Sew Hungry – Hamilton’s Restaurant Food Truck Rally

Attention Ontario Foodies: one of the most anticipated culinary events of the year is only one week away!

Sew Hungry Restaurant and Food Truck Rally will shut down Ottawa Street in Hamilton on Friday May 2, 2014. With over 55 food vendors, the award-winning event brings a large foodie crowd to the Garment District of the city for its 4th year running. This event garners more attention and interest each year, cultivating and preserving the culinary community within Hamilton. Alongside the many vendors that will surely satisfy even the ravenous appetites, chefs will be doing cooking demonstrations throughout the day!

I had the chance to talk with event organizer, Elisha Proietti, who graciously spoke to me about the ways in which Sew Hungry has grown.

FGFS: How did Sew Hungry come about? What drew you to Ottawa Street?

Elisha Proietti: I was hired by the BIA about 4 years ago as the Manager for the Ottawa Street Farmers’ Market as well as the Events Coordinator for the Ottawa Street BIA.  Ottawa Street has been booming for awhile now and the BIA wanted to add more events to the street to bring more attention to its growth.  4 years ago when Sew Hungry started, the food truck scene was just starting to rear its head.  Gorilla Cheese had just hit the streets and El Gastro had really just paved the way for this movement to begin.  We wanted to remind people that Ottawa Street, although famous for it’s textiles, had a lot more to offer!  Including some great restaurants!  Bringing in food trucks was a perfect way to expose foodies to the great eats we have to offer on the street.  Typically people will go out for lunch on a Friday and we wanted to get them thinking about Ottawa Street when they do that!  So, I called in Graeme from Gorilla Cheese and proposed the idea of a Food Truck Rally along Ottawa St to him and he loved it!  We rallied together about 9 trucks (we were begging trucks to come at the first Sew Hungry) and here we are today!

FGFS: Congrats on having such a successful event last year! What makes this year even better?

EP: Thank you! We were blown away by how well received the event was last year!  As an event planner, you are always looking at the event from a different angle than the attendees.  I think sometimes we are our own worst critic, which can be a good thing!  This year there are a lot of new additions to the event that we are excited about.  We have firstly added more trucks to the roster so that we can accommodate the crazy numbers we saw from last year!  We will have 35 trucks this year serving curbside, which is pretty awesome.  We also have Roux Commercial Kitchen and Commissary who is sponsoring and providing what they are calling the Sew Hungry Kitchen Stadium!  The stadium will feature Local Guest Chefs which are being sponsored and provided by Go Cooking of the Hamilton Spectator, who will be doing cooking demonstrations throughout the day!  We will also be shutting down 5 side streets this year to provide additional tables and seating for people.  It is shaping itself up to be the best Sew Hungry yet, and we are constantly making sure that each year outdoes the last.

FGFS: You have so many amazing vendors, how do you pick the participants?

EP: The growth of this event has been pretty surreal to watch.  In the first year we had 9 trucks and it was difficult to get those 9.  This year we have 35 trucks participating and we had 53 trucks apply.  This was just by the deadline, I still have trucks calling me on a daily basis asking if they can be a part of the event.  It is a great thing but it is also makes it that much harder.  The Events Committee agreed one of the best ways to decide, was to taste test all of the new trucks that applied to the event.  OnFebruary 26th, we had 6 judges come in to the BIA office.  They got to meet the new trucks and try all of their food first hand.  It was a really incredible day.  The trucks all brought their A game and it was inspiring to see how passionate they are about food.  They have really taken street food to a whole new level and you could see it in the way they presented the food and in how simply delicious the dishes tasted.  Needless to say, we were all absolutely stuffed at the end of the day.  Maybe next year we will be sure to spread it out over a week.  26 taste tests in 4 hours proved to be very difficult!  I think some of us didn’t eat for days after that!  As the event grows, this aspect is going to get harder and harder, but at 35 trucks we are already maxed out on space and we also want to ensure that our own restaurants have a great business day as well!  We have an incredible lineup of trucks this year and we are so excited for Hamilton to have the chance to try them!

FGFS: Organizing a Food Truck Rally isn’t a small feat! How do you it all?

EP: There is a lot more work that goes into it than what people realize!  We take that as a compliment though.  I have had people in the past ask me if we could do it once a month, or every weekend, which would be impossible!  Part of the fun of the event is that it’s something to look forward to every year.  Planning for Sew Hungry starts in the fall, and each year I seem to try and get things started earlier and earlier.  The BIA has an amazing Executive board and Events committee that always step up and help wherever they can.  Other than that it takes a lot of organization and planning to make sure that every detail is looked after!  Event planning always comes off to people as this whimsical, fun, party job but thats not the case.  It’s a lot of hard work and you have to really love and care about what you are doing in order to do it well.  Just like any other job!

FGFS: Any advice for a Sew Hungry first timer, like myself?

EP: I think my best Sew Hungry advice is to come in a group and divide and conquer.  We have an amazing website that was done by Orbital Studios and there is a great interactive map on the homepage that can help you plan ahead! I also recommend a pair of stretchy pants (jogging pants, Lululemons, Modrobes for the old schoolers). The least busy times are usually 11am – noon and 4pm – 5pm so if you can get here then that will help too!

FGFS: Lastly, favourite place to eat in Hamilton?

EP: Hamilton has become such an incredible place for food so it’s really hard to pick just one. I think my Italian roots always draw me to Café Limoncello. Those pizzas are just so good. Bruno is a fantastic chef and Nancy Leo, who owns the restaurant, is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and it shows!

Come out and enjoy this delicious community on Friday May 2, 2014 from
11am – 3pm and 4pm – 8pm. We’ll see you there!

Sew Hungry on the Web:
Website
Twitter
Facebook

Advertisements

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.

FGFS_FidelGastros_Interview-RL-5 (1)

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.

FGFS_FidelGastros_Interview-RL-6 (1)

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.

FGFS_FidelGastros_Interview-RL-2 (1)

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.

FGFS_FidelGastros_Interview-RL-8

All photos by Rochelle Latinsky

 

Lookin’ Good Girl: In Conversation with Photographer Erin Leydon

It’s been a privilege to get to know Toronto-based photographer Erin Leydon. Since making acquaintance on Instagram earlier this year I’ve had the pleasure of dining with Erin and talking about one of my greatest loves, Food Photography. A while back I asked Erin to come into FGFS HQ to chat about her art and the biz and how it all came together for her. I hope everyone finds my interview with her to be as interesting as I do.

Eat to the Beat preview: Alexandra Feswick brings it home for breast cancer

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

Eat to the Beat, is celebrating its 18th year, on October 22nd event. Named one of BizBash’s Top 100 Events in Canada, it has gained a reputation as the event for foodies in the city to experience the talents of 60 female chefs while supporting women and another notable cause, breast cancer.

The event, in support of Willow Breast Cancer Support Cancer and has raised more than $3.2 million and is unique in the fact that over 80% of the evening’s proceeds are directed to Willow’s free programs and services.

yulischeidt-alexfeswick

One of the female chefs at this year’s Eat to the Beat Gala is Alexandra Feswick from the Samuel J. Moore, which sits in the bottom of the beloved Great Hall on Queen West. I had a chance to chat with her about being a part of Eat to the Beat, if she’s ever known anyone effected by cancer and the badass females in her life.

 

(1) Tell me about your involvement with Eat to the Beat

Alexandra: My involvement with Eat to the Beat started last year and I’m thrilled to be part of such a great cause again this year.   The event is a wonderful celebration of women and life!

PinkMafia_YuliScheidt_EatToTheBeat_6

(2) Have you ever known anyone who has been effected by breast cancer?

Alexandra: 
The first and most devastating contact I had with breast cancer was in high school – a very dear friend of mine’s mother passed away because of it.  Tears come to my eyes just thinking about it as I send off this email – she was such a beautiful person – who raised some truly amazing daughters.  They certainly didn’t deserve to go through what they did – The effect her death had on their family and my community of peers was a heartbreaking reality that they carry with them everyday.  If I can help change this effect/help prevent others from going through what they went through – then sign me up!  People dealing with breast cancer shouldn’t have to do it alone or fight without a hope in sight.  I sincerely feel like events like this help people find faith and hope in one day actually finding a cure.

(3) Tell me about some of the recipes that your mother and grandmother passed down through the ages?



Alexandra: This month Toronto Life is putting out their annual recipe book. In there, I submitted a recipe for my mom’s Minestrone soup. I told them that if I was on death row, I would request this as the last thing I ever ate.  It’s like a hug from my mom every time I think about it, never mind eat it.

I think my mom’s sick of me requesting it. Every time she offers to cook for me, I say yes. She can cook a lot of really great things but this is definitely my favorite – haha!

Pickled beets is another example of warm nostalgia I get from food that remind me of my mom and my grandmother. My mom used to have to hide the beets because as a child I would eat them so quickly my grandma couldn’t keep up! I would literally keep eating them the same way some kids eat cookies. I was a strange kid – haha!

8721801341_4f1494ceca_z

(4) Did you like cooking in the kitchen with your family?  Who taught you how to cook?



Alexandra: I would have to say that both of my parents had a huge impact on my ability and passion to cook.  When my brother and I were growing up, on a monthly basis my parents would take us to the library and we would research a different country. We would then start a scrap book with a map and interesting things about that particular place – most importantly we would cook – together as a family we would come up with different dishes that were special the place we had researched.  It was beautiful and something I hope to do with my children one day.

(5) Is there a special dish that you will be preparing for Eat to the Beat?

This year I am going to make Gnudi with shiitake mushrooms and pea shoots. This dish is inspired by a special trip I made to ‘The Spotted Pig’ a few years ago and based on my mom’s famous mushroom and pea dish, a family wide request every Christmas. My mom’s family is made up of about 50 (pretty opinionated) people – so you can imagine, if they all agree, it must be good!

PinkMafia_YuliScheidt_EatToTheBeat_4

Take a Trip Down to The Pie Hole

ohhhsavory
This comes to use our resident Los Angeles Fat Babe and Squad Leader Heather. Read her full bio here.
 downthepiehole
I’m so glad I got to write an article about the Pie Hole. It was totally worth the digestion issues I have with eating wheat. If I’m going to be bad, this was the place to do it! It was hard to coordinate a good time for Lindsay, the owner of the Pie Hole, myself, and my photographer Alex to get together, but one magical day it happened.
lindsay
I was actually bored to death and about to take an afternoon nap when Alex hit me up to come over. It just so happened that he had his fancy camera with him and Lindsay was at the Pie Hole, score!
thehole
I’m not sure if It’s a blessing or a curse but I live across the street from the Pie Hole. Alex and I took a jaunt over, met up with Lindsay and the gang, and proceeded to stuff a ton of delicious pie down our holes.
Here’s a little interview I did with Lindsay. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed eating the pie (but you probably won’t, and you’re totally missing out)!
1.Hi! What’s your name and what is it you do?
Lindsay, Part Owner/ Front of House Manager and person in charge of Social Media.
2. Can you tell me how the Pie Hole came to be?
My fiancee’s mother has been baking her entire life. It was her lifelong dream to open a pie shop. About three years ago we started talking about opening a shop and decided Los Angeles would be the best place to do it.
3. How long have you been here in the Arts District?
Two years in October
Earl Grey Pie

Earl Grey Pie

4. What’s your favorite savory and sweet pie?
Chicken and Cornbread Pot Pie and Maple Custard
5. Do you ever get sick of eating pie? If so, what’s your go to food?
Sometimes! I’ve always gone to comfort food, so anything with carbs. Pasta, bread, cheese…..wine! That’s a food group for me.
6. What’s next for the Pie Hole?
Opening another location soon! And continuing to grow in our Arts District location.
7. Can we get your pie anywhere else besides here in the Arts District?
Soon! Also, Amazon delivers our product through Amazon Fresh local to Los Angeles.
Crostata

Crostata

8. Do you like tacos?
Of course! But tex mex versions. I grew up in Ohio and that’s how we did it.
9. Do you need a beta tester for experimental pies?
I think we are our own testers!
10. Will you open a Pie Hole in Toronto so my fat girls can indulge in your magic?
There is a Pie Hole in Vancouver. But not us, so maybe they aren’t as good!

Chefs Becky Ross & Chris Shaften Invite You to Sweet Tea: A Night in Mississippi

beckyross1
Hey girl hey! It’s Chef Becky Ross.

You might recognize the name Becky Ross. She went on Top Chef Canada in season 3 for kicks and peaced out when she knew the show wasn’t her speed. If you ever ate at Maléna on Avenue Road here in Toronto you’ve tasted her talents.

The Medicine Hat, AB native is back home in her adoptive land of Toronto and she’s throwing a good old Southern inspired dinner with pal Chris Shaften (also a Southern Alberta native and Top Chef Season 3 deserter). Both are known for their inspired renditions of classic and home food so we know Sweet Tea: A Night in Mississippi is going to be mighty tasty!

Recently, the Squad caught up with Becky to ask her about her the event and of course Top Chef, but also about her personal flare, being a girl in the biz and good cookin’.

FGFS: Did you always want to become a chef?
Becky Ross: Nope!  For years I was going to do something with animals: veterinarian, zoologist, biologist.  I didn’t know, but something.
FGFS: What has been your more valuable lesson since becoming a chef?
BR: Learning how to communicate with people in the way that they will be most receptive to you.
FGFS:  Besides your knives, what is the biggest asset you have in the kitchen?
BR: Improvisational skills and calm reactions to adverse things.
FGFS:  What was it like being on Top Chef Canada?  Do you think you will ever regret leaving when you did.  Any predictions on who will win?