Category Archives: Food Network Insider

Captains Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, and Eddie Jackson, as seen on BBQ Brawl, Season 2.

4 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

BBQ Brawl

When to Watch: New season begins Monday June 14 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: Series premiere Wednesday June 9 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.

Project Bakeover

When to Watch: Thursdays at 9 PM ET/PT

Steven Hodge and Tiffany Pratt on the set of Project Bakeover

Steve Hodge and Tiffany Pratt are back to help transform struggling bakeries on the brink of losing it all. Tiffany handles the design, breathing life into the spaces, while entrepreneur Steve helps revamp the menu and get the business owners on the road to success.

Related: Expert Photography Tips to Show Off Your Baked Goods

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

An overhead show of sliced marbled banana bread

Why We’re Drawn to Comfort Baking in Times of Stress, According to a Psychologist

If we could sum up our collective baking experience in 2020, it would boil down to two words: banana bread.

When the global pandemic first upended our everyday lives back in March, many of us turned to baking. It didn’t matter whether or not we were seasoned pros, we all seemed to crave the baked goods we cherished as kids. (Think: cookies, muffins, bread and pies). There was something comforting about the familiar smells and tastes — and it had many of us resorting to a form of culinary therapy in a time of uncertainty. You couldn’t scroll through your Instagram feed without coming across dozens of bread loaves conjured up by even the unlikeliest bakers in your friend group.

Get the recipe for Healthy Marbled Banana Bread

So, what gives? Why now, in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19,  have we once again turned to baking — albeit with a distinct holiday sparkle this time around. As it turns out, our desire to bake when the going gets tough actually has deep psychological roots that can be traced back to our childhood.

Dr. Brent Macdonald, of the Macdonald Psychology Group in Calgary, has more than 20 years of experience in the field — and is more than familiar with the various intricacies of the human brain when it comes to food associations.

Related: Our Fave Food Trends to Come Out of Quarantine, From Pancake Cereal to Bread Art

“[Baking or cooking] can remind you of the positive experience of sharing it with family, of being cared for and comforted as children — and that same emotional transference happens in adults,” he explains. “The smell, the taste, the texture, the experience of eating something that brought you pleasure as a child brings up all those positive emotions of comfort and warmth.”

As Macdonald notes, it’s no mere coincidence that we seek out these familiar foods in times of strife. For many, it’s a form of mindfulness — even if we don’t realize it. “We tend not to have [comfort food] when we’re doing well — we typically have it when we’re feeling stressed. That’s our medicine, in a sense,” he says. “The good thing about it is that it works — comfort food and comfort baking makes us feel better. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — we shouldn’t feel shame or embarrassment that we have comfort foods we enjoy. It kind of gets a bad rap because of its association with sugars and carbohydrates — and fair enough. But once in awhile, treats are treats for a reason.”

Get the recipe for Fudgiest Sweet Potato Brownies

But given this whirlwind year where many have faced significant social and professional upheavals, Macdonald says it’s still important to take note of how consuming these baked goods makes you feel — aside from sentimental reminders of Grandma’s kitchen.

“Does [comfort baking] make you feel good and just feel good? Or does it make you feel good temporarily, masking some really unpleasant emotions that come back immediately once you stop eating? Because that’s an unhealthy pattern,” Macdonald says.

So, what’s the actual science behind this feel-good attachment we have to baking? Over the years, researchers have shown evidence that the act of baking triggers various parts of our brain, including the amygdala (the part of our brain where emotions are given meaning) and the hippocampal cortex (memory retrieval) which can ultimately help us reduce stress and anxiety. Therefore, a simple scent — vanilla or melted butter — can take us back to the relative safety and comfort of our childhood, thus inspiring in us the desire to recreate the recipes we indulged in during our “stress-free” younger years.

Get the recipe for Perfect Fermented Sourdough Bread

And with certain scents you can almost feel the power of those neuroreceptors firing off, Macdonald says. “We start to drool, to salivate, as our body prepares to ingest the food. It’s similar to people who have nicotine cravings. All of those things set off an anticipatory response that is waiting for that intake.”

So, with the holiday season upon us and no sign of COVID-19 abating before the end of this strange year, indulge in a little feel-good baking — whether you’re a novice or pro. After all, it’s one of the most budget-friendly therapeutic activities you can engage in — and the end result tastes delicious. Happy baking!

Try your hand at these classic Christmas cookies that will spread holiday cheer or these bountiful bread pudding recipes you’ll make over and over.

Host Raven Simone, as seen on Holiday Wars, Season 2.

5 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This November

As the leaves fade and the days get shorter, it’s the perfect time to slip into your favourite cozy sweater, grab a warm fall beverage and your snacks of choice (bonus points if they’re homemade!) and pop on these Food Network shows to watch on-demand. With brand new seasons and holiday favourites returning, it’s a delicious time to tune into Food Network Canada on STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels. Here are the new releases we’ll be watching for plenty of baking inspiration all November long.

Holiday Baking Championship

Who Should Watch: Holiday Sweets Lovers

Portrait of Nancy Fuller, Carla Hall and Duff Goldman, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship, Season 7.

Your favourite holiday-themed baking competition is back for the festive season, and it’s set to be one of the most delicious gifts of the year. Host Jesse Palmer is joined by Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Carla Hall to judge the seasonal concoctions baked up by new talented home cooks.

Related: Meet the Season 7 Bakers Competing on Holiday Baking Championship

Carnival Eats

Who Should Watch: Cold Weather Haters

Host Noah Cappe takes a bite of a sweet corn dog on the set of Carnival Eats season 8

If you’re the first person to hop on a plane somewhere warm as soon as the cold weather hits, we have a 2020 workaround: take a trip without leaving your couch with Carnival Eats. Catch Noah Cappe sampling  indulgent fairground fare and midway favourites that will transport you right back to blissful summer days. Take it one step further and make one of these tropical desserts while you watch.

See More: Watch a Sneak Peek of the New Season of Carnival Eats

Holiday Wars

Who Should Watch: Foodie Families

Host Raven Simone, as seen on Holiday Wars, Season 2.

New season, new host! Raven Symone (of That’s So Raven fame) welcomes new teams of cake masters and sugar artists to battle it out by creating over-the-top edible holiday-themed displays in the Holiday Wars kitchen.

Good Eats: Reloaded

Who Should Watch: Culinary Scientists

Good Eats: Reloaded host Alton Brown holds up a bowl of his finished Hard Not-Boiled Eggs in the episode “The Egg Files: The Reload.”

Alton Brown is back, and he’s reinventing classic episodes of Good Eats for our viewing pleasure. This season, Alton reloads classic foods, from eggs and oats to pot roast and steak, delivering new, extra-appetizing ways to enjoy his recipes from the past. Get ready to seriously geek out on food with the return of this show!

Related: Your New Favourite Recipes From Good Eats: Reloaded

Girl Meets Farm

Who Should Watch: Baking Enthusiasts

Host Molly Yeh, with her 1 Skillet Chicken with Spring Vegetables, as seen on Girl Meets Farm, Season 5.

Blogger turned cookbook author and Food Network host Molly Yeh takes inspiration from her Chinese and Jewish heritage to make delicious treats for every occasion. From gorgeous sprinkle-laden desserts to savoury dinner recipes to creative breakfast ideas, Molly develops memorable recipes that everyone in your life will happily devour.

See More: 20 Gorgeous Desserts From Molly Yeh That Deserve a Standing Ovation

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

If you seek to better understand urban foraging, in all its intricacies, Metis herbalist and educator Lori Snyder can show you the path.

But when it comes to urban foraging, what exactly is on the menu? Think: wild plants and weeds growing in the city or suburbs that you could easily come across while out for a stroll.

“We need to be mindful of creating foraging corridors in our cities,” Snyder explains. “How can we be put all this really fantastic food and medicine in our backyards, back alleys, schoolyards and on the edges of parks? We could be growing tons of food that would also benefit insects, birds and other creatures. You have to reconsider what is in your garden that you didn’t realize you could eat, like dandelions and horsetail — stuff we think of as weeds, but our ancestors ate.”

While Snyder points out that there are some potent plants that could do major damage if you’re unfamiliar with them, the majority of the edible and medicinal ones can be found in city parks and right outside our front doors — and each comes with its own unique flavour and texture that we should teach ourselves to acclimate to.

“We’re all about sweetness and the sugar and why is that?,” she muses. “It’s probably because we’re not cultivating enough sweetness in our life. Very gently I remind people that sugar is a colonized food — it actually has a horrible history involving slavery. So here we are eating this part of history that is really very dark. So now I educate my palate about different flavours that aren’t so common in our diet, but were common in our diet once because they’re the wild foods our ancestors ate.”

We recently chatted with Snyder about her urban foraging journey, the meaning of food sovereignty and the one woman who influenced her life’s work.

Related: The Dark Side of Trendy Superfoods (and What You Can Do to Help)

Tell us about the path that led to your journey as an herbalist and educator.

I was born and raised in Squamish, just outside of Vancouver. Where my parents built their house was the beginning of a housing development and behind our home was an incredible forest. We had all kinds of wild animals coming into our yard – like bears and stags. Our next door neighbours who bought the lot beside us were Danish and Irish. My sense of Mrs. [Maude] Bruun, because she was from Ireland, was that she didn’t know the plants that were growing here on this continent. What she would do is walk us kids up through the back trails and introduce us to the cottonwood tree, the salmonberry, the miner’s lettuce, the birch tree — all the incredible species and diversity of plants that grow in this part of the world.

When I do teachings I’m always sharing more pathways for people to discover. [The documentary] My Octopus Teacher shows us that the world around us is always in service of teaching us how to be as two-leggeds. What I’m seeing is that we have moved away from our true way of being on the planet. So I’m really grateful for Mrs. Bruun for imprinting that introduction. Once we start to learn to identify plants and other creatures, we get more curious and want to learn more about them. Once I get to know who they are [the plants], then it’s about ‘can I eat you or use you for medicine?’ Although I don’t like that word ‘use’ — it’s more ‘how can I get in relationship with you so that I can honour the gifts you bring.’

In Indigenous cultures, we didn’t have anything written — it was all oral. It was about using all of our senses so that we understood the world. I didn’t grow up knowing about my Metis history and ancestry. We could ask our own selves, how have I been colonized away from this deep relationship my ancestors have carried since the beginning of time? We’re talking about urban foraging — the reason that is starting to happen [more often now] is because we’re getting more curious [about the land we live on]. It’s either ego-centric or eco-centric. That’s what we’ve been – we’ve been so self-absorbed and distracted by entertainment that we haven’t even noticed someone has been cutting down the forest behind us.

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

What are some common cross-Canada plants that are edible and/or medicinal that many of us aren’t even aware of?

Stinging Nettles [pictured above] are an amazing plant. They are hard to find in Vancouver because we get rid of it — because people think it stings and it’s a weed. But when you take the time to learn about her you realize she’s a superfood. It’s got tons of vitamins and minerals — and it’s so delicious when you cook her, it’s unbelievable. You can get fibres made with her, you can harvest the seeds and it’s considered an adaptogen. It’s also great for the prostate gland and inflammation – and this is just a snapshot of what she can do. The other piece that is so important is that she’s a host plant for five different species of butterfly here in this region. When we don’t [take the time to] understand the native plants, we destroy their habitat.  [Stinging nettle] tastes earthy and woodsy. It’s such a unique flavour.

Saskatoon/Serviceberry we can find across the country. [They resemble blueberries and are both sweet and nutty like almonds in flavour. They’re also high in fibre, protein and antioxidants.]

Strawberries – oh my goodness, what an incredible medicine they are! They help regulate our menstruation — they’re good for cramping. What are us women taking? We’re taking pharmaceuticals which can be hugely detrimental to our health and can have side effects, but can also stay in the body because so many of them are fat-based. Plants are water-soluble, so they move through the body.

Purslane is [a green, leafy vegetable] like a succulent and it’s crunchy. It’s so good for the brain and, of course, there are a ton of vitamins and minerals.

Oxeye Daisy — her leaf is out of this world [delicious] and indescribable. To be able to add her to your salads [or desserts]  would be amazing. The weeds outside our door just offer so much.

Rosehips — now here’s a plant people could be looking for right now all across the continent. [pictured above] They’re abundant, go harvest them. They are beautiful and high in vitamin C, iron and zinc. There’s your coffee right there — a nice stimulus that is good for the heart and good for the muscles and repairing collagen. And she taste beautiful as tea, syrup, jelly or jam.

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

Can you speak to food sovereignty and its link to injustice in the food system?

Food sovereignty appears to me to be political in its design. When you kill off all the buffalo or chop down the forest you impact Indigenous communities’ ability to feed themselves. We are not children asking for handouts. We are strong, capable people who can feed ourselves as we have done prior to the arrival of a new order. We see this tactic again and again all over the planet. All people need to take back their responsibility in their relationship to the land which feeds and nourishes us. We might consider growing our own foods, sharing the bounty, saving the seeds, teaching our children this ancient art of growing food. Not only do we grow food, but we grow a living ecosystem around us that feeds all life. Let’s deal ourselves back into the web of life and drastically reduce our food footprint by transporting food all over the planet. We can do this — take the power back and have sovereignty again for all nations all over the planet.

I don’t want anyone having power over me. I want my autonomy. I want sovereignty in how I’m eating, I want sovereignty in the choices I make. I don’t want to be a consumer, I want to be a citizen. We are consuming because we think we’re not enough. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Let’s wake up, my friends.

Related: Vegetable Garden Planners to Help You Grow All Year Round

What is the biggest takeaway you hope people have from your work?

We’ve been colonized away from nature and for us to really cultivate our reverence and gratitude and know that we’re just part of the web, I have this responsibility. I’ve had people tell me they look at the plants everywhere they walk now… that they’re seeing the world differently now… and of course it sets them on a culinary exploration. It opens you up to all these amazing possibilities.

Want to learn more about plants and urban foraging? Lori Snyder recommends:

The book called Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The braiding of sweetgrass involves three strands — scientific knowledge, Indigenous ways of knowing and plant wisdom. [Kimmerer] refers to the plants and animals as our older brothers and sisters which, to me, makes complete sense because they were here before we ever arrived. If we look at Indigenous ways of knowing, so much of that comes from the land and the animals.

There’s also a beautiful book called The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair. Wild weeds are essential for our human survival. I take so much [knowledge] from others that are sharing this important way of being.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Photo of Lori Snyder courtesy of Belinda White at Apple Star Photo; plant photos courtesy of Getty Images

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Host, Alyson, with judges, Terri and Ray, as seen on Outrageous Pumpkins, season 1.

The 5 Best New Shows to Watch on Amazon Prime in October

While October may not be the first month that comes to mind when thinking about the most delectable times of year, we’d like to make a case for why it’s one of our favourite months for food-loving television junkies. With a packed schedule full of your Spookylicious favourites, plus new crave-worthy Canadian series, it’s a very good time to tune into Food Network Canada on STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels. Here are the shows we’ll be glued to all month long, and why you shouldn’t miss them!

Halloween Baking Championship

Who Should Watch: Baking Fanatics

Carla Hall on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

It’s the ultimate baking competition, with a spooky twist! Hosted by Carla Hall (Top Chef, The Chew),  talented bakers from across North America compete to create Halloween-themed baked goods that are scarily delicious.

Related: Meet the Season 6 Bakers on Halloween Baking Championship

Big Food Bucket List

Who Should Watch: Social Media Foodies

John Catucci laughing with a chef making smoked pork ribs

Are you missing dining out and feeling the foodie FOMO? Do you crave discovering local gems and trying out the must-eat offers before the rest of your friends? Then tune into this series where John Catucci (You Gotta Eat Here!) is back and exploring the bucket list-worthy spots across North America. He’s taking you into the kitchens to see how all the drool-worthy dishes are made.

See More: Explore the Restaurants From Big Food Bucket List

Big Time Bake

Who Should Watch: Competitive Cooks

Buddy Valastro on the set of Big Time Bake

Buddy Valastro (Buddy vs. Duff) is back with an all-new series, and this time he’s behind the judging table! In this adrenaline-pumping baking competition, bakers are given six hours to create a show-stopping cake. The catch? It’s a nonstop competition in the kitchen.

Related: The Evolution of Buddy Valastro: From Cake Boss to Buddy vs. Duff

Outrageous Pumpkins

Who Should Watch: DIY Lovers

Get ready to be astounded and inspired! Seven expert carvers compete to create the haunting and life-like Halloween rendering, all using pumpkins. Hosted by Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), this four-part series is for more than just food lovers as the fantastic creations are spooky works of art that will delight all.

Related: 40+ Perfect Pumpkin Desserts to Make Your Fall Menu Sweeter

Wall of Chefs

Who Should Watch: Home Cooks Seeking Inspiration

"The Wall" on Wall of Chefs

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to cook in front of one of your culinary heroes? What about an entire panel of the most inspiring cooks across the country? That’s what the home cooks are up against as they do culinary battle in front of “The Wall” in order to win $10,000 and some serious bragging rights!

Related: The Best Expert Cooking Tips From “The Wall” (Take Note!)

The Dark Side of Trendy Superfoods (and What You Can Do to Help)

Superfoods are (typically) plant-based, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants, healthy fats, fibre and a slew of other vitamins and minerals. The superfoods list is pretty expansive and ranges from blueberries and salmon to Greek yogurt, beans and whole grains. Basically they’re foods that max out on the nutritional benefits while minimizing overall caloric intake. So what’s the problem? Well as it turns out, there’s a pretty dark side to some of these superfoods and they can come with all kinds of surprising ethical, economic and cultural side effects. This is particularly noteworthy when superfoods become trendy (avocado toast anyone?), resulting in a large supply and demand. Let’s take a look.

Kale

Kale chips and salad may have decreased in popularity over the past few years, but the leafy green continues to top many superfood lists. If you continue to add it to your plate, then where you get it matters. A large amount of kale is grown on the United States’ West Coast and shipped to Canada via truck, which has a pretty significant environmental impact. Ecologists at Cornell University estimate that to grow, wash, package, transport and keep one pound of the greens chilled for that journey requires 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy. That packs a pretty big environmental impact.

What you can do: Pay attention to where your greens come from and try to buy local. Kale is one of the easiest vegetables to grow during a Canadian summer, so you could also consider planting your own and eating it in season.

Avocado

Avocado toast, guacamole, sushi… there are so many delicious ways to enjoy this creamy green fruit, which is often referred to as nature’s mayonnaise. It’s no wonder that avocados have become a staple at produce sections across the country. At first, the farmers in Michoacán, Mexico — one of the only places on Earth where avocados can grow year-round — were fans of the growing trend. But then the cartels caught on, who have been extorting the farmers — as well as the sellers of fertilizer and pesticides — ever since. Some farmers who have been unwilling to cooperate have allegedly been attacked or killed.

What you can do: You can do your best to buy avocados that operate outside cartel influence. Alternatively, you can pay attention to the California growing schedule and buy avocados when they’re in season — typically from spring to summer.

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

Quinoa

Quinoa is high in protein and quite filling, which has made this grain a staple in vegetarian and vegan plates for years now. Unfortunately, quinoa’s growing popularity has spelled disaster for many farmers in South America where it hails — typically in Peru and Bolivia. There, farmers used to cycle their crops with the help of llamas and other animals. But in order to meet growing demand they have sold off their livestock and invested in farming equipment instead, which has resulted in decreased soil fertility. Also, as demand for quinoa grew worldwide, it tripled in price and became too expensive for the locals who have long relied on it as their main source of food. The situation has improved in recent years as countries like Australia, the United States and Canada have found ways to grow it locally.

What you can do: There is ongoing debate as to whether it is better: to buy local and help keep food costs down or to buy from the Andes and invest in the farmers there whose livelihoods depend on production. While there are points for each side, the main consensus seems to be that if you are going to indulge in a bowl of quinoa, ensure that it is certified fair trade.

Coconuts

Health experts still seem to be divided as to whether coconuts (including coconut oil, milk and water) is actually a superfood or a hidden source of fat. If you do incorporate coconuts into your diet though, you should consider how they’re sourced. There are many countries that train and use young pig-tailed macaque monkeys to pick coconuts for production, since the animals are able to harvest up to 1,600 coconuts daily — way more than humans ever could. As a result there have been many allegations of animal mistreatment and abuse in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

What you can do: Make sure to educate yourself on where your coconuts are coming from. PETA has a handy list of offenders, as well as companies that have severed ties with producers that use monkeys for their harvest.

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

Cacao

Chocolate as a superfood? Um, yes please. Who doesn’t love knowing that a sweet treat could actually be good for them? Cacao — AKA the raw, unrefined pods that grow on cacao trees — is loaded with antioxidants, is the highest plant-based source of iron and is even a natural mood elevator. However, our love for all things chocolate (sweetened or otherwise) has led to some serious deforestation problems in countries like the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana, where producers are clearing forests to make room for new crops. Poverty for underpaid farmers is also an issue and they often turn to child labour or slavery as a result.

What you can do: Read the labels and do your research. Major chocolate brands have taken positive steps in the past few years to source ethical cacao. But in order to really ensure that you’re choosing with your heart, see if the company in question publishes an impact report on its website or if it uses third parties to certify any “ethical” trademarks. You can also advocate for change and take several other steps as outlined in this report.

Salmon

Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, salmon has long been linked to benefits like improved brain function and better neurological health. However there have been many reported problems over the years of unethically farmed fish being loaded up with potential chemicals, putting the “superfood” part of the fish in question. And as for the fresh stuff? Overfished waters are also a serious problem worldwide .

What you can do: Although some guidelines can be tricky to follow, try and stick to sustainably sourced salmon (and other fish and seafood) wherever possible in order to protect the species as a whole. And if you are consuming the farmed variety, the government of Canada recommends sticking to locally raised stocks from the Southern Coasts.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images