I started my day at 8am at a Media Breakfast and Press Conference with US based Celebrity Superstar Chefs Mario Batali and Tyler Florence and our own Iron Chef winning superstar Chef Chuck Hughes and also up and coming Toronto Chef Rob Gentile who owns 3 popular Toronto restaurants, Bar Buca, Buca and Buca Yorkville and soon to be partners with Jamie Oliver in his 1st Canadian Jamie's Italian restaurant that will open in the spring at Yorkdale Mall. I chatted with Chef Gentile and he said that it will be located facing the Dufferin Street side near the TD Bank.
Chef Batali just released a new cookbook called AMERICA - FARM TO TABLE and he and was here to promote it in a quick stop. So quick that he did his book signing in record time... and unfortunately I didn't get a chance to chat with him but I hope he comes back for the new Food and Wine Festival that was announced at the morning Press Conference for the 1st time next September. Mario is a very busy man, he owns 26 restaurants and is also one of the hosts of The Chew television show which airs daily on ABC. Chef Batali also did a cooking demo of Veal involontini and fried eggplant and angel hair pasta. I picked up a couple of ideas but wish I could have tried a sample of the food.
Tyler Florence was also in town to promote his yet to be officially released new cookbook INSIDE THE TEST KITCHEN. I have been watching Tyler Florence on Food Network for a long time and have always really liked his cooking style but I have a new found respect for him after listening to him at the show. He really is ahead of the curve on where food is going. Not about the latest in molecular gastronomy but in how to maximize the taste and techniques of cooking by finding better ways to make already known foods and recipes. He took inspiration from Instagram and twitter for his current book and took suggestions for things he should TEST in his newly built Test Kitchen. He shot all of the photos on his ipad for the book himself.. a man after my own heart as I take most of my food photos at home with my Ipad because you can do it quickly and see the details of every shot. He would sometimes spend a week perfecting a technique and developed a way to cook a Turkey in an hour and a half and Risotto in half the time without sacrificing the flavour or texture. Tyler is really tapped into what people want and understands that it's now a process of a conversation on giving people what they actually want. He tapped into the whole Food Truck scene years ago, way before it exploded the way it has and he is probably directly responsible for bringing attention to it and spreading the word on what Food Trucks really are. He said that when he tried to pitch the show years ago people thought he was crazy and that food trucks were gross and nobody was going to want to buy food off a construction site type of food truck. Well he proved them wrong. When asked about what trend he would like to see go away he said the reality star television chefs. We had to laugh because my friend Mary just competed in show called Pressure Cooker. She agreed with Tyler though because his point was that you have to learn your craft to be a Chef and you can't earn it over night.
I was really excited to get a copy of his new cookbook at the show where they had a few copies on sale. The cookbook hasn't even been released officially yet and won't be in the stores for another week.
I flipped through quickly and was really impressed by the layout and design, the clarity of the recipes and the photos. I know I will be using this book.
Chuck Hughes.. yes I have said this many times but he reminds me why he is my favourite every time I see him. He always goes above and beyond most of the other chefs. Here's an example of his day at the show. At 8am he welcomed the media and talked about what he would be doing for the Executive chef series workshop. Then he did a book signing at 11am, he roamed the show talking selfies with the vendors and people at the show, he did his Executive Chef series class and after all of that he closed the show with his regular 1 hour long demo on the Celebrity Cooking Stage. He wasn't supposed to do a book signing after the demo but he hung around afterward and posed for photos and talked to every single person that wanted to meet him. A real class act. I did get to try a bite of the dessert he made at the demo and it was as delicious as I knew it would be. His mom and aunt were also there and an audience member even asked his mom a question. Oh and I forgot to mention he answered questions from the audience while he was doing the cooking demo.
The best part is that I keep going to see him more for his "stand up" act than the cooking as he is as hilarious as some of the best comics.
Then there is the more serious Mark McEwan. Chef Mark is kind of a perfectionist Chef. He will take a seemingly simple dish like the Lobster Poutine recipe that he was doing a demo on and elevate it to the highest quality he can get it. Perfectly cooked fries, butter poached lobster and a bernaise sauce. Chef McEwan also did a book signing and one of the Executive chef series classes. He doesn't get hounded for selfies as much as Chuck does though. He invited some of the audience up to taste the poutine at the end of his demo... it was a frenzy and I went up at the tail end and got the last couple of fries left and dunked them into the Bernaise sauce and it was delicious. I didn't get any lobster but that was ok. Chef McEwan's next project is the opening of a Mini McEwan store in the TD centre in April.
I didn't try a lot of the food at the show this year and plan to try and go back just to try more of the food. It's a great way to try food from restaurants you haven't had a chance to get to yet. I did try the "pork belly taco" from Hudson Kitchen. It was a spicy sweet taco style in a crepe like shell. Hudson Kitchen is one of the Celebrity hotspots on Dundas St. West. I haven't had a chance to go there yet so at least I got to sample a bit of their food.
I also tried a sample of Ontario Pork Kimchi taco, for some reason it seems to be a trend to make some kind of tacos at events because that's all I have seen lately and there was at least a half a dozen Tacos available at the show.
One of the other trends lately has been salted caramel everything and smores everything. I tried both a salted caramel and a bite of a smores popsicle by Parts and Labour.
Rob Gentile (Buca) and Matt from (Parts and Labour)
Some of the other foods to check out are really pretty and will satisfy your sweet tooth like these Macarons from AG Macarons and cute little mini fun cookies from Teeny Tiny Bakery. They were so cute and fun and would be great for parties and gifts. Von doughnuts are also there with an assortment of interesting flavours and one Halloween inspired doughnut too.
Other vendors included Christine Manning of Manning Canning who is trying to crowd source a community kitchen in Leaside. There was also Louise tomato sauce, Foodie pages gift boxes, Slow cooking sauces and sausages and drinks by Parachute coffee and more.
Don't forget to check out the Crazy Plate Lady too. She does hand painted plates of your favourite Chefs, food and other familiar things. Great for gifts. She is very talented.
There is so much great stuff to check out so I hope you get a chance to go and try some of the treats and sit in on a chef demo too.