Poutine is more than a menu item in Canada—it’s ingrained in the country’s identity. It’s a lovingly concocted mess traditionally made of French fries, cheese curds and warm gravy, best eaten fresh and perfectly suited for a sports venue environment where most fans eschew diets while rooting for their team.
“We take pride in our poutine!” exclaimed Elizabeth Rivasplata, Aramark executive chef at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. She’s been tasked with giving the venue’s fans and clients an authentic taste of the region, but according to the chef, that doesn’t mean she can’t have a little fun.
“I was playing with different vegetables and trying to come up with a fun, tasty vegetarian item that mimics [a dish that] any meat-eater can get in a stadium environment,” she explained. “Cauliflower stood out. The combination was perfect; it goes really well with cheese sauce and cheese curds.”
To vegetarians’ delight, Buffalo cauliflower poutine was born. Rogers Centre now offers it at 134 Toronto Street Eats, a street food concept on the concourse level, alongside three other variations: braised short rib poutine with caramelized onions and peppers; sausage poutine that uses three different types of sausage, caramelized onions and peppers; and, of course, the traditional fries, cheese curds and gravy.
For the Buffalo cauliflower version, Rivasplata coats cooked cauliflower in a tempura-like batter (made of flour, eggs and water) before deep-frying it until golden and puffy. These crispy nuggets are then tossed in Buffalo hot sauce and topped with cheese curds from Montreal-based Saputo. The pile is then doused with cheese gravy—made in-house using aged cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, Tabasco, Worcestershire, butter, flour, milk and heavy cream—to melt the cheese curds into a warm and stick-to-your-bones snack worthy of a street food stand.
The fans—even the meat-eaters—have embraced the vegetarian dish. “There are a lot of fans who are saying they wouldn’t order any other vegetarian item, but they tried this and they love it,” Rivasplata said. “They would choose this over meat any time.”
ARAMARK EXECUTIVE CHEF ELIZABETH RIVASPLATA
ROGERS CENTRE, TORONTO
Hailing from Lima, Peru, Elizabeth Rivasplata has lived and worked in a number of much warmer places—including Miami, Italy and Spain—before landing in Canada. “I traveled a lot in my 20s,” she explained. “I ended up coming to Canada and staying. … I fell in love with the food scene here and the rest is history.”
She served as production chef at the Art Gallery of Ontario and chef de cuisine at the gallery’s on-site restaurant, Frank, as well as catering chef with Eatertainment Group and executive chef with FAB Concepts/Mill Street Brewery. She also worked as the research and development chef with Browns Restaurant Group in Vancouver. Her resume even includes a stint on “Top Chef Canada,” but she’s now found a home at Rogers Centre.
“[I love] everything, from the team that I get to work with at Aramark to working the floor and seeing the building come to life when the doors open,” Rivasplata said. “No day is the same as the last. The opportunity to touch so many people and see their reaction when they’re eating the food we come up with is unbelievable.”