Darren MacLean | Calgary’s Food & Hospitality Game-Changers 2024

The Calgary chef’s Cultural Chef Exchange program brings in award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs from around the world to experience the local culinary landscape.

Photo by Jared Sych.

Chef Darren MacLean might be best known to Calgary diners as the mastermind behind restaurants Eight, Nupo and Shokunin. But he’s also passionate about Canadian cuisine and how Canada’s culinary story is informed by the plethora of cultures and communities that live, grow and adapt here from generation to generation.

It’s that desire to engage the conversation around Canadian cuisine and to promote what is happening here on the world stage that forms the backbone of MacLean’s Cultural Chef Exchange. Now two seasons in, the exchange brings award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs to Calgary, and is as much about the sharing of culinary mastery as it is an exploration of the breadth and diversity of what makes up Canadian cuisine.

From May through August, chefs from around the world join MacLean to embark on experiences such as foraging and berry-picking, backcountry fishing or hunting, wilderness excursions, and visits to his sustainably run Nupo Farm. The visits culminate with a public-facing event at Shokunin showcasing signature cooking styles and a private event at Eight featuring dishes that blend the visiting chefs’ expertise and cultures with regional ingredients and experiences.

“I want to tell food stories that are reflective of all the people here,” MacLean says.

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This article appears in the March 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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