Matt Basile is not just another Rebel without a Kitchen

For those who are familiar with the food truck scene in Canada, the name Matt Basile is one that should ring a bell. He is the owner/operator of the Fidel Gastro food truck and his most recent endeavour, a “brick and mortar with the heart of a pop up”, Lisa Marie on Queen St West.

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But in the last two years, Basile has taken on a new journey.  Thanks to the Travel + Escape Network, he now spends three months of the year on the road. His whirlwind new show, “Rebel Without a Kitchen” (airs Tuesday at 9PM ET/10PM PT) shines a spotlight on street food scenes all throughout Canada and the US.

The second season just launched a few weeks ago and I had the chance to sit down with Matt to chat about food, television, and creature comforts.  We even had time for an arm wrestling match.

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FGFS:  So how did you decide where you wanted to visit for this season of Rebel Without a Kitchen?

Matt:  The whole thing about season one was us building our business here in Toronto. What we wanted to do with season two was take what we had created and bring it to other cities and bring some of that influence to other cities and how does that reciprocate. The cities that we picked were a combination of places that we really wanted to go and that were really setting the stage for street food in North America, the cities who would let us visit and finally was there an event that we could really tap into or that made sense for us to really visit. We definitely hit some really important cities [in season two] that tell a really important food story.

FGFS: In your three-month journey, where was the most memorable and why?

Matt: Are we saying memorable or best city — because I have two for totally different reasons. I would say LA was my favourite city. It was warm and I think overall they just have everything there including an emerging restaurant scene. They are in the midst of really changing how people approach food concepts and also pushing the street food scene. There is this casual coolness with LA but it is also very business-focused as well. It has the best of all these world. I kept thinking, “You know what? I could live here.” It was very cool. It really wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The most memorable stop I would have to say was Cape Breton. From the second we got off the plane to the second we arrived in Sydney, everyone was so helpful and so lovely. Everyone loves what they produce locally there and is so proud of what they do. They are so incredibly local in what they do but are so open to worldwide culture and food. There were people at the street food event I was at from Jamaica and Pakistan and all over. The chef that I was working with was so genuine and we still text to this day. I’d have to say Philly was the biggest food surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting much from there and it was incredible. Great food scene, great bar scene, and really heavy into craft beers. The city was also very musical and historical. I wouldn’t have put those words into my preconceived notions of Philadelphia.

FGFS:  Are there any recipes or tips/tricks that you found while out on the road for Rebel without a Kitchen that you have now brought back and implemented into your own kitchen?

Matt: 100% I would say not so much recipes but more so types of cooking. So for example, our trip to New Orleans had a really big influence on our cooking. The sauces that I pushed myself to learn while in New Orleans immediately came back with us to Toronto and played a role with us in the restaurant. Same with when we went to Austin, Texas and learned the concept of BBQ. Bringing it back with Moroccan flavours (like they do there) and then making it something different here in Toronto. It was really easy to say, “Whatever dish I make in this city, I’m bringing back” but in other cases, those dishes sparked new ideas using those influences. I think specifically because I don’t have any formal training, that is how you learn — the more you eat, the more you learn.

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FGFS: You left a job in advertising to follow your dream and work in food. What made you do it since you didn’t have any formal training?

Matt: I grew up Italian, so food was always a very big part of my life. I grew up working in butcher shops to pay for school. I went to school for advertising and marketing because I loved coming up with ideas and concepts and connecting with people. I was at a point in my life where I was putting a lot of time and effort into these ideas, but I should have been doing this for myself. By process of elimination, I realized the only thing I really knew how to do was food. When I met my partner Kai, she gave me this extra push to go forward with what I wanted to do. Sometimes you need this perfect storm of the right people around you that help you believe in yourself and that help you create an extension of who you are. If you can make a living — albeit a thin one — of it, then it is something worth going for. If you can make your own job and your own path and a positive contribution, then why not?

FGFS: What prompted you to start Lisa Marie (the restaurant extension of Fidel Gastro)?

Matt: We sat down and said, “We have all this business but we aren’t capitalizing on it the right way”. So we just realized we weren’t running the business effectively and it was very fly-by-night and realized we needed to operationalize. So what that meant was: we wanted a commercial kitchen in this city. Nothing more, nothing less. We were recommended by a friend of ours that someone had a space on Queen West with a kitchen. It wasn’t until this point where it dawned on us, “Wow, are we looking to open a restaurant?”. Thanks to Kai — she handled all the negotiations — we put a bid in on our current space. Originally, our bid didn’t go through.  So we just kind of gave up and figured we would find something eventually. But the day after my grandfather’s funeral, we got a call saying we got the space. The rest is history. We didn’t have a concept, but we just knew what it would be. Keeping it on brand, we named it Lisa Marie — since the food truck’s name is “Priscilla” and Elvis is on everything. The menu is constantly changing and evolving. It’s fun and approachable food.

FGFS:  What is your idea of relaxation?

Matt: Kai and I love cooking big Italian meals for one another. We also really like going to get massages. Sometimes when we order out, we love getting Vietnamese, Korean, or Thai food and eating it in bed. This concept may or may not be called “picnic,” and may involve watching television. But so much of what we define as relaxation does not include work, as so many of our work days are 22 hours. Anything that is not work-related is relaxation.

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All photos by Rochelle Latinsky

 

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Interview with Canada’s BBQ Champion Danielle “Diva Q” Dimovski

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Meet Danielle Dimovski. To many on the BBQ circuit she is known as “Diva Q”. Danielle isn’t one to hold punches about being competitive and taking her BBQ seriously. But beyond all of that, she has a fierce and loyal fan base, is a mom and travels although out the American South in her newest television show, BBQ Crawl, taking on the cream of the crop in the BBQ competition world. BBQ Crawl will be making its season 2 premiere on April 1st on the Travel & Escape Channel.

I had the opportunity to chat with Danielle regarding all things BBQ and the keys to success in the BBQ world.

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(1) What is it like being a Canadian female on the BBQ circuit?

Diva Q: Like any other non-traditional workplace it is sometimes a challenge. I have found that the BBQ community is more than accommodating to females. For the most part it has been great. The naysayers and the ignorant jerks are thankfully few and far between. At the end of the day you need to know your stuff. You need to be really competent and confident in what your goals are. I think that goes for any workplace. Male or female: it doesn’t matter. You just need to be knowledgeable and competent.

(2) What is the key to good BBQ?

Diva Q: You need to start with good meat, get to know your butcher. You need to know your equipment inside and out. You can make outstanding BBQ on an old drum and also the latest in technological grill manufacturing inventions. It’s not about cost of equipment – it is about understanding the key roles of fire, oxygen, fire control and meat. Great BBQ is a balance of spices, meat and proteins and occasionally sauce.

(3) What are some of the challenges you have experienced in the Pit?

Diva Q: New equipment can throw you for a loop. You need to practice on it as much as possible. When I am unable to get my regular quality of meat it can present big problems. Overall you look for consistency. When you change one thing whether it be meat, spice, equipment it has a ripple effect. I have had a few grease fires over the years due to my love of bacon. Always have a kitchen rated fire extinguisher and big boxes of baking soda nearby.

(4) Tell me the different between the different types of BBQ and what is your favourite to make.

Diva Q: The different styles include:

Kansas City Style BBQ: Sweet sauce, Pork rules here.
Memphis: Dry rubs over charcoal.
Texas: Salt & Pepper – rarely any sauce – outstanding brisket beef and sausage
Carolinas: Depending on where you are it could be a vinegary sauce with red pepper or a mustard based sauce.
Kentucky: Mutton with a spicy mutton dip. Very unique.
Alabama White: Famed Big Bon Gibson’s came up with a mayo based sauce that they use on their chicken. Delicious!

I actually like making all types of BBQ. It doesn’t matter to me. It depends on the day sometimes I feel like Asian inspired short ribs with a hoisin glaze, or Char-Siu made on the grill. Other days I want a big ole piece of Texas inspired Brisket.

(5) What are some of the most legit places to eat BBQ in Canada

In no particular order, for Southern-Style BBQ:

The Stockyards (Toronto, ON)
Prairie Smoke & Spice (SK)
BBQ Bobs (Whistler, BC)
Big Bone BBQ (Barrie, ON)
Buster Rhino’s (Whitby, ON)
Hank Daddy’s BBQ (foodtruck found throughout Toronto)
Peckinpaw Restaurant (Vancouver, BC)
Camp 31 (Paris, ON)
Holy Smoke BBQ (Calgary, AB)

(6) Is there any advice to someone who wants to become pro?

Diva Q: Practice, Practice, Practice, then when are sick of practicing practice more. Log and write down everything you do from the spices to the temperature outside. A cooking log is a great way to keep track of the changes. One of the key things is too also change one thing at a time – then compare results. To shorten the learning curve I recommend taking a BBQ Competition Class http://www.DivaQ.ca/classes

(7) If you could eat BBQ with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Diva Q: My Mom. She passed away suddenly a few years ago. She was my biggest Champion I miss her. Plus she loved ribs.

Lookin’ Good Girl: Katie Barber on the art of Bookbinding

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Katie and I have known each other for years. Not well but in one of those Met Through the Internet kind of ways. I always admired her rad style and general bad-assery from afar.

What’s intrigued me most though has been her recent study in the last few years of bookbinding. Bookbinders are innovative, passionate and creative. Many attributes I had seen in Katie.A highly skilled craft requiring enormous patience, concentration and knowledge, bookbinding is also a profession kept alive by a few, which is why I wanted to chat with Katie regarding the craft.

Katie was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions recently.

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(1) How did you get into the craft of bookbinding and where did you study?

I started getting interested in bookbinding in the last year of my graphic design program at OCAD. I was studying editorial design and doing a lot of digital typesetting focusing on kerning (the space between letters) and leading (the space between lines of text). I began
wondering where these digital techniques originated and discovered they were all based around Gutenberg’s invention of movable type, also known as letterpress printmaking.

I spent my final year at OCAD studying letterpress with Alan Stein from The Church Street Press,
learning about the rich history of book arts and attending book arts fairs in Ontario. I chose to go back to OCAD after completing my degree to do a minor in printmaking and book arts where I discovered I was just as interested in the physical form of the book as the content. I completed a certificate program with The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists guild where I tried a variety of bookbinding and restoration/conservation techniques in six intensive workshops.

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In September I moved to Boston Massachusetts to attend The North Bennet Street School for bookbinding and technical restoration/repair.

(2) What is the bookbinding community like in Toronto?

The bookbinding community in Toronto is outstanding. It is the headquarters of The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild as well as the location of various books arts fairs such as Wayzgoose and The OCAD Book Arts Fair.

Toronto has lots of great libraries with conservation departments that house and maintain books dating back hundreds of years that are often open to school groups and interested individuals. There is not only a bookbinding
community but also a great book arts community that promotes book craft such as paper making, printmaking and water marbling.

(3) What are your thoughts on the future of the craft?

Though bookbinding has shifted from something that was entirely done by hand to most mechanized production it will always have a place in the modern world.

Personally I feel bookbinding falls into a few different categories. The first is historical bindings, these are the books made before machines that tell us about the history of books and their construction. These books are housed in libraries and personal collections but are often studied to learn about periods of history, tool use and materials.

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The second is design binding, these are
hand crafted using high quality materials like leather and gold. There are also newer bindings done with contemporary materials such as plexi-glass. This work is done on special volumes of information or for personal collections.

The last is paper backs that you would find in big
box book stores. I think these are the least likely to survive the digital book revolution and could easily be translated into on screen media. Though the majority of bookbinding is now done with machines I feel there will always be people interested in the rich history and
physicality of handmade books.

(4) Can you tell me about the bookbinding process? What are important tools for your trade?

The bookbinding process largely depends on what kind of book you want to construct. There are pretty much an infinite number of book structures you could make however a select few that will function properly and withstand the test of time.

Many books that are hundreds of years old still function as a structure though acids have eaten through a lot of their materials.

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There are non-adhesive bound books that are assembled using just sewing and adhesive bound which use glue (PVA or Natural Starches) to hold the book together. The book comes together in steps starting from the interior and often working outwards. Paper must be cut and folded into sections, then sewn together. Glue is applied to the spine and spine lining materials applied for strength. A hard case can be built either on the book (German Case
Binding) or can be built off the text block and attached later.

The most common materials for the cover are cloth, leather or paper. A lot of Japanese papers are used due to their strength.

The tools I used in my day to day range depending on what type of project I’m working on. For bookbinding the tools I used the most are my bonefolder, awl, ruler and scissors. For restoration I used a spatula, tweezers and a scalpel in addition to my regular tools. There are lots of speciality tools for binders and some such as knives and various others are made by the binder.

(5) What is the importance of bookbinding in a digital age?

As someone who has pursued book arts this is the question I have been asked the most. I attended school for graphic design and find my computer to be an indispensable tool on a daily basis. I do however have a passion for craft and find the physical form of the book to be very pleasing. I think it is possible for the physical book and digital books to exist together and there are pro’s and cons to e-readers.

I am more interested in historical books and artist books rather than disposable style paper backs at big box bookstores that are so full of acids they will probably disintegrate rapidly over time anyways. Most of the periodicals and mailing lists I subscribe to for bookbinding are digital and I find it a great way to get lots of information quickly.

I do still buy lots of physical books for pleasure reading because I enjoy the physical experience of the books.

(6) What is the most satisfying thing about being a bookbinder?

For me the most satisfying thing about being a bookbinder is taking the raw materials of the book and bringing them together to create an object. There is a rich history and traditions that go along with bookbinding and it is a craft that takes time and practice to perfect.

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I find it to be a challenge but and its hard to put my finger on exactly what I love so much about books. But I
think they so perfectly bring together craft and content that play off each other in a way that can be either artistic or utilitarian.

(7) For those looking to get into the field, what would you suggest?

For those interested in getting into the field of bookbinding I would recommend taking classes and familiarizing yourself with the history of the book so you understand the various parts and terminology.

Bookbinding is a craft and like any craft practice is the key to success. There a lots of blogs and YouTube videos of basic book making techniques and sometimes just playing around with materials is a great way to start!

There are programs all over the work that teach bookbinding, book arts and conservation so I would find something close to you and get involved.

Amanda Levitt Talks Fat Body Politics

Amanda is a writer an activist and the creative mind behind Fat Body Politics. She recently appeared on CNN to speak about her activism and her blog.  Amanda was awesome enough to answer some fat activism questions for Ottawa Squad leader Kelly Bennett. 

The Ottawa Squad recently attended an event and we were told it was awesome to have ‘fatties supporting fatties’. Why do you think that kind of support is important in activism?

Having a good support system in activism is an integral part of building or having community. For me that means creating an environment where I’m not only supporting the work of other people but I am also emotionally supporting others when I am able to. There are a lot of people who come into movement / communities wanting to become famous or be a spokesperson. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing I find it really harmful to position yourself as that person if you are also ignoring the history that came before you and the people who are doing amazing work right alongside you.

So knowing how that continues to happen within fat community has made me support the work of other fat people, but I also try to support the work of other marginalized communities as well. We’re all in this together and leaving people behind isn’t an acceptable way to build a community or to fight inequality.

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Lynx Sainte-Marie talks Performance, Feminism and The Feminist Art Conference

 

Lynx, one of the performers at this years Feminist Art Conference in Toronto

Lynx, one of the performers at this years Feminist Art Conference in Toronto

“I think the Feminist Art Conference is necessary because it is a way for artists to speak to their feminism[s] and their own experiences of oppression in nuanced and creative ways. I also see it as a way for all of us to do the work in re-examining our society from a very human, emotional standpoint.” -Lynx Sainte-Marie

Lynx is a performer in this year’s Feminist Art Conference, and we took some time to speak to them on their background, art and feminism.

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Fatty Cakes, Fatty Cakes, NYC.

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Written by Acacia Christensen

As you might know, I am a sucker for a really good dessert, and apart from doughnuts my other love is cookies. When I was in Brooklyn checking out the City Reliquary Museum they were selling local sweets and I got to try a Fattycakes cookie.

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Let me tell you that it was hands down the best cookie I have ever had in my whole life. I’m a sucker for the “Chipwich”, not exactly the ice cream sandwich, but a cookie sandwich instead! The Chipwich is a chocolate chip cookie with beer caramel, vanilla cream filling and is finished with sea salt. You’ll have to give it a try. And thanks to the lovely owner Jennifer you’ll be able to order them from no matter where you are!  We have a discount code for our readers (that can be used on all her cookies).  To order,  visit her website and use the code: “FATGIRLFOODSQUAD”.

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I got to try a bunch of the flavours and that one is still the standout. I took the chance to ask Jennifer Taylor-Miller to fill us in on Fattycakes and what she’s all about.

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FGFS: How long have you been crafting FattyCakes cookies?

Jennifer: 4 years part-time, about 8 months full-time

FGFS: When did you develop your love of cookies?

Jennifer: I was born with a love of cookies.

FGFS: Apart from a cookie, what is your favourite dessert?

Jennifer: Either layered cake or loaded ice cream. If I’m eating cake, I want a lot of frosting or filling or whatever, and if it’s ice cream it needs to have huge chunks of cookie or a good amount of fudge or peanut butter, etc.  My husband has accused me of cherry picking shared ice cream.

FGFS: Out of all of your flavours, which is your favourite so far?

Jennifer: Build Me Up Buttercup.  It’s a chocolate peanut butter brownie cookie with peanut butter cups.

FGFS: How did you come up with the fantastic name “FATTYCAKES”?

Jennifer: A dear friend, Cara Possemato named the company.

FGFS: Tell me the history of fattycakes and how you got started?

Jennifer: I started FattyCakes in 2009, just making strange concoctions for friends and family.  There were so many unexpected flavors that worked, like popcorn, Swedish Fish & chocolate chips, that I figured I was on to something.

FGFS: Apart from cookies, I’ve noticed you also make cookie cakes, is there anything else you think you will ever start baking/selling under the FattyCakes brand?

Jennifer: I do have a dry mix that is excellent, and I’ve made only a few available this holiday season.  I’ve heard from a volunteer at our museum pop up shop that Kyp Malone from TV On The Radio bought one.  Hope he loved it!

FGFS: Where have you been primarily selling your cookies? And is there anywhere you would like to start selling them?

Jennifer: I’ve been selling at a cafes, coffee shops and candy shops as well as markets throughout the year.  I also sell through our website, have done flash sale sites, and on Mohchi.com, a new NYC site.

FGFS: Are there any new flavours you have cooking in your brain that you would like to let our readers know about?

Jennifer: I’ve been craving a few that I’ve made only a few times but have little mainstream interest. Devils on Horseback is a maple bacon date cookie filled with blue cheese and the other is a play on McDonald’s McGriddle, a maple bacon cookie filled with Velveeta cheese.  I like cheese.

FGFS: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Jennifer: Hopefully with a little shop in Brooklyn, selling my cookies and cookie cakes to extremely happy clients.

Catching up with Vikram Vij prior to Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for a Cure

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto is Awesome.

The highly anticipated 4th annual Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for a Cure is just around the corner, taking place on Saturday February 8th in support of Mount Sinai.

This year, Chef’s Challenge will be hosted by none other than Giada de Laurentiis alongside a fabulous array of Food Network chefs including the one and only Vikram Vij, star chef and restauranteur of Vij’s in Vancouver.

I had the chance to catch up with him prior to his appearance this weekend at Chef’s Challenge and got to chat with him about all things Indian food and Vancouver:

(1) How are you preparing for Chef’s Challenge?
I have studied all the other chefs and know what their strengths are and what style of food they prepare. Other than that, I am focused on what I do and what I want to cook. 

(2) Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you decided, “Yes, I want to be a chef!”
I remember sitting with my grandfather, who liked to drink. He said to me at a young age “I want you to become a restaurant owner, and I will be your bartender. You can cook and I can drink” from their I was inspired to open a restaurant with my grandfather’s name “Vij” in his honour. 

(3) How would you compare the BC food scene to Toronto?
I think both cities have great terrior for great produce and wines which the local chefs can take full advantage of.

In BC we have an amazing abundance of local produce, seafood and wines from the Okanagan, that it is hard not to appreciate what we have in our own backyard. I think chefs in BC are doing a great job of creating awareness of these products and their heritage, that rivals what is being done in Toronto.

That said, there is no question that Toronto is a bigger city, with more restaurants and a lot happening in the local food scene from charcuterie to cheese.

(4) What is one thing that completes a good meal?
Great wine and copious amounts of it while having great conversation with friends and family.

(5) What inspires you about being in the kitchen?

Finding and using personal creativity. I am always getting inspiration from my world travels and transforming it from one palette, onto the plate and sharing it with everybody.

Recipes are important when you are learning a new dish or cuisine, but cooking should be fun and creative. You should cook with your family and friends and try to put your own touch and love in the food. 

(6) Tell me the difference about the regional cooking of Indian food (North, South, etc.)

North Indian cooking is mostly yoghurt based or richer gravies. South uses its natural abundance of Coconut so lots of coconut water, dried coconut and lots of recipes based on seafood as well, due to the coastal areas.

(7) Why are people so drawn to Butter Chicken and Chicken Marsala  
Because, that is what we as Indian chefs presented to them first and every menu has them, so people would naturally think that they are the only dishes of India. Plus a good butter chicken is like a great hamburger, everybody loves it.

(8) How did you come to open your restaurant and what was the most difficult part?
The most difficult part in the beginning was worrying if I would make enough money to keep it going. Back then $100 a day was what I needed to break even. So if I made $97 dollars, I would ring in an order of naan bread, just to make myself feel good that we got to $100 dollars that day. I never gave up and the hard work of my family, of Meeru Dhalwala my wife and co-owner, and my staff paved the way to where we are today.

(9) If you could dine with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Gandhiji – because of his powerful vision to free India. He united people while believing in its own country called ” India” , and he did this using a non violent movement that many great world leaders have followed and found inspiration from;  for example: Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama.

Don’t forget to find out more about Chef’s Challenge happening this weekend. Details can be found here.

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Playwright Young Jean Lee strips down to naked truth with Untitled Feminist Show

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Harbourfront Centre just recently announced that they would be housing the Canadian premier of Brooklyn-based playwright Young Jean Lee critically acclaimed work, “UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW”. Running from February 12-15, the show is without dialogue, clothing or traditional gender signifiers on stage.

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The cast consists of five women and one gender non-conforming person; whom come from all different backgrounds artistically. For the entire 60 minutes of the show, all the cast members are nude. This nude performance engages the audience to embrace the bold celebration of the body in all its free forms and all its flesh and glory. It asks us to live in a feminist fantasy where bodies can exist free of shame.

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I recently had the chance to chat with Young Jean Lee about her premiere run of the show here in Toronto. Check out the interview below:

(1) With “Untitled Feminist Show”, you use the nude body as a form of expression. Is this to show how vulnerable we are as people?

For me, the starting point of the show was the desire to see performers with a range of realistic female-coded body types who were 100% confident, fierce, and fabulous. Women are trained to have so much shame about their bodies and looks, and I thought it would be amazing to see people with female-coded bodies who didn’t seem to experience any of that, even without clothes or makeup. I wanted the nudity to be the opposite of titillating and objectifying, with the performers seeming completely powerful and
comfortable in their skins. Not all of them ARE comfortable in their skins, though. We have one performer (Becca Blackwell) who doesn’t identify as female and finds it quite difficult to perform nude, but within the imaginary universe of the show in which people aren’t stereotyped according to their body parts, Becca is able to play a character who feels free of those stereotypes even when nude.

(2) Your mantra is to, “write plays based on the worst idea imaginable,“ – how does this come to you? Does it ever make you uncomfortable?

Yes, I’m uncomfortable through the whole process, and always trying to make myself even more uncomfortable. I started working this way when I was writing my first play, and I was really struggling with it. My professor Mac Wellman told me to write the worst thing I could, and the trick worked.

(3) Has the Untitled Feminist Show evolved at all from when it first was put into production?

We always have new and different cast members who bring their own personalities into the mix, but the choreography of the show has remained basically the same.

(4) What is your thought process behind developing your stage shows / plays?

When starting a play, I ask myself, “What’s the last show in the world I would ever want to make?” Then I force myself to make it. I do this because going out of my comfort zone compels me to challenge my assumptions and find value in unexpected places. I try to work with different genres and subject matters for each new show. The bigger the challenge, the more inspired I feel. I don’t want to keep cranking out the same type of show because I’m so familiar with a specific way of working. I write my shows as I’m directing them, working collaboratively with my performers and artistic team and getting feedback from workshop audiences. Our goal is to find ways to get past our audiences’ defenses against uncomfortable subjects and open people up to confronting difficult questions by keeping them disoriented and laughing.

(5) What is New York City like to live and create in?

Awesome, because of the other people and artists. Expensive.

(6) What does the future hold and what would you like to see?

I just went to Locarno and Sundance with my first short film, and am editing my second. I’m doing a three-year video residency with the Wooster Group. Would love to make a feature soon!

The Dock Ellis and Chef Trish Gill Strike a Homerun on Dundas West

 

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto is Awesome.

Just when you thought Dundas West couldn’t get any better, a new sports bar has rolled into town with Chef Trish Gill at the helm. That place is The Dock Ellis. And if you’re thinking, is it? Yes, it is named after the baseball player who dropped LSD. So let’s get that out of the way right off the bat.

Located at 1280 Dundas Street W, just west of Dovercourt, The Dock Ellis serves up all the best in craft brews while Chef Trish Gill is giving you high-end pub grub that is clearly doesn’t have any pretentious vibes.

 

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Trish told me about the menu, “I didn’t want to go into it trying to reinvent the wheel. When it comes down to it, we are a sports bar. I immediately looked to what one would expect to find. I knew that if I was going to put nachos on the menu, they weren’t going to be your run of the mill.”

With that in mind, she introduced items such as Wonton Nachos ($10), which include chorizo made in-house, beans, green chilli cheese sauce, salsa, lime, crema and jalapeños. With just the right amount of heat and fresh flavour, this is perfect for kicking back with a pitcher of beer and not feeling too greasy. You’ve got a classic mixed up with some radical creativity.

 

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With that radical creativity in-mind and Gill telling me that the owner’s have given her the “framework to do some amazing work” within, we’re introduced to some next level pub snacks (each $5) such as the Bacon & Eggs (pickled eggs and crispy pig’s ears), Pig’s in a Blanket (morcilla sausage and fruit butter) or the classic Cheese Ball. All of the dishes here popped and Chef Trish tells me, “The owners are amazing in that they’ve given me sort of a framework to work within, but the creativity here is all mine. This means I can highlight some ingredients like blood sausage and beef tongue.” So far the response has been in the Dock Ellis’ favour.

 

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In additional to the fabulous food, there is a wealth of seating options and one of my favourite things of the evening: pool tables, shuffle board, foosball and an old-school video game set-up. What is it like there? Well Trish tells me, “It’s a fun place to hangout! Seriously, it has almost a house party vibe to it. I love the fact that we have a shuffleboard table, my grandparents always had one in their basement. Plus, the food that we serve is stuff that is fun to share, and what you might serve at home on game day, or at a tailgate.” It was so casual and fun, that I saddled up to the shuffle board table and took in a game. Reminded me of my childhood days.

 

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It is true. You can saddle yourself up there on a Sunday (the day that I originally went there with cohort Yuli) for their Tailgate Special, which is $18 per person and includes many offerings from the menu including Beef Short Ribs. But if that isn’t your thing, they have just also introduced a brunch menu, which offers up a Breakfast Burger and Eggs Benny that changes weekly.

The Dock Ellis is still in its infancy but if the food and atmosphere in the restaurant is any indication of things to come, I think it will be doing quite alright. Chef Trish tells me, “The menu will be ever-evolving. I am looking forward to changing it up every month. We have such a small menu that it really is important. I want to keep it small to ensure we are putting out great food.” Thankfully, the nachos are there to stay. New watering hole, here I come!

 

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It Gets Fatter Project is Reorienting Desire Tonight in Ottawa

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Tonight Ottawa is lucky enough to have the It Gets Fatter Project in town, hosting an event on Reorienting Desire. The It Gets Fatter Project is a body positivity project, started by queer fat people of colour FOR queer fat people of colour, and this workshop will serve as a space to examine how fatphobia structures our visions of desirable bodies.

We reached out to It Gets Fatter Project and they were awesome enough to answer some of our questions. We can’t wait to go hang out with them tonight.

Is this your first event in Ottawa? We’re excited to have you!

It’s Asam’s first time, but Sara presented the keynote at last year’s Project Acorn gathering. We are excited to be back!

Obviously being fat is a gendered conversation, but can you give us a quick rundown of why it was important for IGF to be a poc led project, for poc?

I think for fat folks who are racialized the answer to this question is as obvious as fat being a gendered conversation. The ways in which we experience body shame and body policing are so intimately tied to processes of racialization that I actually don’t even know how I could think about fatness without thinking about race, (or really, how I could think about the body without also thinking about the ways in which it is gendered and raced and classed etc).

Just to start off with, fatness & race are rarely discussed together within white fat activism. And yet, discourses around obesity often visibilize and centre on fat poc – even as these campaigns have little to no input from the people who are being used as props to signify the dangers of obesity. The idea that Black people have “bad” eating habits and only have themselves to blame for being fat is so pervasive in US pop culture it goes almost unquestioned or even unnoticed. And how fat racialized bodies are policed and shamed is intimately tied to histories of colonialism and imperialist and orientalist stereotypes of “the Other.” (For instance, it might be “liberating” for a white woman to walk around without shaving her armpits, but the same choice from a dark-skinned woc will mean she will often get read as a “savage” who doesn’t know how to conform to Western standards of hygiene and needs rescuing.)

When we started IGF it was because we didn’t feel there was any space in fat activism to talk about these things. There is a long history of fat activism being centred and being dominated by the voices and narratives of white fat people. Unfortunately, for a lot of poc these voices just don’t resonate because we don’t see ourselves in these narratives. It is impossible for poc to divorce their race from any aspect of their lives, and any discourse or activism that doesn’t even notice or mention race is obviously not gonna be very useful for most poc.

Finally, 500 years of colonialism has meant that so many Black, Indigenous and poc communities have internalized white, European standards of beauty and aesthetic norms. One of the most painful experiences I have had as a fat brown guy has been the constant fat shaming in my own community. But this is painful especially because I know skinny white bodies were not always idealized in my culture. There is so much anecdotal evidence (art, poetry, music, etc.) that shows us that all kinds of bodies were revered in South Asian culture. And yet because of colonialism that history is often lost or remains unspoken. These are conversations white fat activists wouldn’t even begin to know how to have. So I think all of these things illustrate the importance of poc only spaces for fat poc’s.

Are conversations about fatness, and specifically about fatness and race easier to have in queer spaces? How much does intersectionality play into the IGF project?

I think it really depends on what kind of queers are present in the room. Sometimes folks will internalize dominant ideas about race & fatness, and so obviously those conversations are even harder to have than with say, straight white folks who just don’t like fat or queer people. But IGF is born through the intersections we carry as queer, racialized, fat folks and so we try our best to make sure the spaces we create and facilitate are always keenly attuned to the ways in which intersectionality impacts our experiences of marginalization.

What’s the best response you’ve witnessed to fatshaming?

“Fuck you, no one cares about your diet!”

What do you think of the recent articles about how fat positivity isn’t just for bigger women? I noticed you used ‘self identify as fat’ on your tumblr. At what point does thin privilege take over self identifying as fat? Does it?

There’s definitely this hierarchy of who gets to be celebrated for speaking out on fat issues and who gets completely ignored. Even within fat activism supersize folks have often felt excluded (even at NOLOSE!). There’s also the danger of who becomes the “face” of “fat positivity”. The idea that Lena Dunham’s body is radical or revolutionary in any way to be so nude all the time on Girls just shows how much work there still needs to be done when it comes to body positivity. These are things we are still thinking about, but so far we haven’t had any issues with workshops or video submissions. At the end of the day, as long as folks are aware of the privileges they carry and how much space they take up, we’re not interested in policing definitions of fatness. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

Reserve tickets for tonight’s 6:30pm event at venusenvy.ca, by phone 613-789-4646, or in person at the Bank St. Ottawa location. 

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