Ottawa chef to star on reboot of Cook Like a Chef – Ottawa Citizen

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“The show was definitely a learning experience,” she says. “It was exciting to see what goes into the production.”

In the early 2000s, when Katie Ardington was training to be a chef, she supplemented her studies at Algonquin College’s culinary program with a steady diet of one particular cooking show on TV.

Ardington’s taste in viewing ran to Cook Like a Chef, a made-in-Toronto hit on Food Network Canada that featured professional chefs, including Ottawa’s René Rodriguez, demonstrating their abilities.

“I loved the fact it was actual and relatable chefs teaching and sharing their knowledge. It was helpful, and overall a nice reference point for techniques,” says Ardington, now the executive chef at Ottawa’s Beckta restaurant group.

Now, in a rebooted Cook Like a Chef that began airing in early March, Ardington herself will be on the show’s roster of new-generation stars (her episode, specifically, will air March 27).

Making her debut as a television chef, Ardington spent a week last fall filming her five episodes at the east-end Ottawa studio of Gusto Worldwide Media, the company behind the new series.


Katie Ardington, executive chef for Bekta, Play and Gezellig, is one of four chefs that will star in ‘Cook Like A Chef’, a show that focuses on secrets of the cooking world. She’s photographed here at Bekta.

Wayne Cuddington /


An intense week of work called for Ardington to film five episodes, each pegged to a different ingredient, following two rehearsal days. Ardington shared her expertise on chocolate, white fish, mushrooms, beef tenderloin and eggs.

“I’m very passionate about eggs,” she says. “Although it was a simple ingredient, it’s one of my favourite ingredients. It has such multiple uses in the kitchen. It was fun to show my little tricks.”

Even as Ardington was teaching, she was learning — the ins and outs of making a TV show, that is.

“The show was definitely a learning experience,” she says. “It was exciting to see what goes into the production.”

Before a sequence during the chocolate episode was shot last fall, Chris Knight, Gusto’s president and CEO and the creator of the original Cook Like a Chef series, pitched in, leading Ardington and the show’s crew as they walked and talked through what the sequence would involve, as if it were an intricate piece of choreography, set around a large oval table.

“It happens really, really fast. You only get one shot,” Knight said of his live-to-tape, 30-minute show.

While there was no hard-and-fast script to follow, there were topics to cover — how to make a chocolate bowl, how to make chocolate dirt — and interactions between Ardington and her assisting chefs that were must-dos. Knight gave Ardington her line: “It’s all chocolate, all the time.”

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“Cook Like a Chef is his baby,” Ardington says of Knight. “It was one of his shows that he’s most proud of and loves, he really wants to be involved in it.” She adds that it was easy to take Knight’s direction and sync up with his vision for the show and how she could talk about food.

In an interview, Knight says that creating the original Cook Like a Chef, which still airs on selected streaming services, was a highlight of his 22-year career in food television. The early 2000s show, which was shot on a Toronto sound stage, was ahead of its time and so complicated to make that it was never copied, Knight says.

“It took me this long (to reboot it) because it was so iconic and it stood out. I was afraid to mess with it,” he says. “This is theatre in the round. You have to be able to move and speak with joy and passion.”

Knight says he interviewed roughly 150 chefs as potential stars for the reboot, which he calls a modern update “true to the concept of Cook Like a Chef,” but with better cameras, new music and more.

Knight knew Ardington not only because both are Ottawa-based. The chef’s sister, Steph Brown, has worked at Gusto for five years as a production manager and showrunner. Still, Ardington auditioned as did the other chefs, and she was picked, along with Montreal-based chefs Derek Dammann and Natalia Machado and Toronto’s Craig Wong.

“I’ve always thought she had this quiet confidence,” Knight says of Ardington.

“She obviously has the culinary chops,” he adds. In addition to working almost 15 years in the Beckta group, Ardington, a Brockville native, did a stint several years ago as the chef at 24 Sussex Drive, cooking for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family.

In addition to appearing on the CTV Life channel, the new Cook Life a Chef will be available internationally on Gusto TV in the U.S., the U.K., Latin America and Singapore.

But even if Ardington’s profile as a TV chef rises, she doesn’t see herself setting aside her restaurant work.

“I didn’t do it (Cook Like a Chef) to open more opportunities,” she says. “I did it because that show alone was very exciting.

“We’ll see what happens,” she continues. “But my passion stays in restaurant kitchens and it will be hard to ever leave that.”

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