Anna Olson knows a thing or two about the hot and steamy romances that can ensue from working in a kitchen together.
The wife of her former executive chef Michael Olson, she was asked by colleague chef Jason Bangerter, to speak at a Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) presentation of Mostly Martha, as part of their Food on Film series.
In an interview before the presentation, Olson said the German film (subtitled in English), which she has on DVD at home, is meaningful to her on several levels.
“There’s a lot of little things in the kitchen you can relate to,” she said.
For instance, when main character Martha, played by Martina Geddeck lets her emotions take over, she often finds refuge in the walk-in refrigerator. “When you can’t leave and you need to physically and emotionally cool down, that’s where you go,” said Olson, with a laugh.
And the incidence of peer relationships is a fact of life in the industry, added Olson. “It’s such an adrenaline-charged industry, and your social life doesn’t fit within the norm,” she said. “You end up socializing with your own.”
However, her own romance didn’t follow the same path as the two main characters who start off as rivals in the film. Olson never felt her husband was her competitor.
“We worked together first and had a mutual respect for each other,” she said. “The relationship came later.”
Bangerter, the executive chef for the onsite O&B Canteen and Luma, explains the cast’s excellent portrayal of life in the kitchen when he introduced the film last Tuesday evening at the Bell Lightbox. Chef and Food Designer Rocco Dressel put the cast through their paces teaching them everything from knife-handling skills to fish-gutting. The actors prepared full three to four-course meals daily and the director joined them to eat their day’s work as they acquired the skills to make themselves appear true professionals in the film.
Olson found herself relating to Martha’s uptight character, while the love interest, Mario (a chef played by Sergio Castellitto), was much more like her husband Michael.
“I’m the straight-line,” she said. “He’s the wavy line.” Olson admitted that she tends to be a little more rigid, whereas Michael is a little more carefree, and more likely to have the music blaring in the kitchen à la Mario.
Kitchen politics can make working together difficult, and Olson said her husband had to be mindful of not appearing to play favourites with the staff at Inn on the Twenty. Soon enough the small inn expanded and decided to start creating their own breads on-site and Olson who had dreamed of pursuing baking took on the role as pastry chef, making things run a little smoother.
The now Food Network host of such television shows, including Sugar and Fresh with Anna Olson, said that it was career opportunities, and not friction in the kitchen that pushed her and her husband along different paths. The two often collaborate together, whether it be with their bakery in the Niagara Region, or the iPad app recently created by the pair and the producers of Olson’s upcoming television show, Bake.
And just as Martha and Mario managed to make things work by incorporating family life and their love of food, the Olson’s also use food as an expression of love.
Olson explained that she sometimes come home to a “week’s worth of suppers,” when she’s away for the week filming her television show. “I love it, and eat all I possibly can,” she said of one incident when her husband set up five different pizza stations for her on a Friday night.
She hopes everyone can appreciate the film for its romance and amazing food.
You don’t need Reese Witherspoon smiling until her cheeks hurt to make a romance movie,” she said. “We often overlook German cuisine but there are several parallels between fine-dining in Germany and in Canada. Twenty years ago, the whole ‘fresh-local’ thing, they were already deep into it.”
Moviegoers were given recipe cards for Olson’s Veal Schnitzel, which was also served at Luma after the movie showing.
For more details on TIFF’s Food on Film series visit http://tiff.net/filmsandschedules/tiffbelllightbox/2012/4400001101