Posts Tagged ‘Fifteen’

Food As A Form Of Salvation

It seems like everywhere you look lately, food is in the mainstream media.

There are the articles about food crises, like salmonella in your spinach or listeria in your deli meat.  The provenance of our food is increasingly unknown, and it’s amazing how disconnected we are as a society and how few people actually seem to care.

And you can’t forget the stories about food security or impending scarcity, and how we’re all going to hell in a handbasket for enjoying too many hamburgers or copious amounts of factory-farmed meat.  Not to mention the hullabaloo over obesity epidemics caused by the vast quantities of processed crap that most of us have become too accustomed to swallowing, making us akin to force-fed fois gras geese.

Food’s permeated entertainment media too, with movies like No Reservations, Spanglish, Ratatouille, and the soon to be released Julie and Julia using the culinary arts as their captivating backdrop.  Not one to be left out, in recent years reality television’s also jumped on the edible bandwagon with a plethora of shows to satisfy rampant foodies, like Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Chopping Block and many more (dishonorable mention goes to the crapfest that was The Restaurant – shudder!)

While I love the vast majority of content coming out of the food media menagerie, the segment I’m most keen on (and which coincidentally is growing) is that which is focused on using food as a humanitarian equalizing aid.  There’s a whole new division of people using food to teach, transform and heal, and taking the idea of food as nourishment to it’s altruistic climax.  Jamie Oliver did it when he first started Fifteen, shepherding misguided British youth to a more purposeful existence.  Jeff Henderson took a stab at it too with his rather popular Chef Jeff Project, rehabilitating young drug dealers, gang bangers and other ne’er-do-wells by mentoring them in his catering business.  And on our side of the border, Marc Thuet is currently giving ex-cons a second chance by staffing his newest venture, Conviction with them (results supposedly will air this fall).

This seeming trend is all the more reason why the appearance of this documentary warms my heart.  I empathize with those who don’t have enough; specifically people who are marginalized and made to feel like they have no other options.  That there are kindhearted individuals finding ways to use food to unite, inspire and help those who are less fortunate is truly a godsend.  For those of us who are lucky, food is something we might not think too much about, other than for brief moments leading up to it’s consumption 3 times a day.  For others, what may have once been a cause for concern or anxiety is now becoming a lifeline for making something of themselves and seizing a golden opportunity.  Food always had the power to bring people together, but now it’s on the cusp of  becoming the medium to purport positive life change.  That’s a really amazing thing to witness.

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So This Is What It Must Be Like…

Today was an interesting day.

Shitty insofar as work goes, but entertaining nonetheless.

For starters, I received my first press release as a member of the Toronto food-blogging community this afternoon.  I guess that means I am now somewhat recognized (good heavens!)  Either that, or our blog comes up in a Google search of Toronto food writers or they’ve poached the blogroll off Taste T.O. Who knows?  Whatever the case or how  inconsequential, it put a smile on my face for about 20 seconds during a catastrophically grueling day.

What I found rather droll was that the restaurant in question was none other than Marc Thuet’s new place, Conviction, which Toronto Life gave a nod to in their online blog yesterday.  I haven’t written much of consequence about Thuet since I started this blog, other than oblique references to the one visit the Everyman and I paid to Bistro Bakery Thuet (now Bite Me, oh wait, no, that’s become Conviction) back in December 2007.  Or the occasional swoon over his (really superb) artisanal bread.  Over the years I can say I’ve been a fan of some of his concepts (bistro, charcuterie, etc), but have not thought much of their executed excess.  To me, the man just doesn’t know when to hold back (the exception to the rule being those aforementioned loaves).

Which is why I found the concept of Conviction so intriguing.  At first glance it calls to mind comparisons between Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen or “Chef Jeff’s” Posh Urban Cuisine.  Even more closely, it’s the grownup equivalent of a niche restaurant I frequented in the early 2000′s on Roncesvalles called River.  The idea that salvation and reconciliation of one’s demons can be found in the kitchen is not new.  And I can’t argue that turning it into a reality show isn’t also a slight bit tacky on their part.  But it is refreshing to see that Thuet seems to have grown so much as a person as to want to give something back to the community.  As they state in the press tidbit, he’s no stranger to addiction or run ins with the law, so clearly apparent from reading any article written during the last 20 years in Toronto.  A common theme journalists tend to gravitate towards when immortalizing him in print is a portrayal of the bad boy chef.  While there’s no shortage of those in any town, the thought that one of them wants to help people find their second chance is heartwarming.  To my mind one of the first steps on the road to personal reformation is to stop being so concerned with oneself, and start thinking about how you can help everybody else.  It would appear that Marc Thuet may now have found that place in himself.  Or (as the cynic in me might think) he’s just trying to cash in on the reality TV craze.  Who can tell?  It’s possible that the motives are not entirely altruistic, but my interest has been piqued at any rate.

Perhaps even enough to break my self-imposed ban on their restaurants and see what it’s all about.

Until next time…

The Foodie 13 – TV Personalities

A conversation I had with the Everyman last week inspired the topic for our second installment of The Foodie 13.

As we enjoyed a dinnertime nosh, we started talking about some of our favorite foodie TV hosts of all time.  It became apparent to me a long time ago that people’s tastes in television personalities are as varied as their tastes in clothing.  My mother, for instance, loves Martha Stewart (creepy), The Two Fat Ladies (weird and unhealthy) and Ina Garten (uber-annoying).  Then there are people who enjoy Guy Fieri (so I’m told) and Rachel Ray (I have no idea why).  One thing that the Everyman and I agreed on was how awesome it would be if they gave Ted Allen and Jeffrey Steingarten a show of their own.  It would be like a modern version of the odd couple… only foodie-focused.  It got me thinking about who would make my list of top TV personalities… so in no particular order, let’s find out, shall we?

1- James Barber - A perennial favorite in my household growing up, James Barber was a character that was easy to love.  Though it’s likely he was always pickled-drunk, he was entertaining and amusing, and had much to do with inspiring my love of cooking and food over the years.  To watch his show now is both reminiscent and horrifying; it’s a wonder that I never noticed how unsanitary cooking shows used to be back then.

2- Alton Brown - A man of many talents and one for all seasons.  Whether laughing along to bad jokes or skits on Good Eats, or being captivated by his Feasting on Asphalt (or Waves), Alton Brown is as approachable and charismatic a host as you could hope for.  He’s educational and fun, and seems like the kind of guy I’d like to talk to over a beer (if I drank beer).  I won’t comment on his appearances on Iron Chef America, because I like to pretend they didn’t happen.

3- Ted Allen - Trendy enough for the younger generation (due to his tenure on QEFTSG), but non-threatening enough that your grandmother could fall for him, Ted Allen is a lovable, foodie TV fixture.  I mourned the loss of him during season 5 of Top Chef, but was taken by his new Good-Eats-meets-Popular-Science show Food Detectives.  I hear great things about Chopped too, but have yet to see an episode here in ass-backwards Canada.  From what I’ve heard about it though, it sounds awfully similar to the show that personality #9 hosts.  Plus, he’s not nearly as creepy looking when he’s in motion! :)

4- Jeffrey Steingarten - While he has yet to be granted a show of his own, his appearances on Iron Chef America are usually the only reason I’ll tune in.  I set the Tivo to record and fast forward to 15 minutes in – the point where they introduce the guest judges.  If Jeffrey’s on, chances are I’ll continue watching.  If Jeffrey and Ted Allen are there, I can’t not watch every gory moment.  The two of them together are like a train wreck that you just can’t tear yourself away from.  Never before has a curmudgeon been quite so entertaining, though I’m still trying to figure out how he managed to become so damn famous in the first place…

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