Tin Chef Competition at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Written by Aviva Cohen

I arrived 15 minutes after doors opened because Liberty Village is a maze.  At one point I crumbled into myself in the snow and cried. I wondered if I would die like Jack Torrance in The Shining sans axe.
Luckily, I found Mildred’s and my Liberty Village journey would be worth it as delicious h’orderves were promised.  Oh, and I guess to see the cooking competition.

While standing with the large crowd, fighting for a good sight line of 5 home chefs chopping, sautéing, mashing, cutting and [insert cooking term you learned while watching The Food Network at 1 a.m. to impress your pals] — I overhead an older man say to his partner, “if you had told me 10 years ago that cooking would be a spectator sport, I would have said you were crazy.”

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The evening was a replica of Iron Chef, including the secret ingredient of duck.  The chefs had an hour to complete 4 dishes for the judges, which included:

Alida Solomon, head chef & proprietor of Tutti Matti Restaurant
Paul Brans, professional big wig chef at Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants
Saverio Marci, master chef of Cibo Wine Bar

The competitors that evening were Meghan Legere, Jill Chen, Gav Martell, Deborah Brewster and Ronn Reaman. Of the chefs taking part, Deborah seemed to have the largest and most enthusiastic cheering section, with friends and family making cut outs of her face and positive signage.  I can only imagine the multitude of ways those face cut outs could be used down the road.  Ronn Reaman was the only competitor who had a professional chef’s jacket on.  I tried to Google him, but came up empty.  It makes me wonder if there is a chef out there in Toronto missing their jacket right now.  Hmm.

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Each chef had their own prep station including a food pantry and cooking station.  While chefs were busy prepping their veg (boring…I chop veggies at home too.. this is nothing new), I concentrated on filling my belly with h’orderves.  I mean, I paid good money to be here!  (Err, or the handy editors of FGFS asked me to spend my precious time covering this event)  The trout that came dressed up on a tiny spoon, shot glasses filled with butternut squash soup, fancy bread, and poached pears.  The h’orderves train (filled with real people with hopes and dream) had come to a full stop just as the competition did.   But then, as if the heavenly gates had opened, the dessert came out. Ginger cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pancake balls (!!!) and other chocolate type confections endlessly flowed from the kitchen.

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While I kept an eye on the competition, Ronn was attempting to bribe the judges with booze (Spoiler Alert, Ronn! It didn’t work. Paul Brans also reminded everyone that chefs don’t like ice in their alcohol.)  It also seemed like everyone had the same idea, using similar ingredients except for Jill.  She was making wraps (from scratch).  I thought she was doing a play on a traditional Peking duck dish but in her finished product, the wraps were gigantic which I knew based on my advanced knowledge of watching cooking competitions on TV, that did not bode well for her chances.

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Things heated up (good pun) when the chefs went to their cooking stations, using the open concept professional kitchen at Mildred’s. Both Deborah and Gav used mashed potatoes while Meghan had the best looking plate, making a pretty salad bowl with cucumbers.  Each judge was given ten minutes to each and judge.  Unfortunately, they deliberated in private and promptly announced the winner, which meant we were not privy to why one dish was better than the other.  They did remind everyone that seasoning is a chef’s best friend.  According to anything I’ve ever read by Anthony Bourdain it’s actually hard drugs.

I however, overheard the judge’s comment on Gav’s dish, which ended up being the winner.  Congrats Gav!  I overheard that his duck had been cooked perfectly but the grapes he used were a little weird.

I guess the secret to winning a cooking competition goes as follows:

•    Are you Morimoto? A1) Are you sure? Did you check the mirror?
•    If you are not Morimoto proceed to steps C through E
•    Cook protein perfectly
•    Season well
•    Add some weird ingredient, which will make you seem like an eccentric so the judges will be scared of you and pronounce you the winner.

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Ricardo Is Slow Cooking For Friends

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

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You may know Ricardo from his largely popular Food Network television show, Ricardo and Friends. Just recently, Ricardo released a book through HarperCollins dedicated to one of everyone’s largely misunderstood kitchen tools: the slow cooker. The cookbook entitled, “Slow Cooker Favourites” shows Ricardo’s enthusiasm for slow foods and takes readers on a journey of slow-cooked foods.

He’s very open about the fact that before he started experimenting, he was of the same mind of others, “Slow cooked foods would look brown and mushy and unappetitizing. But when I started researching, I realized the amounts of foods you could cook that were colourful and could have just as great, if not better results.”

Over time, Ricardo became a preacher of all things slow-cooked, mentioning to me that his three daughters enjoy all the meals he has test-drived on them including Meatloaf and Chicken Satay in a Peanut Sauce. “My daughters are some picky eaters but I have been able to meal plan with them, save money and our family has been eating out less, thanks to the Slow-Cooker.”

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The biggest thing while flipping through the pages of Ricardo’s new book is the variety of recipes including desserts. He tells me that his favourite is the Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sauce, as you can never have enough leftovers for later. But Ricardo also highlights the practical, economical, healthy and ecological uses of the slow cooker. He tells me, “Everyone feels short on time but the nice thing about the slow-cooker is you can have a meal with the people you love, changed daily – no matter how much time you are. That decompression you get to have over not putting too much time/effort – priceless. It’s the most important thing.”

So take the slow-cooker challenge and test-drive some of Ricardo’s recipes out for yourself. You’ll even shock yourself at what you can achieve.

[CONTEST] Angela Aiello Founder of iYellow Wine Club Inspires New Generation of Winos

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If you’re like me, wine only meant what was cheapest and what was easiest to consume. I never really understood their was difference in wine and flavours until I reached my late twenties and I discovered my passion for good wine from different regions.

Oddly enough, there are many other like-minded young urban professionals in Toronto who also share this passion for wine-tasting and good food. This is where iYellow Wine Club comes into play, filling in a void in the Toronto’s urban market. Angela Aiello, owner of iYellow offers a unique wine club that host monthly wine events at an affordable cost and specialize in reputable wineries region each month.

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The secret to iYellow’s success lies in Aiello knowledge and love of wine. I chatted with her about the club, building wine confidence and what people can experience.

(1) Tell me about iYellow Wine Club and how did you come up with the concept?

iYellow Wine Club was created when I moved from wine country to Toronto and wanted to share wine with friends. When I moved to Toronto in 2005 after University, I worked in the wine business for close to a decade. I had a fun time throwing wine parties built around wine education for friends, which inspired iYellow Wine Club. Now the club is 10,000 members strong!

(2) For people who are attending the wine club, what if they don’t have a background in wine – should they feel intimidated?

I’ve designed the iYellow Wine Club to be fun, social and very un-intimidating. Wine has always been so stuffy, and I think it needs to be more indie. The vision has always been around helping people understand wine, not making them feel stupid just because they don’t know. One of the greatest things about wine is that no one knows everything, so we all get to learn together.

(3) What is the average cost per class and what does an attendee get?

We run over 24 classes per year for iYellow Wine School and with each class you receive a tasting and tutorial through 6 wines and light food pairings. You can also book a small group or corporate experience through us as well, we have a really cool venue for you to use. When you enroll in 4 or 8 classes you receive a diploma as well.

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(4) Does the world of wine only end at red and white? What other kinds of wine are there that people may not know about and can experience through the club.

The world of wine doesn’t end anywhere!! There is so much to learn from sparkling wine to fortified, there is so much great juice out there!! The only way to learn about wine is to taste it and I think, you need to live it! That means it becomes a lifestyle where you love to eat, sip, travel and enjoy life.

(5) People think that wine can be a very expensive beverage to purchase but does the iYellow Wine Club help recommend good bottles in varying price points?


I’m a BIG believer in anything that offers value! So yes recommending great value and good tasting wines is what we’re all about. But more than anything we’re about Wine Confidence and by that I mean we help give you the tools to make your own decisions on whether you feel wine is your favourite or worth the money.

(6) Who are the type of people to attend and join?

A glass of wine unites everyone, but suffice it to say that we are all wino’s, foodies, travellers and friends!

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Fat Girl Food Squad is giving away a pair of tickets to iYellow Wine Club’s November 18th VQA Blind Tasting. It’s easy to win!
Contest runs from THURSDAY NOVEMBER 7th and ends on THURSDAY NOVEMBER 14th @ 5PM.

1) Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Twitter.

2) Like iYellow Wine Club on Facebook.

2) Tweet the following: “Send me to the VQA Blind Tasting with @iyellowwineclub #FGFSlovesiYellow”

The Delicious Food Show Brings Martha Stewart to Toronto

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

Foodies!  Are you half as excited about The Delicious Food Show as I am?  Happening this weekend (October 25-27), The Delicious Food Show is Toronto’s newest and highly anticipated decadent food and lifestyle design event.

Some of your favourite food and entertaining personalities will be presenting at the Food Network stage including Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef fame, Mark McEwan from Top Chef Canada, Lynn Crawford fromPitchin’ In, Chef Cobrin from Dinner Party Wars and Chuck Hughes from Chuck’s Day Off.  But the biggest guest of them all will be: household name, best-selling author, TV show host and queen of all “good things,”Martha Stewart.

This ultimate Foodie event will feature over three and a half pleasure packed days, cooking demonstrations, food pairings and hands-on food seminars.

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In the GE Cafe, you’ll be able to register and take in up to 50 classes throughout the show including sushi rolling.  Or if you love the PC Black Label gourmet food line, check out Chef, Tom Filippou and the experts at the Loblaws space to see what’s exciting and new!

Five of the city’s top mobile kitchens will be taking part in Food Trucks for Mt Sinai to raise funds for an incredible cause.  A variety of dishes for $10 from Buster’s Sea Cove, Gourmet Bitches, Feisty Jack, Gourmet Gringos and Fidel Gastro. A portion of the Food Trucks for Sinai sales will be donated to Mount Sinai Hospital, in support of support life-saving work in care and research in women’s cancers.

For more information on the show’s schedule or how to go about show tickets, visit the website.

Jamie Oliver Wants ‘Better Food for All’

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Just last week, Jamie Oliver was in town promoting his newest cookbook and television show, “Save with Jamie” and we were invited to an intimate Q&A with him in the Chatelaine Kitchens.

Jamie Oliver is many things to many people. To some, he is the charming British chef who hosted the television show, “The Naked Chef”.  I won’t lie, I may have tuned into the show during my teens hoping there would be a naked chef.  But Oliver has had many more accolades in his career than Naked Chef.  Since then, he has campaigned against fast-food chains and tried to work on healthy eating for all, through improving people’s knowledge of food, helping to provide cooking skills and recipe building.

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In this latest book and television show  “Save with Jamie” (airing on Food Network Canada, Sunday mornings)  he teaches us how to prepare money saving meals that are affordable, delicious and tasty.  In his Q&A at the Chatelaine Kitchens, Oliver spoke to how we should try more fresh food and become more adventurous in the kitchen.  In his book he shows people how to shop smart, cook clever and waste less by preparing meals that last longer.

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For those unable to obtain a copy of the book (or don’t have cable, like myself): Sobeys, Canada’s second-biggest supermarket chain, has teamed up with Jamie to launch a program Canada-wide entitled, “Better Food for All”.  With this program, Oliver is working with the retailer to provide weekly recipes and cooking tips online and in stores.  In the market you’ll also be able to obtain not only Jamie Oliver’s branded line of cooking products but certified “humane” chicken, pork and beef in the grocery department and a bigger section of products free from artificial flavours and preservatives.

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Armed with Jamie’s tips to be adventurous in the kitchen and some money saving recipes, we’re excited to try out what “Save with Jamie” and the “Better Food for All” program have in store.

Abbey heats up Kitchen Stadium

Abbey Sharp of Abbey's Kitchen

Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen

Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium (AKS) is a fun-filled & interactive event, different than most food events one may attend.  The food series (with the second Kitchen Stadium taking place on Sunday July 21, 2013 from 1-4PM at Mod Club) takes all the elements and surprise of Iron Chef but keeps the fun spirit of a great food party, all in the name of charity: My Food, My Way.  Abbey Sharp (namesake of AKS) tells me that , My Food My Way is a local food initiative that goes into elementary schools and empowers kids to get excited about food and nutrition in a way that makes sense to them.

The most important part of Kitchen Stadium, the competitors!  Abbey confides that, “Each of the chefs are hand-selected by me.  It’s actually very challenging but once I do nail one in, I try to consider his/her forte and build around it.” and she has brought in the big guns for round number two:

  •    Chef Eric Wood from The Beverley Hotel
    •    Chef Peter Ramsay from The Geraldine
    •    Chef Jesse Vallins from The Saint
    •    Chef Rodney Bowers from Hey Meatball, Food Network

So once the competitors are rolled out, how exactly does a Kitchen Stadium play out (for those who haven’t attended)?  Well, it is a lot like Iron Chef.  Abbey tells me, “I was noticing (from other food events I attended) that other people were just standing in line and eating. There often isn’t much else going on to keep people entertained.”  In turn, Abbey combined the popular ‘pop-up’ food event model with the excitement of a competition food event and magic was born. “Everyone is already familiar with “Iron Chef”, so the way it works is that we have a secret ingredient, and the four chefs have to craft up two dishes each using that secret ingredient.”

In the end, all dishes are judged by an esteemed panel of judges whom will decide the fate of the chef’s dishes:

  •    Trish Magwood – Food Network Host & Cookbook Author
    •    Vita Chambers – Pop-Star (New Single “Fix You”)
    •    Mike Chalut – Proud FM celebrity host & actor
    •    Maggie McKeown – Food Network Judge
    •    Secret Ingredient Judge – It’s a secret!

The winner from this Kitchen Stadium (along with the Kitchen Stadium’s following it)  will be invited to the final cook-off, hosted at the Food Network sponsored Delicious Food Show.

When I chatted with Abbey, I asked her if she could create her own Kitchen Stadium with any chefs from anywhere in the world who would she invited? She told me it was tough but if she really had to choose:

    •    Chef Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck, UK
    •    René Redzepi from Noma, Copenhagen
    •    Daniel Humm from Eleven Madison Park, New York City
    •    Thomas Keller from The French Laundry, California

Abbey tells me, “I believe that would offer a vast range of styles and applications of the secret ingredient and would surely draw in a crowd. Tickets would be $250 per head (what you would pay at their restaurants), all the money would then be donated to My Food My Way!”

Tickets are available for Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium in Partnership with the Toronto Standard and Presented by Forty Creek Whisky happening on Sunday, July 21, 2013 from 1-4PM at The Mod Club for $10 through Uniiverse.  Purchase them now.

Abbey's Kitchen Stadium flyer

Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium flyer

Interview with Chuck Hughes: Heart of a Chef, Soul of a Seagull

Chef Chuck Hughes photographed by Dominique Lafond

Chef Chuck Hughes photographed by Dominique Lafond

Originally posted on Ama’s weekly Breaking Bread column on Toronto is Awesome

Chuck Hughes is a man who loves food. He also loves making you laugh and showing you a good time in the process. Depending how much Food Network Canada you have watched in your day, you may or may not have become acquainted with this French-Canadian chef’s show, “Chuck’s Day Off”. Well, just recently Chuck released his adaptation of the television series (also titled, Chuck’s Day Off) in book form and I had the chance to speak with him on the phone regarding the book, his travels and life, in general.
The book reads like small window panes into Hughes life, with shout-outs and short stories of important people and situations in his life. One that stood out to me most was his tale of his tattoo artist. As many chefs are covered in tattoos from head to toe, Chuck explained “my artists and I have been friends for just over 20 years. He is someone who means a lot to me and I love cooking for.” Chuck got his first tattoo when he was just 18 years old and from then it became an addiction, with several food tattoos covering his arms too However, his first tattoo was a dedication to his mom.

It was Chuck’s mom who inspired him to go into cooking. He tells me, “My mom is seriously the bomb. I always thought I was going to get into advertising or marketing. But when I was 17 years old, I got my first job in a restaurant. I loved the restaurant and cooking. My mom truly believed in me and pushed me to get into the culinary profession.” Since then, Chuck has had many opportunities to cook in the kitchen for his mom and family, as documented here.

But Chuck’s life has always been a great inspiration in all his dishes. For him, food is the greatest connector of all people. “Food inspires people. Life can be so crazy and complicated. But the one big thing that brings people together and people can communicate through is food,” Chuck tells me with great confidence. So for him, he tries to find comfort wherever possible when he is cooking. For Hughes, food should not be, “elitist or stressful. It should be something that people feel in their hearts. That is the comfort of food.” With this style of cooking, he likes to keep it simple and from the heart, like Chicken Noodle Soup.

But Hughes cannot escape his celebrity chef title, as much he may want to. He was one of the youngest chefs to beat out Bobby Flay on Iron Chef USA. But he is humbled by the title telling me, “if you really watched Iron Chef, they hated that Lobster Poutine and that is what I’m famous for!” with some laughter. “My grandma respects herself and she wouldn’t even eat my poutine”. But after much discussion he tells me that having the title is weird, fun but also really humbling. “Cooking is a lot of things: it could be cooking an egg or making a salad. But through & through, I never aspired to be a celebrity chef and I’m just having fun while I’m here.”

You can pick up Chuck Hughes book now at bookstores across the nation. Or you can catch Chuck flying around the nation in his chef spirit animal form of the seagull, which he explained: “may not be noble, but knows how to hunt, float on water and definitely get free food”.

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We are your Food Network Canada Scouts!

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Power is still on here at FGFS HQ in Toronto while the city regroups after having 100+ mm of rain dumped onto it in a 2 hour period during rush hour yesterday. Just so you know, all squad members are a-ok and on dry land.

Now onto some exciting news. Remember back on Canada Day when we posted our entry for the Food Network Canada Scout Content? A steamy and bright, day-glo photoset with Ama and our cosmic cake from OCAD U student and baker Corey. Click here if you missed it, or to refresh your memory.

Well friends, it was annouced yesterday that we won that sucker! We are your FNC Scouts!

What does that mean? It means when we go out on the town to do our thing, eat at new joints, share old favorites, meet other food enthusiasts, or interview chefs, you’ll see us pop up on FNC’s social networks. So you should go follow them now so you don’t miss out!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

100,000 Twitter Followers and Food Network Canada Scout

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After our dear friend, and loyal Fat Girl Food Squad reader, Siobhan Ozege alerted us to the 100,000 Twitter Followers and Food Network Canada Scout contest, us Head Bitches in Charge thought about how much Food Network Canada meant to us in our formative years of food loving and ultimately lead us to starting our own blog.

Yes, it’s true.  Chefs are our rock-stars.  Not only do they make stellar food that inspire us on the daily (for example: Chef Michael Smith’s daily recipes on Chef at Home) but they motivate us to live and try food outside of our comfort zone. LikeChuck Hughes’ journeys on Chuck’s Day Off or John Catucci of You Gotta Eat Herechecking out little dives, like we attempt to at Fat Girl Food Squad.

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There were many nights were Squad Leader Ama stayed up late to watch the original Iron Chef and wished she could be a bad-ass chef like Morimoto.  While we’re not as adept of chefs now (we try), we do know a lot of rad chefs.  So whenFood Network Canada cracked 100K followers, we decided it was time to celebrate!  Our friend, Corey Moranis, makes these incredible deliciously cosmic cakes.  We told Corey our plan to celebrate Food Network Canada’s achivement, and she in turn made the most fabulous 10-tier cake that you have ever seen.

Having ridden with this leaning tower of cake on our laps across Toronto in a taxi cab,we got insight into how difficult pastry chefs and contestants on Last Cake Standing have it. Trust us, it was stressful.  But in the end, we got home and we were able to celebrate in full fashion, including a photo-shoot to celebrate you,Food Network Canada.  It’s because of you, your shows and your hosts that are people like us and our readers are inspired to keep cooking, keep eating and keeping living their foodie rockstar dreams.

But most of all, thanks for giving us a chance to celebrate with this bodacious  cake.

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