Category Archives: Food Network Insider

Vendors selling produce at a booth in the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto

An Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market is Helping Revitalize a Toronto Neighbourhood

Farmers’ markets have become a draw in cities across Canada, offering fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods and other artisan products, but the price points make them cost-prohibitive for those on a fixed income. Toronto’s newest market is changing its surrounding community for the better, breaking down barriers and making it a welcoming place for all.

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market is located in the Little Jamaica-Afro Caribbean Cultural District at Eglinton West and Oakwood. Anyone familiar with the area knows that it has been a sea of construction for close to a decade because of the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line. Shops were shuttering even before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse since.

We spoke with Lori Beazer, Market Manager for the Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market, about its origins and how it’s already making a difference by injecting life back into the neighbourhood and reminding the city that this important cultural hub is still open for business.

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market in the York-Eglinton West neighbourhood of Toronto, Canada

The market first ran as a pilot project in 2017 in a different area of the city, but it didn’t have a home until a chance encounter between Beazer and Toronto City Councillor, Josh Matlow. “I bumped into Councillor Matlow in 2020, introduced myself and pitched the market,” Beazer told us. “He loved it, so we started working on it.”

Related: Food Activist and Dietitian Rosie Mensah Looks at Nutrition Through a Social Justice Lens

Fast forward to the market’s July 2021 launch in partnership with Councillor Matlow and the York-Eglinton BIA, where it found a home in Reggae Lane and the adjacent parking lot on Eglinton West. “Here we are, a year later, and it’s been well-received. Its success shows what the area was craving for so long,” said Beazer.

Visitors to this unique market can shop for clean, culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables from the Caribbean and continental African countries along with clean produce grown by local urban farmers, baked goods, fresh juices, sauces and other artisan products. “We use the word clean instead of organic because this produce is clean of any pesticides, and is grown using diatomaceous earth,” Beazer explained. “The market features clean foods that are locally grown by people that look like them. And I think for them, that’s important.”

Vendors selling homemade condiments at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto, Canada

Until this point, many farmers’ markets across the city exude a sense of exclusivity and elitism, but this is where the Afro-Caribbean Farmer’s Market is breaking the mold. “In having conversations with many of our vendors, they’ve felt a sense of racism when shopping at or even vending at other farmers’ markets,” Beazer disclosed. “We have created a platform where they’re not only able to sell their products, they’re selling out.”

Related: The World’s Biggest Rooftop Farm is in Canada — and Growing Fast

They’ve even gone as far as providing a program for those facing food insecurity called Callaloo Cash, making this farmers’ market accessible to more people, especially those in the neighbourhood. From the earliest stages of planning, the program was always going to be an important facet of this market, according to Beazer.

“I understand this area and a good majority of our population of the African diaspora rarely go to farmers’ markets because they can’t afford it. But we have urban Black farmers who need a space to sell their wares. They’re not travelling a long distance and can get to the site using less mileage and expense, which lowers the cost of their produce. Having the Callaloo Cash subsidy program allows people from the community to walk out of the market with bags of food that they paid little or nothing for. They can go home with all of these wonderful things that they know are local and clean.”

Related: Allison Gibson Talks Launching Food Businesses and Reclaiming the Term “Ethnic Food”

Since the July launch, the market is quickly becoming a destination for people in the neighbourhood. “It has become important to the community,” Beazer shared. “They’re grateful to have something to do on a Sunday in this area. They can invite family to their homes and go to the market together for coconut water and sugar cane, or some jerk chicken with rice and peas.”

Vendors selling produce at a booth in the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto

A market does so much more than provide food and a sense of community. Farmers’ Markets Ontario, the organization that represents over 180 markets across the province, has researched and proven that real estate values increase in neighbourhoods following the launch of a farmers’ market, something that Beazer has already witnessed in the area. “The community members, homeowners, and business owners have already seen the benefits of the farmers’ market being mentioned in their postal code. And that’s incredible.”

She continued, “The community wants the market here because they see the benefits. The stores see the benefits and open if they’re not typically open on a Sunday. The foot traffic has been close to a thousand people every Sunday since it started, many of who wouldn’t have normally visited Eglinton West. Our vendors sell out of their products, which has never happened to them at other farmers’ markets in the city. It’s a great place to be with a fantastic vibe.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You

Despite support from Councillor Matlow and Ontario MPP Jill Andrew, the Toronto Parking Authority, which owns the lot where the market takes place, hasn’t been supportive according to Beazer. “Every farmers’ market has its challenges and we have ours. This market is dealing with some really ugly things because of this space that we’re in. The Toronto Parking Authority is not doing what they need to do for the space. They’re disrespecting the vendors by not keeping the lot clean for us.”

In fact, Beazer has taken on the site clean-up since the first day of the market and tearfully described the human waste that she faces each week when she arrives. “Every Sunday at 8AM, I head to the market site with anxiety because I don’t know what I’m going to find. Without fail, I have to clean it up myself before the vendors arrive.”

An assortment of freshly baked bread for sale at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto, Canada

Ideally, Beazer wants this market to happen annually, and as part of that, she would love to see this space returned to the community. She envisions it as a hub for art shows, yoga classes, movie nights, children’s activities and so much more beyond the farmers’ market. “This project was really supposed to help change the attitudes of people that live in the area that haven’t come to Eglinton West for 15 years because they were afraid. By bringing food and culture to this neighbourhood through the Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market, we can start to change that footprint.”

Related: Vegan West African Peanut Lentil Stew: The Comfort Food You Need

Beazer also believes that there is magic in this space, especially in the Reggae Lane mural created by artist Adrian Hayles. “When the sun comes out and hits the mural, it comes to life. The talk of the community is that the elders from the mural that have transitioned join us at the market.” She added, “Hayles is creating another mural on the opposite side. Should the market happen again next year, the whole space will be filled with beautiful art.”

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market runs every Sunday from 11AM to 3PM until October 3 in Reggae Lane and the Green P Carpark at 1531 Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto.

American singer Meghan Trainor and Acclaimed Chef Marcus Samuelsson smile for the camera in front of a banner that reads Top Chef Family Style

4 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This September

Cooler temps, fall colours and craving comfy foods: Seasons are changing and so is the great content on Food Network.

From your top shows with a twist (think, “Top Chef but make it family”) to Halloween on Food Network (ghastly cake creations and frightful eliminations!),  we won’t be judgy if you binge on these shows playing on your device with StackTV on Amazon Prime.

Top Chef Family Style

When to Watch: New series premieres September 16 at 9 PM ET/PT


This new reality-based cooking competition is hosted by Grammy Award-winning global superstar Meghan Trainor with acclaimed chef, James Beard Award winner and best-selling cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson serving as Head Judge. It takes family ties and blends in high stakes, jaw-dropping talent and heart-warming humour that families across generations can enjoy. Talented young chefs – each teamed up with an adult partner of their choice –are competing to win the grand prize including $50,000.

Related: Memorable First Bites from Top Chef Canada

Halloween Baking Championship

When to Watch: New season premieres September 13 at 9 PM ET/PT

Judges Stephanie Boswell, Zac Young and Carla Hall and Judge John Henson, looking at the camera on the set of Halloween Baking Championship.

Camp Devil’s Food Lake is the backdrop for Season 11 of this wildly popular baking competition. The inspiration? 1980s slasher films. So get ready to see creepy-crawly desserts to deadly delicious cupcakes being whipped up, as the bakers try and prove their skills to a panel of costumed judges in order to land the $25,000 prize (and the title of Halloween Baking Champion)!

Related: Meet the Season 6 Competitors

Halloween Wars

When to Watch: New season begins on September 19 at 9 PM ET/PT

Zak Bagans sits in a chair on the set of Halloween Wars

Paranormal investigator Zack Bagan has seen a lot of supernatural things in his 15-years on the job. As the new host for the season, he shares some of those experiences with eight expert teams.  Taking inspiration from his collection of dangerous and mysterious artifacts from his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, he will challenge the teams of sugar decorators, cake bakers and pumpkin carvers to create spooky AND tasty creations, eventually earning the coveted $25,000 prize.

Related: Meet the Halloween Wars Season 10 Competitors

The Big Bake: Halloween

When to Watch: Series premiere September 27 at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT

The Big Bake: Halloween is back with a bang for Season 2. The team of bakers need to think big and bold, blowing up their designs to gigantic proportions – keeping their spirits aligned with everything Halloween, of course. In the end, the most ambitious, eye-popping and delicious cake will go home with a $10,000 prize.

Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

comeback snacks founder emily o'brien beside bags of her popcorn

This Popcorn Shop is Destigmatizing the Ex-Con Label, One Kernel at a Time

Almost every job application form asks one simple question: “Do you have a criminal record?” For many people, it’s easy to breeze by it without a second thought. But for an ex-convict, it can feel like an impossible employment barrier to overcome.

comeback snacks founder emily o'brien beside bags of her popcorn
Comeback Snacks founder Emily O’Brien

After being sentenced to four years in prison for attempted drug smuggling, Comeback Snacks founder Emily O’Brien knows this firsthand. “If you’re an employer and you have two candidates, you’re probably going to go with the person who doesn’t have a criminal record just because it seems like a safer bet, without knowing anything about the other person.“

Which is why O’Brien decided to do something about it by starting her own business helping ex-convicts like herself: “I knew I couldn’t let my sentence determine the rest of my life in a negative way,” she explains. Food felt like a natural path to pursue: “When I was in prison I noticed the ways food brought people together. It made people laugh and forget where they were. It also allowed people to talk about their anxieties about reentering the workforce. They were terrified of being misunderstood and stigmatized and having no one believe in them. I wanted to change that narrative for myself and for others.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You

5 bags of comeback snacks popcorn on a marble countertop
Comeback Snacks Popcorn, $6/bag, well.ca

And so, over many bowls of popcorn (a prison-approved snack), the idea for Comeback Snacks was born: “We would make different popcorn recipes, my favourite was Kraft Dinner cheese, I called it Jailhouse Cheese. I would buy Kraft Dinner from the canteen and put the cheese powder on the popcorn,” says O’Brien. “Some people would put mixtures of spices, some people would use a blend of cinnamon and Splenda from their morning coffee. It was really interesting to see how creative a lot of people were.” In many ways, popcorn provided the blank canvas O’Brien needed to map out her future: “I knew this would be the vector to my new way of life and my way of helping others to reenter the work force by proving that we are capable of so much more.”

That kernel of an idea turned into the thriving business that Comeback Snacks is now. With the help of friends and family on the outside, Emily mapped out her business while in prison and went full speed ahead once she was released, developing many of her flavours while living in a halfway house. Today, with five sweet gourmet flavours on their roster (think: Lemon Meringue and Salted Chocolate Caramel) and a staff of 5 employees (all of whom have criminal backgrounds), Comeback Snacks popcorn is in over 200 stores and ships across Canada. Each employee also earns above minimum wage: “Financial struggles are often a leading cause of why someone could become incarcerated,” says O’Brien. “When you come out and you have no credit or job and you’re trying to get an apartment, it can be really hard to build that foundation. We’re trying to help with that.”

Related: Joshna Maharaj on Tackling Food Security, Inclusion in Canada’s Hospitality Industry + More

In addition to hiring staff with criminal records, part of Comeback Snacks’ mandate is also to work with organizations that align with their values through fundraisers and popcorn donations, including the Yonge St. Mission, the Elizabeth Fry Society and even the SPCA: “Animals need a second chance too!” says O’Brien with a laugh.

 

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Comeback Snacks also recently opened their first bricks and mortar location in Hamilton, Ontario called Comeback Commissary. “Instead of it just being a store with popcorn it’s an educational experience for people to come and learn about the prison system and break some of the stigmas they may have,” says O’Brien. “I have a storytelling wall with my old uniform, pictures and other documents that explain the institutional challenges that limit people and make their reentry into society very difficult.” The shop also plans to serve as a community hub in its off hours: “We’re going to host AA and NA meetings. A lot of people that have worked with us struggle with that, and it’s important that they have a safe space they can use.”

As for what’s next? Comeback Snacks has partnered with snack food powerhouse the Neal Brothers to manufacture their popcorn on an even larger scale and produce new savoury flavours, including Lemon Pepper Dill and Emily’s own version of the Jailhouse Cheese flavour that started it all: “Instead of it being Kraft Dinner cheese it’s composed of three real Canadian cheddar cheeses.” Breaking stigmas has never been more delicious.

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

Photos courtesy of Martyna Domurad

Food podcaster Dan Ahdoot standing in front of a wall of dishes during the show Raid the Fridge

3 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This Fall

Summer winding down doesn’t have to be a reason to fret- not when there are this many exciting new shows to look forward to watching with STACKTV on Amazon Prime.  

From a new celebrity-studded competition (hello former White House staff member, Kal Penn) to a delightful competition powered by everyone’s favourite frozen sweet treat, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

See More:  You Won’t Believe These Foods Are Dairy-Free

Money Hungry

When to Watch: Series premiere August 31 at 9 PM ET/PT

Kal Penn hosts the new show Money Hungry, Season 1.

Cookbook authors, amateur home cooks, restaurant critics and talented chefs put their taste buds to the ultimate test in this five-episode series hosted by Kal Penn. Money Hungry contestants showcase their palates and culinary knowledge to identify ingredients in three rounds of intense tastings, as they fight for a chance to win a whopping $50,000.

Ben and Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones

When to Watch: Special series premiere August 30 at 9 PM ET/PT

Judges standing in front of a photo wall for the new show Ben and Jerry’s The Cold Wars, Season 1.

Six ice cream masters get a once in a lifetime opportunity in Ben and Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones to create a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavour of their own, capturing the essence of a celebrity or pop culture icon. Celebrity inspirations include hip-hop icon and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, actor Kevin Bacon and famed bakers,  Duff Goldman and Buddy Valastro.

See More: 26 Tasty Ways to Use Up Leftover Ice Cream

Raid the Fridge

When to Watch: Series premiere September 1 at 10 PM ET/PT

Host Dan Adhoot stands in front of a display for the show Ben and Jerry’s The Cold Wars, Season 1.

Hosted by food podcaster Dan Ahdoot, Raid the Fridge is exactly what this new series’ name suggests: Four top-notch chefs pinned against one and another to come up with some exciting and creative dishes when faced with mystery fridges before them.  Unknown ingredients? No problem, as they all vie to win the coveted prize which is a fridge full of $10,000.

Related: Food Network Canada Announces the Return of Six Favourites, Plus a Mouth-Watering New Series

Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Homemade Purple Japanese Ube Ice Cream in a Bowl

Flavour Trends to Watch For According to the Latest Flavour Forecast

Homemade Purple Japanese Ube Ice Cream

The 21st McCormick Flavour Forecast has released its most recent report naming what Canadians can expect next in terms of flavour.

The Flavour Forecast has been breaking down the flavours Canadians want in their food for over two decades and this round is no exception; The team behind the report includes chefs, culinary professionals, trend trackers and others in the food industry, with the goals of encouraging exploration and innovation around the world and in the kitchen.

Related: How to Properly Dispose of Cooking Oil

The research was based on a series of virtual, interactive at-home culinary experiences. The experiences spanned the previous year and were led by chefs, exploring flavours that range from nutritious to decadent, and varying in taste, colour, and texture – both in food and drink.

The 21st edition of the Flavour Forecast identified four key flavour trends based on what was most popular: Plants pushing boundaries; humble nosh; underwater, underdiscovered; and physiological eating.

Related: 5 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This Summer

Here is what you can expect with each:

Plants Pushing Boundaries

We know that plant-based is no longer a “trend” but a way of life for many – even those who are flexitarian, or simply looking to fold more fruits, veggies and botanicals into their diets. The people at McCormick agree. Plants are bringing indulgence, brilliant colour, hearty texture and flora-focused eating to the forefront.

Key flavours to look for:
Ube (purple yam)
Szechuan buttons (edible flower buds)
Trumpet mushrooms

Related: Allison Gibson Talks Launching Food Businesses and Reclaiming the Term “Ethnic Food”

Various spices spread across a light-surfaced table

Humble Nosh

With so many borders closed to international tourism, Canadians are wanting to venture out with their plates. Bold, niche global flavours are still front and centre on people’s minds, and on their palettes. The good news is that Canada offers no shortage of ways to satisfy these cravings.

Key flavours to look for:
Chaat masala (Indian spice blend)
Pandan kaya (Malaysian jam)
Crisped chilies

Related: Food Activist and Dietitian Rosie Mensah Looks at Nutrition Through a Social Justice Lens

A bowl of Wakame seaweed salad

Underwater, Underdiscovered

Going underwater now also means going deeper, and looking further. Plant-based is by no means exclusive to the land, and Canadians are increasingly looking for flavours and ingredients that feature both fresh and saltwater botanicals like seaweeds and even algae.

Key flavours to look for:
Dulse (red sea lettuce flakes)
Spirulina (blue-green algae)
Sea grapes (soft, green algae)

Related: This Korean Sweet and Sour Seaweed Salad is the Perfect BBQ Side Dish

Ginger and halved lemon spread on table with mint leaves

Physiological Eating

Leaning into India’s 5,000-year old tradition of Ayurveda that embraces a traditional, healthy lifestyle rooted in mind-body, harmony, growth and self-love, physiological eating also taps into the related six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, stringent, and pungent). Each offer warming and cooling benefits to help provide comfort to the physical body.

Key flavours to look for:
Coriander
Lemon
Sea salt
Cumin
Turmeric
Ginger

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Related: 15 Popular Foods That Grow in Very Surprising Ways

Buddy vs Duff promo image

5 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This Summer

Ahh, summer. The warm sunshine is on your skin, the smell of BBQ in the air and great shows from Food Network Canada playing on your device with STACKTV on Amazon Prime. 

Whether you’re enjoying a cool air-conditioned day at home with the family in front of the television or catching up on your favourite series while lounging in your backyard, cool drink in hand, these are the shows you’ll want on repeat to inspire your summer eating.

Related: Food Network Canada Announces the Return of Six Favourites, Plus a Mouth-Watering New Series

Top Chef Amateurs

When to Watch: New episodes Thursdays at 9 PM ET/PT

Home chefs enter the Top Chef kitchen to test their skills in an exciting new competition that brings back some of the most iconic challenges in Top Chef history! Joining the amateur chefs are Top Chef finalists, front-runners and fan favourites who will cook alongside them.

Buddy vs. Duff

When to Watch: New season begins Sunday, July 18 at 9 PM ET/PT

With one under each of their belts, Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman return for another season of head-to-head battle. To step up the baking feud, this season sees a panel of 50 of the greatest cake artists from all across America serve as the judges to crown one winner in this tie-breaker round.

BBQ Brawl

When to Watch: New episodes Mondays at 10 PM ET/PT

Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Eddie Jackson on the set of BBQ Brawl

The grills are preheated for a new season of BBQ battle! This season, Eddie Jackson (Fire Masters, The Big Bake) joins chef-BFFs Michael Symon and Bobby Flay as team captains battling it out for their team and the title of Master of ‘Cue. The three face off, mentoring some of the most talented pitmasters who are fighting for a starring role on a Food Network digital series.

See More: Grilling Tools You Need This BBQ Season

Cheese: A Love Story

When to Watch: New episodes Wednesdays at 8 PM ET/PT

Afrim Pristine on the set of Cheese: A Love Story

Afrim Pristine, the world’s youngest Cheese Master, knows a thing or two about cheese, having grown up in a family cheese business. Now he’s hitting the road, journeying around the globe to meet some of the world’s greatest cheese experts and share their love of fromage.

Fire Masters

When to Watch: New episodes continue Thursdays at 11 PM ET/PT

Dylan Benoit and the judges on set of Fire Masters

New flame-packed episodes of this fiery favourite hosted by Dylan Benoit continue all summer long. Watch as three talented chefs take on rounds of hot competition and create the most mouth-watering meals that will inspire your 2021 grilling season.

Related: Expert Photography Tips to Show Off Your Baked Goods

Watch  and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Cedar planked salmon

Indigenous Chefs Come Together to Cook for Kamloops Community in Mourning

Time and time again, we have been shown how food can be used for good — from raising money to fight anti-Asian racism to honouring the history of racialized trans people. And now, it is here to help heal.

Last week, the remains of 215 children were found in Kamloops at the site of Canada’s largest residential school via a ground-penetrating radar survey. Some of the remains belonged to children as young as three. There have been many gestures of solidarity across the country, including from a group of Indigenous chefs.

Cedar planked salmon

Get the recipe for West Coast Cedar-Planked Salmon

“It’s really, really saddening to see something like this,” says Paul Natrall, a BC-based chef and owner of Mr. Bannock Indigenous Cuisine.  “I have a very big, young family. I just couldn’t imagine something like that happening to any of my kids… it’s close to home. My grandfather was in residential schools, my grandmother too.”

Related: Canadian Restaurants Boycotting Lobster in Support of Mi’kmaq Fisheries

Paul’s old instructor Ben Genaille got in touch over the weekend and came up with an idea to go cook for the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation to support their community. “I was like ‘yeah, let’s do it,’ and with my connections in the Indigenous culinary world, we got a bunch of things together and just trying hard to make it all gel together and go up to Merritt and Kamloops,” Paul said this morning on a call before he took the three-hour drive to BC’s Interior.

 

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Approximately eight chefs will be volunteering their time to cook for four days, from June 1 to 4. They’re hoping to serve 250 people a day, for a total of 1,000 meals served. On the menu? Bison, deer, bannock tacos, potato salad, bacon and corn soup with squash and beans, as well as candied salmon and 20 pounds of regular salmon.

There have been calls for action to investigate all former residential schools sites. “I’m pretty sure all our other communities will need the same kind of assistance that we’re doing here,” Paul said.

To learn more and/or to donate, check out the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations (both Paul and Food Network Canada’s Christa Bruneau-Guenther from Wall of Chefs are on the board of directors), as well as the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

Noah Cappe on the set of Wall of Chefs

Food Network Canada Announces the Return of Six Favourites, Plus a Mouth-Watering New Series

This news is hot off the panini press! Food Network Canada welcomes seven new and returning Corus Studios Originals as part of its 2021-2022 schedule. Get ready for the return of your most delicious favourite Canadian shows, as well as an exciting new spin-off!

Noah Cappe on set of Wall of Chefs, Cynthia Stroud, Anna Olson and Steven Hodge on set of Great Chocolate Showdown and Dylan Benoit on set of Fire Masters

 

 

Get ready to face The Wall! Wall of Chefs is back for an exhilarating new season as home cooks face off in front of a group of 12 of the country’s most respected culinary icons. Want even more delicious competition? Corus Studios is turning up the heat with the new spin-off series, Wall of Bakers.  Adding to that sweet slate is the return of baking favourites, The Big Bake and Great Chocolate Showdown. Funnyman John Catucci is back on the road hitting up irresistible restos across the country on Big Food Bucket List while Steven Hodge and Tiffany Pratt give bakery owners a new lease on life on Project Bakeover. Finally, flame tamers do fiery battle against the best in grilling on a new season of Fire Masters.

Related: HGTV Canada Announces Four New Series and Six Returning Favourites

Think you’ve got what it takes to be on a Food Network Canada show? Head to our casting page for details on how to apply.

Stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Food Industry Consultant Allison Gibson standing beside a small community fridge filled with food

Allison Gibson Talks Launching Food Businesses and Reclaiming the Term “Ethnic Food”

With a career spanning 20 years, that has taken her from Walt Disney World to cruise ships to convention centres, it was during a government contract that Allison Gibson decided to focus on something that would give back to the community. This brought her to PaintBox Bistro in Toronto’s Regent Park, where she began as a sales and event coordinator and ended up a part-owner.

Allison left PaintBox in 2020 and began working with Spring Activator, a global impact consulting firm, leading all food programming as their food innovation program manager. She designed and led the Ethnic Food Incubator (EFI) on their behalf.

We recently spoke with Allison about the EFI, developing the curriculum, how they adapted because of the pandemic, some of the incubator’s success stories and reclaiming the term “ethnic food.”

How did your background with PaintBox prepare you for working with the EFI?

PaintBox is a social enterprise with a mandate to provide opportunities and training experiences in hospitality, food and beverage to anyone who identifies as marginalized or has a barrier to employment. It’s a for-profit business that doesn’t rely on grants or funding. We also did training and incubation for marginalized people, people of colour and women to launch businesses or develop products. When COVID hit, we pivoted and launched an online grocery store. I was with PaintBox for almost nine years. At the end of 2020, I branched off as a consultant, which is how I stumbled upon the EFI.

Related: Food Activist and Dietitian Rosie Mensah Looks at Nutrition Through a Social Justice Lens

What prompted the creation of the EFI, and what was your role in it?

The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce wanted to do a food incubation program but needed someone who understood the food industry to develop and create the curriculum. They contacted Spring Activator… and then Spring found me. Initially, they called to ask a few questions and see if I wanted to be a guest speaker; after that call, they asked me to run it.

I had a few weeks to consult, design the curriculum and program, and choose the guest speakers. The idea was to create a space for people of colour to come together and learn how to launch a product or how to develop a product they were already working on. The goal was to develop products until they were ready for a grocery store or retail shelf. We ended up with 15 women from across Canada and formed a little sisterhood. We talked about everything, like safely creating a quality food product, funding and marketing. Based on my experience, I shared tips and tricks along with my failings and things I’d struggled to learn on my own. When I was starting out, I didn’t have anyone pull me aside and explain how the industry worked, how to manage my money and save when dealing with tips and what skills are required if you’re interested in a career in food. I had to learn it all on my own.

An aisle of market shelves at PaintBox with canned goods, rice, soft drinks, snacks, pet food and more

How did the program adapt and change due to the pandemic?

Before COVID, the EFI would’ve taken place in person and the idea was to provide participants with access to a commercial kitchen and a lab for product testing. We would’ve had a final showcase event. We ended up meeting weekly for 12 weeks on Zoom. At the start of the pandemic, I quickly learned virtual facilitation and learning styles, so by the time the EFI came along, I was ready for it. Most sessions featured a guest speaker or an opportunity to collaborate on something we were working on.

For sampling, we created a box with all the products that were being worked on or developed through the program and sent it to sponsors, program supporters and guest speakers. I collected everything, so I had packages arriving at my house constantly and it looked like a warehouse. I had to transport everything to a commercial kitchen, make sure it was cleaned and disinfected — and then hired a team of people to help package and ship the boxes. Product feedback cards were included or could be accessed via a web link.

What skills were the participants equipped with after completing the program?

We touched on the basics, like pitching for investment, access to capital, marketing and how to identify your customer segment or audience. We wanted to ensure their success after the program, so everyone was matched with an industry mentor. Also, we provided them with access to the overall ecosystem, including my network of mentors and guest speakers and directed them to other programs or sources of funding.

At the end of the program, we had a demo day with Chef Suzanne Barr from Wall of Chefs, who was our celebrity guest chef. She was absolutely amazing and super involved. We selected the top three products and pitches and those three people won a cash prize. The winner of the EFI went on to a national pitch challenge and made it to the top 20. A few participants were referred to other programs to work on refining their business plans. Others did more scientific product testing. Essentially, we connected them with what they needed to get to the next level. I still work with many of them and make myself available for one-on-one coaching and mentoring — and they definitely take me up on that.

Related: Chef Suzanne Barr Will Make You Think About Your Dinner Plate Differently

What were some challenges that participants faced before taking part in the EFI?

Mainly, it was access to information and how the industry works. It was hard for them to figure out how to get a product into a grocery store because there’s no process for that. A lot of the program was connecting them to the right people or getting their foot in the door. The other issue was related to mental health. Everyone had other jobs, so we asked if they were prepared to be an entrepreneur. As we were going through the program, some participants felt overwhelmed. They had to ask themselves: “Am I ready for this? Do I have the skill set to do this?” Once they figured out what’s required to pitch to a grocery store or supplier, they were good to go.

Allison Gibson with EFI Participants who founded the Afrotechture Market in Ottawa

Can you share success stories that came out of the incubator?

Eight50 Coffee’s Muna Mohammed took part in the EFI program to refine and further develop her line of coffee products. They’re available for sale online and at select Ottawa-area retailers. Street Food’s Anthonia Iveren Gom launched her product, Zobo, during the program. It’s a popular hibiscus beverage found in Nigeria and retails online and in select stores in Winnipeg. 116 Kitchen in Toronto makes the most delicious meal kits and sauces inspired by Chef Max’s Nigerian heritage  and it was amazing watching the progression of this during the program.

Related: Joshna Maharaj on Tackling Food Security, Inclusion in Canada’s Hospitality Industry

Then there’s Afrotechture Market, a pop-up by participant Resa Solomon-St. Lewis, the chef and owner of Baccanalle Restaurant in Ottawa. She has a line of delicious sauces that are perfect for retail and I’m obsessed with the tamarind and rum Sauce! She partnered with another woman in the program and launched Afrotechture last holiday season, which is an artisan market that showcases products from Black entrepreneurs in Byward Market. I got to visit it in December and meet them and the market remained open beyond the holidays.

Related: Canadian Breweries Advocating for Racial Justice and Social Change

The term “ethnic food” has been perceived by some as being used for inferior or cheap food. Why was the program named the Ethnic Food Incubator when there’s hesitation within the food community to use that term?

I didn’t choose the name, but I asked why they called it the Ethnic Food Incubator. The idea was to encourage people to not associate an ethnic product with being inferior and that there’s nothing wrong with saying that you are creating an ethnic product. When you think about going grocery shopping or ordering food, almost everything we eat is ethnic or is from someone who has an immigrant background. The incubator wanted to highlight that we are already eating ethnic food, and we should highlight and champion it.

What plans do you have for the future of the EFI?

We’re currently discussing what’s next and planning version 2.0 of the program for this fall. Who it’s open to is up for debate. We’ve talked about a youth-focused or a family business-focused program. I’ve been working on supporting and uplifting Indigenous businesses, and working on an Ethnic Food Incubator that’s open to anyone, but looking for support from the Indigenous community so we can allocate a certain number of spots to Indigenous entrepreneurs. I would love to do an Indigenous-focused food incubator program separate from this.

Besides Indigenous entrepreneurs, I’d like to include some men. We always talk about how men get all the opportunities and make more money, but with food, there are never programs for men of colour, so that’s something we’re also discussing. The first incubator had 15 Black women, but we need to make space for other marginalized communities.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Photos courtesy of Allison Gibson

World Hunger Day: Food for Thought Campaign Seeks to End Youth Hunger

If you’re familiar with food insecurity, you know that many people in our communities don’t have equal access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food. In fact, many don’t know when or from where their next meal will come. This reality impacts adults and youth alike, but in Canada, the numbers are staggering. A May 2020 Statistics Canada survey revealed that more than one in 10 respondents experienced food insecurity within the previous 30 days. For children, that number is even higher: one in five children in Canada are food insecure.

Overhead shot of little girl with a spoon in her cereal bowl

May 28th marks World Hunger Day and a new campaign aims to spotlight youth hunger specifically through conversation and creativity by engaging those most impacted: kids.

Food for Thought, a new campaign by SkipTheDishes and Mealshare, is providing meals to Canadian youth while raising awareness of the issue through curated resources. The package includes child-friendly resources that are accessible online and that both parents and teachers can use to help start the conversation through creativity.

Related: Joshna Maharaj on Tackling Food Security, Inclusion in Canada’s Hospitality Industry + More

The package includes colouring, drawing and comic design activities, as well as story writing prompts. Kids are then encouraged to submit their work and for each submission, SkipTheDishes will donate five meals to a local children’s charity that is partnered with Mealshare. The food delivery service has already donated $25,000 to kickstart the initiative. The campaign runs until May 28.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Food Activist and Dietitian Rosie Mensah Looks at Nutrition Through a Social Justice Lens

Nutrition informs many discussions about food insecurity. At the forefront of these conversations in Canada stands Rosie Mensah, a Canadian-Ghanaian registered dietitian and food activist, who co-founded Dietitians for Food Justice as a response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustices of the last year. Growing up in Toronto’s Jane-Finch corridor, Rosie saw firsthand the effects of food insecurity on her own family and the community around her. “From a young age, I noticed quickly that we never had consistent access to food or the quality of food was not the best or not the most nutritious and it was always an issue,” she remembers. “I knew that I wanted to do something to help members of my community achieve good quality of life and better health. And I wanted to do that through food.”

Rosie Mensah, registered dietitian, stands with arms crossed wearing pink v neck top

Rosie’s determination led her to a career as a registered dietitian, first through a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at Western University. “Growing up, I didn’t see myself represented in terms of health providers, as a Black woman, a woman of immigrant parents; someone who grew up in low-income, government housing,” she says. “And representation, especially when it comes to health care, is so vital, because we talk about things like cultural awareness, cultural responsiveness and just being able to see yourself and feel safety, especially when it comes to your health.”

She quickly realized that she wanted to push further into the way she approached dietetics: “I really thought it was this narrative where you just teach people how to eat healthy, because that’s what you’re taught to believe,” she says. “But being more critical and thinking about the social factors that prevent people from achieving good health or getting access to food was a reason why I ended up doing my Master’s of Public Health in Nutrition and Dietetics [at the University of Toronto], because I thought that’s where I could really dig deeper into that knowledge and to gain that understanding.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You

During the times where she wasn’t pursuing her studies, Rosie was also making the connections that would lead her towards her current social justice work. From being a part of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, she joined the Black Creek Community Farm, which led to a role as co-facilitator of Black Creek Food Justice Network — a Jane and Finch grassroots group advocating for local food justice in the community and beyond. Through these experiences, as well as through her work on the board of directors for FoodShare, she connected to dieticians with similar desires around food justice and advocacy. “Three of us came together last summer and decided we wanted to do something.  We want to stop talking and we want to start taking action — that’s really how Dieticians for Food Justice came about. We wanted to take things into our own hands and really demonstrate that there’s many dieticians that recognize the structural factors that contribute to poor nutrition or lack of food — and we want to use our voice to speak up for those things,” says Rosie.

Food box from FoodShare

At the heart of Rosie’s ethos is the idea that representation and inclusivity are crucial elements in health practices — a concept she’s used as the foundation for an anti-oppression course she developed for health care providers called CEDAR: Culture, Equity, Diversity, and Race in Dietetics. “I went into dietetics with this determination to strive to really help the most marginalized people and yet I just never felt like those perspectives were ever being discussed — and if they were, they were being stigmatized,” she says. “My goal as a nutritionist and dietician is to empower people to enjoy good food, diversity and different cultures, but also focus on nourishing themselves and that can look different based on your need.  And I also believe health includes nourishing your community and your environment around you.”

Photo of Rosie Mensah courtesy of Rosie Mensah; photo of FoodShare’s Good Food Box courtesy of FoodShare

Jordan Andino, Lynn Crawford and Anna Olson on the set of season 2 of Junior Chef Showdown

6 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This Spring

The change of seasons means one exciting thing around here: a brand new slate of fresh spring shows from Food Network Canada to watch with STACKTV on Amazon Prime. From a new season of a classic Canadian culinary competition to a show about revamping struggling restaurants, here are all the Food Network Canada shows you won’t want to miss.

Top Chef Canada

When to Watch: New Season begins Monday, April 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

Host Eden Grinshpan and Mark McEwan on the set of Top Chef Canada season 9

Canada’s homegrown culinary competition returns for its ninth season of high-stakes challenges. Host Eden Grinshpan and head judge Mark McEwan return to welcome 11 talented and diverse chefs from across the country to compete for the ultimate bragging rights and

Related: Meet the Season 9 Top Chef Canada Contestants

The Big Bake

When to Watch: New Episodes Tuesdays at 9 p.m ET/PT

Eddie Jackson, Anna Olson, Ron Ben-Israel and host Brad Smith on the set of The Big Bake season 2

If you love over-the-top baking creations, we’ve got some great news for you! The Big Bake returns for a second season of larger-than-life competition that sees three talented baking teams compete to create large-scale theme cakes. Hosted Brad Smith returns along with judges Eddie Jackson, Harry Eastwood and new judges, Anna Olson and Ron Ben-Israel.

See More: Baking 101 With Anna Olson

Chef Boot Camp

When to Watch: New Series begins Thursday, April 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Chef Cliff Crooks on the set of Chef Boot Camp

There’s no doubt that it’s been a tough year for chefs and business owners. Enter Chef Cliff Crooks whose goal is to help struggling chefs rehabilitate their kitchens to find the culinary success they deserve.

See More: Canadians Aim to Set Record on National Takeout Day

Junior Chef Showdown

When to Watch: New Season begins Sunday, April 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Young cooks display big talent on this culinary competition that showcases the best cooking talents from ages 9 to 12. Lynn Crawford, Anna Olson and Jordan Andino return as judge-mentors, coaching the junior chefs through a series of culinary challenges.

Jordan Andino, Lynn Crawford and Anna Olson on the set of season 2 of Junior Chef Showdown

Related: Meet the Season 2 Junior Chefs

Top Chef

When to Watch: New Episodes Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT

Host Padma Lakshmi and judges Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio return for another season of grueling kitchen battles. This season, Top Chef heads to Portland, Oregon where a new batch of 15 of the most talented chefs from across the U.S. compete for the whopping $125,000 grand prize and the coveted title of Top Chef.

Related: Top Chef Portland: Meet the Competitors

Fire Masters

When to Watch: New Episodes return Thursday, April 15 at 11 p.m. ET/PT

Pre-heat your barbecue because it’s officially grilling season now that Fire Masters is back with all-new episodes! Host Dylan Benoit is back for another flame-packed season where chefs compete in two rounds of competition. In the final round, the remaining competitor must face off against one of the judges in order to take home the $10,000 cash prize.

Related: The Best New Ways to Use Your Grill This Year

Several dumplings on counter

It’s Time to ‘Dump the Hate’ — One Dumpling at a Time

Food serves us in many ways. While we often think about food as being nurturing and delicious (and it is that!), it can also be powerful — and as a creative new campaign combating anti-Asian hate demonstrates, that power can be used for good.

Anti-Asian prejudice is not new in Canada, but overt bouts of anti-Asian hate and violence are spiking (as just one example, according to 2020 data from the Angus Reid Institute, 43 per cent of Canadians of Chinese ethnicity report being threatened or intimidated as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak). Surges in anti-Asian discrimination and violence can be frightening and disheartening — but it’s hard to know what, tangibly, we can do to counter it. Enter Dump the Hate, a campaign that offers a way to counter anti-Asian prejudice and support Asian communities through the simple act of sharing food.

Several dumplings on counter

What is #DumpTheHate?

Created by a Canadian food blogger and chef, Jannell Lo, Dump the Hate is a virtual dumpling-making fundraiser that combines food (inviting participants to make and sell dumplings to friends and family) with activism (in addition to raising awareness, the proceeds made from the dumplings are to be donated to organizations supporting the Asian community).

The campaign has raised more than $30,000 so far — and more than 10,000 dumplings have been made and savoured. Toronto’s Timothy Chan has raised over $1,900 for the campaign by making 900 dumplings. While Timothy started making dumplings recently as a way to get in touch with his Chinese heritage, the #DumpTheHate campaign offered a unique way to further that connection in a significant way. “The spike in anti-Asian hate crimes was weighing very heavily on me,” Timothy says. “Dump the Hate was a perfect opportunity for me to channel my energy, emotions and effort into a meaningful initiative.”

Showing Solidarity

“Many friends and family who have supported my dumpling drive said they didn’t know how to show their solidarity for the Asian community,” Timothy says. “Dump the Hate is a great way for people to turn their anti-racist intention into impact.”

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

While the #DumpTheHate campaign is certainly a fun and effective way to spread positively and support the community, it’s one (admittedly, delicious) step in the larger milieu of countering anti-Asian hate and prejudice. “Love us — the Asian community — like you love our food,” Timothy says. “I hope the dumplings will help fuel people’s commitment to anti-racism and empower them to show up, speak up and interrupt racism.”

Plate of dumplings, noodles and veggies

How You Can Help

While Timothy plans to continue his dumpling-making initiative after the conclusion of Dump the Hate on April 4 (Timothy has a wait list), he also highlights the importance of supporting Asian-owned businesses: “Many businesses were hit hard because of the pandemic, but the impact on Asian-owned businesses was intensified by racism.”

To learn more, donate or find a list of organizations supporting Asian communities in North America, visit the Dump the Hate fundraiser page.

Want to take part in Dump the Hate and learn how to make mouth-watering dumplings at home? Register for the live Zoom dumpling-making class, hosted by My Kitchen My Heart’s Allison Chang, this Saturday April 3, 2021 at 2PM PST/5PM EST. Proceeds from the class will be donated to Heart of Dinner.

Photos courtesy of Timothy Chan

Transgender Day of Visibility: Yasmeen Persad Talks About Food Insecurity and Trans Nutrition

For Yasmeen Persad, food is all about community — and, as the trans program coordinator at Toronto’s non-profit organization The 519, she’s had plenty of opportunities to indulge in her passion for cooking and making memories. In particular, with the Trans People of Colour Project (TPOC), which is funded by the Toronto Urban Health Fund and runs out of The 519 (virtually during COVID-19). “There’s nothing like cooking together in the [519’s] kitchen in a circle and having conversations and seeing the smiles on people’s faces,” Persad says. “There’s a social support component to it.”

While the program touches on a variety of topics, from sexual health to homemade recipes, food insecurity and trans nutrition are ones that pop up frequently. Considered a safe space by many in Toronto’s trans community, Persad believes these oft-taboo subjects are seeing the light during TPOC meetings because people feel more comfortable broaching the subjects. “If you don’t have access to food, there’s a lot of shame and stigma attached to that,” she says. “People think, ‘Oh, it will lower my self-esteem to ask for help to access food.’”

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

According to a Statistics Canada report, the average Canadian spends $214 per month on groceries. However, racialized trans and non-binary people in Canada face higher levels of discrimination than others, resulting in housing inequality, a lack of job opportunities and food insecurity.

To combat the issue and raise awareness, TPOC focused their efforts on crafting Cooking With Trans People of Colour, a cookbook that offers a plethora of diverse recipes inspired by group leaders and program participants. In addition, among its many vibrant pages, are nutrition facts and sexual health stats. “The cookbook represents a history of racialized trans people, [both] those who have passed away and folks who are present,” Persad explains. “We want this to be a celebration for all trans people of colour across the board. We want this to be a recognition and a celebration.”

With Trans Day of Visibility coming up on March 31, 2021, we chatted with Yasmeen Persad about the cookbook, food insecurity in the trans community and how Canadians can take action.

How would you define food insecurity and how does the TPOC program help?

“Food security — for a number of the people that access our programs — has always been a challenge. [This is] because of their identities and the lack of access to places that offers food that represents them. It’s a struggle not just to get food, but to get healthy food. The program was designed to look at that issue specifically because racialized trans people experience higher levels of food insecurity. This is for many reasons: race, identity, being a newcomer to Canada or a refugee. The way we decided to address this issue was to create a cooking program where trans people of colour could come in and talk while cooking at the same time — sharing food, sharing recipes, sharing stories. This way, folks would get good food and also a meal to take home with them.”

Tell us about how the cookbook came together.

“So much work and love went into it. [The recipes are] quite different than the average ones you would probably encounter because most of the folks that come to the program weren’t born in Canada. They’re either an immigrant or a refugee. Whenever we cooked together [before COVID-19] the staff would pass by and everybody would say, ‘Oh my god, what smells so good? Can I get the recipe?’ And that’s where [the idea] stemmed into a cookbook we could share with people. However, we didn’t want to just do a general cookbook. We wanted to add different components to it to make it a lot more interesting — by addressing sexual health and adding some fun pieces to it.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You


The TPOC team, featuring (top L-R): Evana Ortigoza and Angel Glady, and (bottom L-R): Mariana Cortes, Yasmeen Persad and Christy Joseph.

How would you describe the link between food insecurity and racism?

“Folks who are racialized often find that the types of food they would want to cook or experience — or any food they might get through food banks or drop-ins — don’t necessarily reflect [the meals] of racialized people. Therefore, a lot of folks might not go to a general cooking program because they’re like, ‘This food doesn’t represent me, I don’t know what to do with this food, I can’t cook this food, it’s not a part of who I am or part of my culture.’ And that was really a key part of this — the [TPOC] participants would come, we’d ask them what they would like to cook and we’d try to bridge [the gap] between racism and food insecurity.”

Beef with plantains
Primavera Beef With Plantains and Black Beans, a recipe by Evana Ortigoza in the Cooking With Trans People of Colour cookbook

How has food insecurity in the trans community been affected by COVID?

“It’s been affected terribly because, prior to this, people could have come to physically get the food. That has been a real challenge. However, the way we decided to address the food insecurity [that arose from the pandemic] was by still cooking and having people come pick up the food. That was part of the way The 519 as a whole, and embedded with TPOC, has been addressing food insecurity.”

Related: Joshna Maharaj on Tackling Food Security, Inclusion in Canada’s Hospitality Industry + More

There is a lack of research on trans nutrition. Is this something that comes up often during discussions at TPOC meetings?

“It does. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions around the trans community, in general, and what food is available in terms of how it impacts hormones, surgeries and health benefits. In the cookbook, we promote hormones and healthy eating and TPOC participants would often ask during our discussions, ‘I started hormones, is there maybe something that I shouldn’t be eating too much or less of?’ Of course, we’re not nutritionists, but we try to draw from our own lived experiences to guide folks through that process.”

Many of the nutritional needs discussed in the program and cookbook are based on lived realities. Can you speak to that a bit?

“We wanted the cookbook to represent real people’s lives — we really wanted to bring a trans human experience to it. Because the group is also strongly embedded in talking about sexual health, we wanted to address those pieces and talk about it in an affirming way. Often, when you talk about trans people living with or affected by HIV, there are so many negative stigmas attached to it. Similarly, with hormone therapy. We want to make this real, but we also want to shine on this in a positive light. We want it to show that you can be someone living with HIV and have a healthy life — and you don’t have to eat food that’s not desirable to you.”

Cooking With Trans People of Colour cookbook cover

How can Canadians help and take action?

“Everyone should look at food insecurity as a social health issue. Just as we have access to medical care, we should think of food in the same way. The way people could help support us is by donating to The 519 website. The cookbook will have a donate button and that would continue to help support the program and help to give racialized trans folks access to healthy food. [Food insecurity] is also not talked about enough — and when it is, it’s always negative. If you don’t have access to food, there’s a lot of shame and stigma attached to that. Together [we] can talk about it in such a way that helps people see it in a different light.”

Where to buy the cookbook

Digital Copy: Download the PDF via The 519 website as of March 26, 2021. Price: Donate what you can.
Hard Copy: Swing by Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop. Price: Still to be announced.

About TPOC

The Trans People of Colour Project (TPOC) fosters affirming support, greater access to food security and access to meaningful sexual health promotion information for racialized trans folks. TPOC is an integral component of The 519’s support of BIPOC 2Spirit, trans and non-binary community members within The 519 — and has continued to provide support through the pandemic. Between 2019-2020, TPOC had over 300 visits to the drop-in. To learn more about TPOC, visit their website.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Photos courtesy of The 519.

woman looking at bottle in grocery store aisle, while wearing a face mask

Despite Being Home More, Canadians Are Only Slightly More Food Literate Than Pre-COVID

From dalgona coffee to sourdough to focaccia bread art, it may seem like Canadians are spending more time learning about food and getting creative in the kitchen, but a recent survey from Dalhousie University suggests that may not be true for most Canadians. 

In fact, the study from the university’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab seeking to determine if Canadians are any more food literate since the start of the pandemic found that we only have slightly greater understanding of how food choices impact our health, our community, the environment and the economy.

woman looking at bottle in grocery store aisle, while wearing a face mask

Being food literate means having the mindset, the knowledge and the related skills to make more informed decisions when navigating meal planning. Of the 10,004 Canadians surveyed, only about 40 per cent were able to explain what food literacy means.

Furthermore, mealtime at home during the pandemic may not be getting any easier, despite the greater amount of time people are spending at home; the report reveals that only 37.5 per cent of surveyed Canadians feel their meal planning skills improved during the pandemic.

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

While cookbook sales might have spiked over the course of 2020, only 36 per cent of Canadians learned a new recipe and only about one-quarter (24 per cent) say they’ve made all of their meals. 

The study’s authors believe part of the reason may be the emotional and psychological toll the pandemic is exacting on home cooks

But there is some good news: slightly more than half (56 per cent) of the respondents shared they are making most of their meals since the pandemic began, while nearly half of those surveyed said they’ve tried a new ingredient, whether it be a spice (68 per cent), veggies (37 per cent) or oils (28 per cent).

The study’s lead author and director of the lab, Sylvain Charlebois, acknowledged that cooking is an act of empowerment that allows individuals to take control of what they eat. 

If you’re hoping to improve your own food literacy, here are some healthy meal prep ideas to get you through the week ahead

3 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This February

If you’re like us, all this time at home has been great for two reasons: it’s let us catch up on some of our favourite television, and has us spending way more time in the kitchen whipping up delicious eats (anyone else obsessed with that air fryer they got over the holidays?). The good news: that’s not about to change any time soon, as Food Network Canada has a delicious slate of new shows to dig into this month with STACKTV on Amazon Prime.

Project Bakeover

Who Should Watch:  Neighbourhood bakery lovers.

Steve Hodge and Tiffany Pratt on set for Project Bakeover

Pastry chef Steve Hodge (Great Chocolate Showdown) teams up with HGTV Canada star and the queen of colour Tiffany Pratt to help revamp down-and-out bakery owners’ businesses, breathing new energy (not to mention tasty goods) and beautiful design into their struggling shops.

Related: 5 Gorgeous Restaurants Designed by Tiffany Pratt

Supermarket Stakeout

Who Should Watch:  Savvy supermarket shoppers.

Alex Guarnaschelli is back for a third exciting season of this grocery store competition. Four chefs negotiate with shoppers to snag their groceries and make jaw-dropping themed dishes from the wares.

Host Alex Guarnaschelli portrait, as seen on Supermarket Stakeout, Season 3.

Great Chocolate Showdown

Who Should Watch:  Chocoholics of all ages.

Cynthia Stroud, Anna Olson and Steve Hodge return for the second season of sweet competition! Ten new talented bakers enter the competition ready to show off their chocolate-making and dessert-baking skills in order to take home the $50,000 grand prize.

Cynthia Stroud, Anna Olson and Steve Hodge on the set of Great Chocolate Showdown season 2

Related: Meet the Season 2 Bakers on Great Chocolate Showdown

Joshna Maharaj standing in a professional kitchen, holding an apple and smiling

Joshna Maharaj on Tackling Food Security, Inclusion in Canada’s Hospitality Industry + More

For an industry that celebrates multiculturalism, Canada’s hospitality and food-service sectors still have a long way to go when it comes to authentically reflecting the country’s diversity. Here is how chef, author and community activist Joshna Maharaj is working to change that, one meal at a time. 

Chef, author and community activist Joshna Maharaj standing in professional kitchen, holding an apple

Can you tell us about your work as a chef, author and food activist?

I’ve never been a restaurant chef and I’ve never been excited about being a restaurant chef. My work really focuses on the grassroots experiences of people. I do a lot of community food security work. For the last nine years, I’ve been working to rebuild food systems in public institutions. I’m sure you have some connection to institutional food — for example, either you’ve been in hospitals or someone you love has been in a hospital and you must have seen this sort of dismal offering. That needs some rethinking and some new priorities. This has been my focus.

What are the biggest diversity and inclusion gaps you see currently in the hospitality industry?

[The gaps] are mega and they exist from the micro-level to the macro-level. My friends and family have sort of giggled that I decided to jump into an industry predominantly populated by white guys. And it’s not even just that I went in there as a woman of colour to do this work, but that I decided I wanted to do this a completely different way. I would just hit a wall all the time… everything from the way we teach people to be a chef, to the actual on-the-ground experience that chefs have in the kitchens, it’s all about a white male standard.

One of the things that I hope to do before my last breath is to really untangle our culinary curriculum; I believe that right now, the way we are as cooks, the way we are as eaters, the current context of the culinary curriculum is really an instrument of colonization [based on a French standard]. So the gaps are many and they’re on a number of levels.

Example of a commonly-experienced fine dining experience with a server setting tables next to a window

How does this gap impact consumers? 

I think perhaps the most glaring example of this is how we understand fine dining and that restaurant experience. BIPOC chefs and cooks who are cooking food from their traditions — it seems as though there’s an expectation from eaters that the food of Brown people will continue to be cheap and available cheaply. There’s resistance to that connection [to fine dining] being made.

There’s a number of reasons why that’s a problem, but one of the great comparisons is a Chinese noodle dish versus an Italian pasta dish. Because you can get an Italian pasta dish for $25 for three ravioli and we’re cool with it. For an arguably more complex noodle dish, we won’t tolerate paying more than $9 for that. And it comes in a Styrofoam container and it’s cheap and it’s fast. We’ve really locked this model in and that perhaps is one of the biggest experiences that an eater has in all of this. Because they’re also complicit in this to some degree.

Chinese noodle dish in white bowl

But this idea that a European table is the fine dining table and kind of everything else is just trying to be “something.” The trickle down of that messaging can be super, super damaging.

These restaurants have lower average sales. They really are struggling because there’s no safety room — those margins are so, so narrow. The pandemic has just exasperated what has been a longstanding phenomenon.

Related: Metis Herbalist and Educator Lori Snyder on Urban Foraging and Food Sovereignty

How do racism and inequality translate into the food service and hospitality space? 

From the perspective of the BIPOC cook, that’s obviously the one I’m mostly connected to, I know the biggest frustrations are about being taken seriously. What am I going to do? How am I going to grow? Do I need to get the endorsement of some white person to come in so that people see that light face and then get excited about paying more money for this food?

From the perspective of the eater, eaters are just a bit clued out and they get a bit frustrated themselves about not really knowing how to navigate all of this.

Related: 10 Facts That Will Shock You About Racial Injustice in Canada

What local businesses or organizations are doing it right in this space? 

Some of our non-profit organizations are really leading the way. FoodShare and The Stop are two that are really pushing this conversation forward. Because I come from a grassroots community food security background, it really is meaningful to me that this conversation is happening there. There needs to be a really radical shift in our understanding around privilege, particularly when we talk about food security and vulnerable people, poverty, social assistance, you know, all that kind of rolls in, because BIPOC people are disproportionately affected and finding themselves in a line at a food bank or a dining car.

I think that as an industry, we could learn a lot by paying more attention to grassroots organizations. There’s a bit more connection to justice there. We are in a moment right now where we have a chance to rebuild [hospitality and food service] and we really have a very cool opportunity to see the way grassroots food organizations are doing things.

And if our restaurant vibe looked a little bit more like our community food security vibe, I would be very, very happy to see that… this sort of radical inclusion and accessibility… everything from how dining rooms are set up to how buildings are built to how you build menus so that they are as inclusive as possible while still [serving] locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Hospitality is ultimately about maintaining people’s dignity.

Related: Ren Navarro on Diversity in the Beer Industry – and How Companies Can Improve

What could the average consumer do to help support greater diversity in the food-service industry? 

Some self-reflection and awareness are the first step, because not everybody has money to give financial support. I do think a lot of the challenges exist in our attitudes.

Take a look at the landscape around you and take a look at the restaurants. Take a look at how you understand prices on the menu and what you see when you see a $25 dish. And then, if you’re able, seek out BIPOC-owned restaurants and really think about under-accessed spots.

Related: A Haitian Chef Reveals the Secret Ingredient to His Toronto Restaurant’s Success (Even During COVID)

If everybody just paused for a moment, took a few deep breaths and confronted their own attitudes about where they are willing to spend their money and how they understand just who is a chef — who looks like a chef — very often this [describing herself] is not the image that comes up when they imagine the chef.

(Editor’s Note: If you question that, just try doing a Google image search on the word “chef” yourself and see the images that come up for you).

What are you personally looking forward to in the food-service space?

We have a beautifully emerging population of Black farmers in and around the city, which is super exciting to see. Organizations like FoodShare are actually working to make the product of that work accessible to people; they have a social justice Good Food Box with food sourced exclusively from Black-owned farms or Black-led farms. And those are the changes we can affect with our purchasing to be more supportive.

Fresh food in cardboard box

I’m actually really, really hopeful that there’s a renewed appreciation and a valuing of all of the elements in our food system, from farmers to cooks to the people who drive the trucks in-between. I’d hope [consumers] can really appreciate that this food system exists so we have a broader, more accurate understanding of what it takes to make that happen. This was an industry that was wholeheartedly taken for granted, but we also have a wonderful opportunity to rethink it.

Related: Ranking Canadian Retailers Offering Grocery Delivery Right Now, by Price

Can you tell us a bit more about your book Take Back the Tray?

Take Back the Tray book coverTake Back the Tray is half-story and half-narrative about my work in overhauling three major institutions’ food systems: two hospitals and a university. Hopefully, it also provides some solid marching orders for change. I want a blueprint for the revolution as well as a compelling story. It really identifies the weakest of the failings of the industrial food system and our reliance on it. Our collective deprioritization of food has really resulted in some solidly damaging impacts to our lives, the planet and our economy. But there’s a very viable, delicious, chewy way forward. I am very excited about that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Photo of Joshna Maharaj courtesy of Joshna Maharaj; food box photo courtesy of Getty Images; book photo courtesy of ECW Press; remaining photos courtesy of Unsplash

Host Jeff Mauro appears, as seen on Kitchen Crash, Season 1.

5 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This January

Here’s a resolution: watch more of the most delicious, drool-worthy shows to inspire you in the kitchen in 2021 (and beyond). Ring in the new year with a slew of new Food Network Canada series that you can binge-watch now with STACKTV on Amazon Prime. Ready to bid adieu to 2020 and hone your cooking skills in the year ahead? Read (and watch) on.

Kitchen Crash

Who Should Watch: The family who grocery shops together.

Host Jeff Mauro appears, as seen on Kitchen Crash, Season 1.

Jeff Mauro (The Kitchen) arrives in unsuspecting neighbourhoods to put chefs to the ultimate grocery showdown. Chefs are challenged to ambush real family homes and have a cookout right in the middle of the street. The winning chef achieves bragging rights (and a cash prize to split with the family whose pantry they raided!).

Big Food Bucket List

Who Should Watch: Supporters of local restaurants.

John Catucci watches as a restaurant patron takes a big bite of a pizza dish

John Catucci returns for all-new episodes of the most delicious and hilarious channel show. From Orlando, Florida to Hamilton, Ontario, John is leaving no stone unturned and trying all the delicious joints on his bucket list.

Related: Big Food Bucket List Restaurants That Offer Takeout Now

Kids Baking Championship

Who Should Watch: Little bakers, and the ones who love them.

Wideshot of Bella, Miabella, Haylin, Nemo, Keaton, Trey, Cydney, Mckenzly, Andrew, D'von, Namiah, Jonah racing to pantry, as seen on Kids Baking Championship, Season 9.

Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli return for an all-new season of the exciting baking competition. Child prodigy bakers compete in a series of challenges to prove that they have the baking chops to be named the baking champion.

See More: Ree Drummond’s Very Best Dinner Recipes for Kids

Chopped $50,000 Champs Challenge

Who Should Watch: Couch culinary critics.

Contestants Brittany Rescigno, Gregory Headen, Fernanda Tapia, and Cory Oppold prepare to open their appetizer baskets during the Champions Tournament, as seen on Chopped, Season 45.

Former Chopped champions return to compete once more! It’s a battle of racing clocks and mystery basket curveballs as the best of the best compete to win a whopping $50,000.

Delicious Miss Brown

Who Should Watch: Anyone whose new year resolution is to cook more!

Miss Kardea Brown plates her Steakhouse Burger with frizzled onion, thick cut bacon, tomato and blue cheese dressing, as seen on Delicious Miss Brown, Season 3.

Caterer and cook Kardea Brown is whipping up Southern comfort food and sharing her recipes with you. Many of her recipes pay homage to her Gullah heritage (a distinct group of African Americans living in the Lowcountry region), inspired by recipes from her mother and grandmother. One thing is certain – when you’re in Miss Brown’s kitchen, there are sure to be some delicious eats!

Related: Easy, Comforting Recipes From Delicious Miss Brown

Person wearing rubber gloves holding veggies at grocery store

Food Insecurity During COVID-19 Linked to Poor Mental Health, According to Statistics Canada

In a new report released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday, Canadians who were worried about having enough food during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring were more likely to view their mental health as poor compared to those who were not.

“Food insecurity in itself can be a stressful experience,” said Heather Gilmour, Statistics Canada analyst and report co-author. “So associated with that can be feelings of frustration or powerlessness or even shame — and those kinds of feelings could trigger existing psychological problems or amplify existing ones or trigger new ones.”

Person wearing rubber gloves holding veggies at grocery store

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

The Statistics Canada report said 14.6 per cent of the respondents to the May 2020 survey experienced food insecurity within the previous 30 days. One in five survey respondents to the survey also perceived their mental health as fair or poor or reported moderate or severe anxiety symptoms.

“We did find that, yes, food insecurity was associated with higher odds or higher risk of having either anxiety symptoms or poor self-recorded mental health,” Gilmour said. “That seemed to increase, that risk increased, the greater the food insecurity that people experienced.”

Related: Best and Worst Foods for Your Mental Health and Wellness

According to Statistics Canada, this study is the first to examine the link between food insecurity and self-perceived mental health symptoms among Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Host Kristin Chenoweth, as seen on Candyland, Season 1.

5 New Releases to Watch on STACKTV with Amazon Prime This December

The holidays are one of the most delicious times of the year – and while 2020 is making us reimagine typical festive traditions, you can always count on Food Network Canada as a source of inspiration, no matter what you’re craving. Here, we’ve rounded up an all-new selection of holiday shows featuring your favourite faces and enough delectable recipes to fill your stockings twice, plus classic shows that you’ll love watching any time of the year! Watch Food Network Canada on STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels all December long.

Buddy vs Christmas

Who Should Watch: The family whose Christmas tree has been up and decorated since November

Team Buddy featuring Buddy Valastro, as seen on Buddy vs Christmas, Season 1.

Fan favourite Buddy Valastro returns for a brand new competition, this one decidedly more nice than naughty. It’s a completely new side of Buddy, as he’s pushed outside of his cake-creating comfort zone to compete against talented artists and design magical, holiday-inspired creations.

Related: Cakes, Cookies or Pies? Buddy Valastro Reveals His Ultimate Holiday Treat

Feasting With the Stars

Who Should Watch: Anyone missing big holiday get-togethers with family and friends

Geoffrey Zakarian, along with his family and celebrity friends, is sharing his treasured traditions and festive recipes with you in this one-hour special that’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.

Restaurant Impossible: Revisited

Who Should Watch: Restaurant renovation aficionados

Robert speaks with Jennifer Kerzie outside of the restaurant, as seen on Season 17 of Restaurant Impossible

In these special episodes, host Robert Irvine heads back to previously visited failing restaurants to check in with the owners and discover their progress since the initial visit and see how things have changed.

See More: 20 Canadian Food Causes That Need Your Help This Holiday Season

Candy Land

Who Should Watch: Nostalgic board game lovers

Host Kristin Chenoweth, as seen on Candyland, Season 1.

The classic board game is brought to life in Candy Land, hosted by Kristen Chenoweth! Competitors travel around the board, plucking ingredients straight out of the game and building their sweet masterpieces along the way. You’ll be transported directly into a childhood fantasy with this sweet new series.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Who Should Watch: Santa’s cookie bakers

Wide view of Host Ree Drummond and Host Eddie Jackson, as seen on Christmas Cookie Challenge, Season 4.

Eddie Jackson and Ree Drummond are back hosting a new season of this sweet competition. In each episode, five bakers compete to find out if their holiday cookie-making skills are worthy of Santa’s nice list (plus a cool $10,000 prize).

Related: From Bakers to Grill Masters, Holiday Gifts Perfect for the Food Lover in Your Life

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