Ottawa. The U.K.’s official diplomatic mission even proudly tweeted pictures of their Canuck cook proudly tapping their on-site maple trees for homemade syrup.
And Dhawan and Wasylko appear together on countless charity menus, appearing on CTV Morning Live Ottawa to pump an event for the Ottawa Humane Society where Laureen Harper — a notorious animal lover — reportedly served as Wasylko’s sous.
Dhawan is a well-regarded chef who Legari relished working with at another charitable event.
“He’s a perfectionist, he’s great at what he does and he’s got great attention to detail so I obviously wanted him on my team for the charity I was doing,” he said.
But he said both men are really talented chefs and can cook everything from simple family meals to molecular gastronomy. He doesn’t know how the kitchen at 24 Sussex — or Rideau Cottage as the official residence is renovated — will change, since that really depends on the family.
“It all depends on who the client is and their style of eating,” Legari said.
Harper and his clan were known to favour traditional British Canadian fare like pot pies and always wanted Alberta beef on hand. While Trudeau has said his favourite food is “Asian” and his favourite restaurant is Sakura Gardens in Montreal.
And for the yoga posing, five-km running prime minister, the new chef might already have a few healthful recipes in mind. Just this time last year Dhawan demoed a scrumptious looking recipe for fish tacos for Postmedia when he was a sous chef at a fancy Ottawa grocery and takeout joint. Watch that video above and imagine the endless possibilities of a personal chef.