Tag Archives: Second Harvest

Toronto Taste Preview with Chef Roger Mooking

15 May

Roger Mooking Toronto Taste

Less than two weeks to go before Toronto Taste takes over the Royal Ontario Museum! On Sunday, May 27, more than 60 of Toronto’s best chefs and 30 wine, beer and other beverage producers will gather at the ROM to serve Toronto food lovers in support of Second Harvest.

Earlier this month, Communal Table spoke with Chris Zielinski, executive chef at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, about cooking, Toronto and why he’s participating in this year’s Toronto Taste. This time around, we connected with Roger Mooking – Juno Award-winning musician-turned-chef, Food Network personality and this year’s Toronto Taste co-host (with Bob Blumer).

How many times have you participated in Toronto Taste? What do you enjoy most about it?
This is my second year. I most enjoy seeing all the chefs there with their proudest dishes on display, and knowing that we get to hang out once a year and feed many, many people in the process after the event is over.

What makes you, as a chef, want to participate in Toronto Taste?
We play a part in feeding 700,000 meals over the course of a year. That is important. It also showcases the best of the city’s culinary scene in one place. I participate because I’m sympathetic to families in need and we are able to help them and have a fun day all at the same time

What have been the biggest influences on your cooking, in terms of people, places, cuisine styles, etc?
My biggest influence has been curiosity. I’m forever curious about food, ingredients and techniques, and this drives me forward every single day.

Before you became a chef, you were a Juno Award-winning musician with Bass is Base. How is making music like cooking?
Music and cooking are creative outlets. Sometimes the recipe has instruments, musicians, and lyrics. Sometimes the song has ingredients, pots, pans and some knives. In the end, all the artists’ tools are used to make something to consume, either with the ear or your mouth.

Over the past two years, you’ve sold your stakes in both your Toronto restaurants, Kultura and Nyood. Besides Toronto Taste and the Food Network, what other projects are currently keeping you busy and inspired?
My album that I just finished; my show Heat Seekers; new show Man, Fire, Food; recipe testing; and many other things that will be coming out over the next while… can’t let out all my secrets. Stick around – I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve.

Toronto Taste Preview with Chef Chris Zielinski

17 Apr

Chef Chris Zielinski MLSE e11even Toronto

Toronto Taste is coming. On Sunday, May 27, more than 60 of Toronto’s best chefs and 30 wine, beer and other beverage producers will gather at the Royal Ontario Museum to serve Toronto food lovers in support of Second Harvest.

To help draw attention to one of Toronto’s best food events and most important fundraisers, we’re going to be chatting with some of the participating chefs over the next few weeks. Up first is Chris Zielinski, executive chef at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. With MLSE, Chris is part of the team that oversees game day food at the Air Canada Centre and BMO Field, as well as e11even and Real Sports Bar & Grill at Maple Leaf Square.

A big part of your job at MLSE is creating food that can be eaten while walking around or sitting in a seat. What are the keys to doing this successfully?
At the Air Canada Centre and BMO Field, we are constantly charged with reinventing hand-held cuisine. It has been proven over and over that fans prefer to avoid utensils whenever possible. The keys to success for hand-held foods are not at all unlike the keys to any great dish. The combination of quality ingredients, likeable and recognizable flavours and a variety of interesting textures are the true barometer of any great dish. The other very important piece is to practice it over and over and to make sure that you test it out for other people, not just chefs.

What are you planning for Toronto Taste? What are important things for participating chefs to consider in creating successful dishes?
This year, we will be serving up E11even’s famous Nova Scotia lobster roll. I think, after participating in and attending Toronto Taste so many times, the most memorable moments have come in the form of two bites. Guests have a great deal of food to get through and, unlike a restaurant, you don’t want to have someone hand you a plateful of food, no matter how it tasty it might be. Two memorable bites with layered flavours and contrasting textures always wins!

What do you enjoy most about participating in Toronto Taste?
I have participated at least 10 times, and have attended other years. Toronto Taste continues to be Toronto’s premier culinary event.  As exciting as it is to taste all the great food, my favorite part of the event is the sense of community that comes from getting all the chefs under one roof/tent. As most chefs can attest, we rarely step outside our kitchen and communicate with our peers, and stand beside our city’s top restaurant supporters, the customers!

What drives you to participate in Toronto Taste?
It’s hard to imagine our city without the profoundly important work that Second Harvest does day in and day out. We should be proud that our citizens have taken these matters into their own hands to help the people who need it the most. We should never take their work for granted. There will always be a need for this type of program and hunger will always be an issue. As the chef of one of the largest food outlets in our city, I feel that it’s my civic duty and responsibility to not be wasteful. I would hope all chefs would share that sentiment.

How do the tastes and desires of Leafs, Raptors, Toronto Rock and Toronto FC fans differ in terms of gameday food?
Leafs fans are very tried and true. There is a great mix of business and pleasure, and they love their red meat. The Raptors draw a very multicultural crowd that likes to test the nether regions of our menus. They also seem to be more in tune with some of our healthier options. The Rock crowd is all about family fun. If it’s TFC, it has to go great with beer. The Triple Threat says it all; BBQ pulled pork, smoked beef brisket and grilled peameal bacon all peacefully co-existing on one bun!

What was the draw for you in coming to MLSE?
Over the past 25 years working in fine dining restaurants, I had the opportunity to work with and manage people from all walks of life. It has always been my personal challenge to “make all the pieces fit”. Opportunities to execute that on this scale are few and far between. I’ve always been a fan of the teams, so this was a no brainer. After touring many other sporting facilities, I’ve grown to realize that what we do here, doesn’t really exist anywhere else, and it is a true testament to Richard Peddie’s DIY vision and all the ground work laid out by my predecessors, Brad Long and Robert Bartley.

What have been the biggest influences on your cooking?
Having the chance to work with Susur Lee, back in the day, was a truly eye opening experience. His perspective on food offered a completely different construct that you could never learn from a cooking school. It also was a window on Asian food as a whole. I love the simple magic of Japanese food. So many of my most memorable meals have been based around exceptional pieces of raw fish. Really, any meal that was made with love, from Jose Andre’s insane Bazaar in Beverly Hills, to my Italian mother-in-law’s dinner table in Toronto, are inspiring in their own ways. More than anything, I love to eat!

On the Menu: Food Events in Toronto

15 Feb

Good food on the menu

Last summer, I put up a quick post I called On the Menu, with a rundown of some cool upcoming food-related events I felt were worth highlighting. At the time, I mentioned that we’d occasionally run more posts listing events food lovers could look forward to. Well, here’s the second On the Menu post. Please excuse that it’s coming almost a year after the first one… but there are a few great annual events coming up in Toronto that food lovers should know about.

Lunch Money Day
February 16

Tomorrow is Lunch Money Day, an annual one-day initiative held by Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization. Their mission is to collect donated excess food from manufacturers, retailers and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing that food to community organizations across Toronto that are focused on reducing hunger. Lunch Money Day is one of their three major annual events aimed at raising the funds needed for this great organization to operate. On Thursday, February 16, pack yourself a lunch and donate the money you would have otherwise spent on lunch to Second Harvest. Every $10 donated allows Second Harvest to provide 20 meals worth of food to Toronto’s hungry. If you’re around Yonge-Dundas Square at lunch time tomorrow, you can support Second Harvest by buying your lunch from a great lineup of chefs and restaurants that will be selling meals in the square. There are other great ways to donate to Lunch Money Day, too – check them out here.

Torito pasta Viva Italia

Viva Italia! Cucina
Tuesday, February 21 to Friday, February 24

Each year, students in George Brown College’s Italian Culinary Arts program spend four months in Italy, where they have the opportunity to learn new techniques from some great Italian chefs. The week-long Viva Italia! Cucina festival at George Brown College gives the students an opportunity to share what they learned by cooking prix fixe lunches and dinners for diners at the Chef’s House restaurant. The festival also features a one-night-only multicourse dinner cooked by the students alongside a visiting chef from Italy. And the Viva Italia! Gala Tasting Reception brings together a number of great chefs from around Ontario (Rob Gentile from Buca and Fabio Bondi from Local Kitchen, to name just two), who will each present a unique Italian dish they’ve created for attendees to sample alongside a great selection of Italian wines, beers, cheeses and other treats. Jenny and I were at this event last year, and it was definitely a great night (The photo above is of one of our favorite dishes sampled, cooked by Torito’s Luis Valenzuela). If the great Italian food on offer isn’t reason enough to attend, you’ll also be supporting George Brown culinary students, as proceeds from the week’s events go to fund scholarships for the Italian Culinary Arts students. Check out the link above for more info and to buy tickets.

Terroir Symposium 2012 chefs Toronto

Terroir Symposium 2012
April 23

One of my food-related highlights of 2011 was attending the Terroir Symposium, an annual gathering of chefs, food writers, food and wine experts, and others who are passionate about influencing what we eat and how we eat. As a food blogger and relative outsider to the food industry itself, I was reluctant to go, thinking that I might feel out of my element. Turns out those fears were totally unfounded. The energy throughout the day was amazing, and the ideas shared at the seminars, tasting events and the indulgent breakfast and lunch were really inspiring. I’m planning on being there again this year, when the theme will be The New Radicals – a celebration of some of the people who are doing things that are really shaking up how we think about food. Even if you’re like me – not a chef, restaurateur or even a fulltime food writer, just someone passionate about food – this is an event worth attending, both for the lineup of great sessions planned and for the lunch, where chefs from 13 Toronto restaurants (and one from Newfoundland!) will present their interpretations of Chinese dishes.

(The photo above is from a shoot that took place recently, where several of the chefs who will participate gathered to promote the event).

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