Chuck Hughes

Who: Chuck Hughes -Chucks Day Off (Airs on Food Network Canada)

Alright so I am about to gush about Chuck Hughes, he is absolutely my most favourite Canadian Chef. Don’t get me wrong I have a bunch of Canadian chefs that I call my favorites, but there’s something about this man. Yes he is handsome and has an accent, but that’s not it. Yes he is tattooed which I find really cool; but it’s this man’s passion for food. Even the simplest of dishes he makes on his show “Chucks Day Off” exudes love and passion for his customers, employees, distributors, electricians, cleaners, the neighbours on his restaurants street and I could go on. He just loves making food for the people in his life in those minor and major roles. He’s a down to earth guy that loves what he does and nothing is better than that.

When he won Iron Chef America (a show I love to watch) I was glued hoping he’d win. The secret ingredient was Lobster and Chuck loves lobster, he has one tattooed on his arm. He made a lobster roll with a bloody Caesar cocktail, lobster poutine, lobster and onion ring salad with carrot butter and avocado and lobster-mushroom risotto and jerked-spiced lobster. (Some of these recipes are in his books.) Let me tell you it didn’t look good. I thought he was going to lose for sure, the critiques from the judges didn’t seem so nice and his face looked a little beaten down, but he won! He beat Bobby Flay who has a pretty good record on Iron Chef. So Chuck became the first Canadian to win and did what Roger Mooking and Lynn Crawford couldn’t do. I was so happy and even my dad watched it too and when we were talking the next day he said, “Did you see Iron chef, that guy you’re always watching won” to which I replied “Yes dad, yes I did and it was great.”

I have been watching his show for years but sadly the only book he had out was in French so my limited ability to read French would have ruined any recipe I tried. When he released Garde Manger in English I picked it up right away! This was my chance to finally try some of his cookbook recipes without the need of a translator!

Mr. C. and I were supposed to visit Garde Manger on our trip to Montreal, but those plans fell through and I was left wondering if I will ever get to visit his restaurant or have a chance to meet him, but my chance was on the way. His signing was at 12:00pm and I arrived minutes to 10:00am on a Mother’s Day. This was going to be my first mother’s day after my mom’s passing , so instead of staying at home and being down and depressed, Mr. C and I decided it would be a good way for me to get through the day and with it being Chuck and all, it felt designed just for me. I was first in line and was very thrilled about that thinking the whole time “This never happens to me!” Normally the biggest fans are there earlier, but then I realized I am the biggest fan.

He didn’t talk much prior to the actual autograph signing, but he made up for that when I got my book signed. Being the first in line has its perks, I got a few precious extra minutes with him. He shook my hand (I hadn’t had that yet at any of the book signings I have been to) and I told him that I loved his White Chocolate Meringue recipe; which was a hit with my husband who is not a fan of Meringue and an Irish co-worker who absolutely loved it. He told me that he is not a fan of Meringue himself either, but he makes it because people love it. The same can be said for Fennel and a lot of his recipes have Fennel in it. He then told me that you can’t be a chef and cook just what you like, which is very true, it would be hard to make any money. So I got my signature and thanked him for coming to see us in Toronto, and walked away one happy girl. We were treated to finger sandwiches, coffee and a lovely three tiered cake from Pusateri’s Fine Foods, a gourmet grocer in the same mall as the bookstore. All in all it was a great day, and my best book signing yet! It made a very hard day that much better.

Thanks Chuck.

Jamie Oliver

When: Friday October 19th 2012, 7:00 pm
Place: Massey Hall

Jamie’s in town and I can’t wait. I have been watching him since I was a teenager. I wasn’t even into cooking yet, just liked the show and kept watching. I can honestly say he was the first chef who got me enthused and into cooking even if it was only suggesting ideas to my mom to cook for me. I remember watching him on TVO before Canada had any solely-dedicated food stations and I just thoroughly enjoyed the show and how he made cooking so easily accessible that even a young person like me could accomplish a recipe and not feel intimidated.

I have been excitedly waiting for this event to come around; I even went by Massey Hall the day before to take a picture of Jamie’s name on the Marquee (geeky I know). The price of the show included a copy of Jamie’s Great Britain – 130 of my favourite British recipes, from comfort food to new classics; and we received a surprise copy of Jamie Magazine. Guests of the show were allowed to ask Jamie questions and some would be selected from the audience. I didn’t have a question in mind so I choose a light hearted one – “What was your biggest mistake when you first became a chef? I should have picked a more hard hitting question but sometimes it is nice for celebrities to not be asked the same questions time and time again; and I wanted to mix it up a little. My question wasn’t chosen, but that’s alright with me.

After a short introduction by the host, Matt Galloway from CBC’s Metro Mornings; Jamie came out waved to the audience, accepted his applause and got down to business. Matt and Jamie chatted and he told stories about cooking and his childhood. I seem to find UK people to always be hilarious, witty and charming. Their type of humour is much like my own so needless to say I laughed a lot. Jamie shared a few anecdotes I’d like to share with you all: He was in special needs class back in school. (But he truly wasn’t special needs; it was just how the school system regarded anyone who needed to learn in a different manner). He is dyslexic and the school couldn’t handle his needs back then. The kids in his class would sing “Special needs” to the tune of The Beetles “Let it be” every time he was called to go out to his specific classes. One of the funny moments was Jamie actually sang it for us and we all chuckled. It’s pretty cool that he can laugh at this and see it for what it’s worth. He also mentioned that he grew up around food as his parents owned and ran a pub named “The Cricketers” where he got to practice his skills.

A question was asked of how he likes the Canadian TV food stations and he thought Food Network Canada was better than Food Network America, because the quality of programming was higher in his eyes. He spoke of his Food Revolution and how not enough kids know how to cook; and this needs to be as important as Science, Math and English even if only the basic cooking skills are taught. He believes there are 10 meals that can save your life, and they are just basic recipes that are not made from processed foods that make us unhealthy. He commented that if he could bring one of his restaurants to Canada it would be Jamie’s Italian as it would work best here; because of its regimented menu that could be moved to a Canadian market easily. Jamie is passionate about mentoring and has done so with Chef Derek Dammann (Maison Publique) a gastro pub that Jamie partnered with Derek in this endeavour. Jamie believes you should mentor the up and coming as much as you can, and unlike some other chefs who don’t necessarily like doing this in fear of being out-shined, he believes in it whole-heartedly. As sometimes without a well-established chef’s mentoring you just can’t make it whether it’s financial or other obstacles that get in your way.
Jamie spoke of his love of Scotch Bonnets & Chillis. Any fan knows this and he told us of a story with one of his daughters: she was talking back to him and he was trying to be patient, even though she was pushing all his buttons he tried to let it slide. But when she came back a few moments later all happy and carefree Jamie was still ticked. She asked “daddy can it have a treat”. So Jamie gave her a treat alright, he spiked it with hot peppers and then he could hear her saying off in the distance “mommy this treat is hot”.

Back in his early days Paul Smith the designer used to frequent a restaurant Jamie worked in and Jamie was none the wiser. When Jamie had his first big break he bought a Paul Smith suit and was told by a co-worker that you’ve cooked for him numerous times, and he’s out there right now! He’s the one who sent compliments to the chef. Now Jamie didn’t believe it was him and asked for some ID and upon seeing the ID he was shocked and they have been friends ever since.
Jamie spoke to us about his new show at the time called Food Fight Club, where you find the best of a particular British food from all across Great Britain (eg. Sausage, desserts, cheese), and then they take the dish and products overseas to battle it out with the French, German, and Italians etc. Celebrities will be involved and the studio audience will be able to participate

This was a great night and I will treasure getting to see the man who got me excited about food.

CNE Food Truck Frenzy

CNE Princess Gate - Candy Coated Culinista

CNE Princess Gate – Candy Coated Culinista

When: Friday, August 24th 2012 – 11am-10pm, Saturday, August 25th & Sunday August 26th – 10am-10 pm & Friday, August 23rd 2013 – 11 am-10 pm, Saturday, August 24th 213 – 10 am 10 pm & Sunday, August 25th 2013 – 10am-10pm)
Where: Princes’ Boulevard in front of Allstream Centre & Direct Energy Centre

I watch a lot of Eat St. on Food Network and when I say a lot I mean like 1 episode a day. Even if it’s a repeat it’s a fun show that makes me very envious of all the food trucks in the U.S.A. Toronto is slowly grabbing on to this food truck revolution and street meat isn’t only hot dogs but now are some very authentic, classy and inspiring foods. I subscribe to Toronto Food Trucks; so when the better weather comes around and the food trucks roll out and I get updated to where the trucks will be. I have visited some and when summer hits I always try and see if any are in my area.

For three years now I go to the CNE with Mr. C. and two of my friends. I am hoping we can make this a yearly thing and for two years now the Food Truck Frenzy has been on. The frenzy features many food trucks from around the GTA.

The first thing I do is see all the offerings from each food truck and then I line up and get my grub on. There are plenty of trucks at this event. We had a great time tasting foods and food combinations we wouldn’t normally. We all left the CNE grounds full and when I got home I managed to find a little more space for the Greek fries I had left over.

Here’s the rundown of my stops over the last two Food Truck Frenzy’s

Blue Donkey Streatery
This truck is a bright blue with a donkey on it, you can’t miss it and they offer a selection of Greek inspired foods.

When we were ready to leave I needed to make one more stop for a late night snack before the park closed, I grabbed the Feta Fries with Tzatziki for $8. The Greek fries are hand cut and sprinkled with feta. I have had something similar before from The Arkadia House in Scarborough and this too was amazing. To me it’s like cheese fries but a classier.

Beach Boys Food Truck
A rotating menu of summertime food inspired by the 60’s rock band, with a blend of the California
culture they personify.

Bacon Nation
A USA food truck that is driven by “slow food” combined with a Northwest style.

Mr.C . went here and had a burger with bacon, ham & pulled pork. By the time I got to him to take a pic it was almost done. I’m guessing he really enjoyed it. He did laugh at the fact that it was all pig in various forms.

Buster’s Sea Cove
A sea food focused food truck that sells oysters on the half shelf, lobster rolls, fish tacos, crab rolls & Key lime pie. I also saw them at the TO Food Fest 2013.

Crossroads Diner
Healthy seasonal options and some guilty pleasures. Their focus is a modern twist of the diner classics at affordable prices and great quality products.

Food Dudes
They are a full service catering company that uses the highest quality ingredients and the best service while tending to the clients’ needs.

Frankie Fettuccine
Gourmet Pasta dishes is sold by this Food Truck.

Fidel Gastro
This truck serves up sandwiches with a twist.

Let’s Be Frank
A Toronto based food truck that serves Nathan’s Famous all beef dogs.

I ordered the sliders: a pair of mini hot dogs which was the perfect snack. I topped my hot dog with Dijon mustard, ketchup and relish. I usually don’t eat beef hot dogs, but this was great. I would have this again as a full size dog. My friend ordered the Ultimate Dog, a hot dog wrapped in pea meal bacon topped with melted cheese.

Gourmet Gringos
Gourmet Latin food.

Gourmet B1tches
Healthy food options with some flare.

Hank Daddy’s Barbeque
All things BBQ’d. Serving pork, chicken, beef and ribs at fairs, festivals and catered events.

Hogtown Smoke
BBQ smokehouse slow & low with an on board truck smoker.

Mike’s Dog House
Mike’s started as a hot dog stand that grew to a special event catering vehicle

Per Se Mobile
This food truck has taste from all the diverse roots in the GTA.

When I went to this food truck there was one thing on the menu that caught my attention, and also the attention of us all. The Raw Sugar Cane Lemonade; as 3 of us have Caribbean roots we gravitated to this and Mr. C just liked the idea of it. The lemonade is made with Real Panela (whole cane sugar) served in a 16oz cup with a lime and ice for $4. It was one of the best lemonades I’ve had, you could taste the sugar cane and we enjoyed it so much that we all went back for seconds when we had our late night snack.

This year again all four of us enjoyed the raw cane sugar lemonade. It is that good and we looked forward to having it again.

My friends had the Per Se Poutine which is a Demi-Glazed (Gravy) with Brisket, Cheese Blend all served on a bed of Fresh Home Cut Kettle Chips. This looked delicious and I must say even though this is food truck food, they style & plate their food well; even if it’s going into a paper dish.

Pretty Sweet
Mobile cupcakery specializing in noveau flavours and artfully decorated creations.

Stuft Gourmet Sausages
This food truck is street meat at its finest. Toronto has lots of hot dog vendors but none like this. Here the bun just has a hole at the top to stuff your meat and sauce into it. It’s definitely a less messy way to eat a hot dog and a smart idea.

Mr. C. came here and ordered the Creole Turducken, a turkey, duck and chicken seasoned in authentic Creole spices and topped with a mustard sauce for $9. I snagged a bite and it tasted good but the seasoning isn’t my thing however; Mr. C. loved it and would have it again. A year later he still raves about the Creole Turducken.

Sweetness Bakery
Quality baked goods whipped up by accredited pastry chefs and bakers. This truck is named after the owners daughter Chloe “Sweetness” is her nickname. Their boy Foster, at 2 was diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies and after that experience they needed to find better food options for when they eat out. The food truck has a line called “Foster favourites” a nut free alternative.

Texas Tornado
Tornado fries are seasoned in five different options – Sour Cream & Onion, Salt and Vinegar, Dill Pickle, Wild Buffalo or just Sea Salt. Also on the menu is Tornado potato, Twister Dog, Poutine & French Fries.

Tiny Tom Donuts
A regular at the CNE is Tiny Toms you must try this even if only once. Mini doughnuts are served fresh right in front of you. You can watch the hopper toss out the doughnuts and select from cinnamon,chocolate, icing sugar or apple-cinnamon at $5 a dozen.

This has too much topping for me but this is a favourite for many, and for once a year why not just do it right?

The Urban Smoke 2012-2013
A southern style both traditional and fusion Gourmet BBQ.

I ordered the Dirty Bob, a Texas Brisket with Swiss cheese, onions and mushrooms $8. I have never had brisket before so I decided today was the day to give it a try. It was like a grilled cheese sandwich to me with meat added. I really enjoyed it but Mr. C. abruptly said after taking a bite “never make brisket for me please”. It’s a fattier meat and he did not like that at all.

Wood Fired Pizza
There was a pizza place there that was serving thin crust pizza in 3 spicy flavours including a vegetarian and of course pepperoni. Mr. C. and the girls loved it. Not too much crust and falvouful toppings.

Yalla Paramount
Middle Eastern Cuisine: Shawarma, Falafels, Grape Leaves & Musakaa can be found here.

Yogurt by weight: You order you yogurt and add any of the toppings you want.

Other food trucks there were: S.W.A.T., Nazca and Pancha.

Per Se Poutine - Per Se Mobile

Per Se Poutine – Per Se Mobile

Yogurty's - Candy Coated Culinista

Yogurty’s – Candy Coated Culinista

Wood Fire Pizza - Candy Coated Culinista

Wood Fire Pizza – Candy Coated Culinista

Sweetness Bakery - Candy Coated Culinista

Sweetness Bakery – Candy Coated Culinista

Per Se Mobile - Candy Coated Culinista

Per Se Mobile – Candy Coated Culinista

Let's Be Frank - Candy Coated Culinista

Let’s Be Frank – Candy Coated Culinista

Fish Taco - CNE Food Truck Frenzy

Fish Taco – CNE Food Truck Frenzy

Ultimate Dog - Let's be Frank

Ultimate Dog – Let’s be Frank

Sliders - Let's Be Frank

Sliders – Let’s Be Frank

Nadia G. – Bitchin’ Kitchen

Nadia G. Bitchin' Kitchen - Candy Coated Culinista

Nadia G. Bitchin’ Kitchen – Candy Coated Culinista

Who: Nadia G – Bitchin’ Kitchen (Airs on Food Network Canada)
Where: CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) Food Network Food Stage
Date: Sunday August 25th 2013 2-3pm & 5-6pm

“Let’s go to the Ex”… and not ride the rides but enjoy the Food Truck Frenzy, Pavillion, Butter Sculptures, Farm and everything else but. For 3 years now I go and do everything except the rides. Now I’m not a big fan of rides so I’m more than happy to just wander around and check out the sand sculptures and the physics defying rock stacker. This year I did all that again and made a second trip back to see Nadia G. on the Food Network Sound Stage yesterday. I was so happy when I saw she was going to be there. Bitchin’ Kitchen is a combination of comedy and cooking show rolled up into one. I even own a few items from her online store. A cupcake pillow and a pizza pillow I gave to an Italian friend because she loves pizza that much. I have so much fun watching the show that I have to remember to take note of the recipes, as I am trying to learn something.

I came an hour early and I was glad I did. The seats filled up fast and by the time her demonstration started there was standing room only along the sides. Today Nadia was rocking a Mrs. Cleaver 50’s look: a striped baby blue and white button up dress with nude high heels. I was hoping to see some of those amazing killer heels and form fitting mini dresses she wears; but I have seen her dressed like this on occasion and with her tattoos and bling peaking through she made this and edgy molly housemaid look, and still very Nadia G. As she cooked she told anecdotes about a friend and how she has Foot and Mouth disease – meaning she always manages to put her foot in her mouth all the time. She made fun of a Canadian Rock Band that has been the butt of jokes many a time. The funniest quip was during the Q & A period, a student off to College asked what staples a student should have on hand. Nadia said pasta and beans like lentils, as they are cheap and last for a long time. She then said “Cooking is a life skill. It’s like wiping your butt. You have no excuse to say I don’t know how to do it.” The audience laughed and it is so true. No one says you need to be a gourmet chef.

For the demonstration Nadia prepared a Back of the Kitchen Penne, Balsamic Strawberries and a Grapefruit Mojito.

Back of the Kitchen Penne
The leftovers in your fridge made into a meal. Ingredients included: penne, olive oil, parsley, basil, cilantro, Genoa salami, red or white onion, garlic and tomatoes, (crushed by hand into a sauce with chunks).

Balsamic Strawberries
This is a simple and easy dessert which is one of her fav’s. She advised us to make sure we get good balsamic which will cost 10-15$ for a meager portion. If you are getting a lot for that price its garbage, and remember a little goes a long way. This recipe consisted of: strawberries, balsamic and maple syrup. It can be served with ice cream or on a puff pastry.

Grapefruit Mojito
4 main things go into Mojito’s – citrus, liquor, herbs & sugar. So why not mess around a little with those components. This is a mojito with a twist comprised of: grapefruit juice, cilanto, vodka, sugar and chili’s. You can rim the glass in chili’s if so desired.

There was a quick Q & A period and then to my surprise a meet & greet. I bolted to the line and wished I had brought my cookbook with me; however there was a photo, tee-shirts and both cookbooks on sale. I bought the first cookbook as I don’t own it and got it signed. I mentioned to her my favorite recipes and that her Meatloaf with Awesome Sauce has made Mr. C. a meatloaf lover, and that the Greek chicken salad sandwich is great for lunches. She said my name was very pretty as she signed the book and then we took a quick candid shot, I shook her hand and was on my way.

All in all a great day. I got to see one of my fav Canadian Chefs in person and I have a few more recipes to add to my repertoire, not to mention all the laughs I had. I left with a big smile on my face. Thanks Nadia.

Nadia filmed a new one-off series where she and the Bitchin’ Kitchen Crew travelled around the U.S. called “Bite Me”. For now it will be only air in the U.S., but hopefully we will be able to see it here in Canada in the future.

James Cunningham

Who: James Cunningham
Book: Eat St.

Eat St. is one of my favorite Food Network shows, so naturally when the book came out on March 19, I scooped it up. I was ordering some books online from chapters and I saw that James Cunningham was making an appearance at the Chapters/Indigo in the building across from my work, and I knew what I had to do. On my lunch break I walked over to First Canadian Place and saw James out front signing at the table.

When I came up James was talking to another fan getting the signature for someone else (this was a father’s day promotion). I enjoyed plenty of laughs in line whether food related or not, as James is a comedian and knows how to entertain. When it was my turn we talked about his favorite recipes and the foods that were unforgettable, and gave me some suggestions on what I must try. Now He’s not a great cook, but he loves to eat. While we were talking another lady had come by asking what was the book about, and I had mentioned you got to buy this and try the chocolate Diablo cookies recipe. It is one of my fav’s and every time the episode comes on I’m watching it. When I mentioned I’m on my lunch and this is a great way to spend it he’d inquired to what I do. He actually has done shows 2 years in a row for the governing association of my company; he made a few quips about how my company name sounds very spicy and Latin and fast. He even noticed that I was wearing my company colours in my outfit. I didn’t even realize it until he said it, to which we laughed.

When recommending some recipes he said “do you eat meat?” I said of course I do and then he said I need to try the below first:
S’mores Waffles – The Waffle Bus – Houston, Texas pg 273.
Maple bacon Cupcakes – Sugar Rush by Sweetness Bakeshop – Miami Florida pg, 252. Easy and really great.
Coconut Halibut Cheeks – Vij’s Railway Express – Vancouver, British Columbia pg 196. He mentioned Vij’s one of the most rebound Indian chef’s in the country. Vij’s is approachable a great person and very knowledgeable and was one of his favourite visits.
Mac and cheese Cones with bacon “Bling” – Gypsy Queen Café – Baltimore, Maryland. Tip- Spray Pam around the inside of the cones to ensure they stay crunchy, and also keep the bacon fat and stir that back into the mac & cheese. We both laughed as this is perfect BBQ food. You can eat your plate and have a beer in one hand and your mac & cheese cone in the other.
Jhal Muri – Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express – London England said he was such a character and fun.

It was a great experience meeting him. Even though I hadn’t held onto my receipt from March, he still signed my book just the same, which I was very grateful for. I had many many laughs high fives and a couple of photos too.

Cake Boss

Who: Cake Boss – Buddy Valastro (Airs on TLC)
Book: Baking with the Cake Boss: Buddy’s Recipes & Secrets That Make You the Boss of Your Home Kitchen

Cake Boss was recommended to me by one of my lifelong friends (my matron of honour, second mom, older sister, hairdresser, seamstress, baker, cake decorator). I could go on and on, she’s a very talented woman and means the world to me. She absolutely loves the show and got me into watching it in its early days. I decided I would surprise her with a signed copy of Buddy Valastro’s latest book for her birthday.

My plan was to get tickets to his show at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, but they sold out too fast and I missed my chance. The book signing was for 1pm, and knowing the location chosen for the signing (A predominantly Italian part of the city) I decided to go very early and I’m glad I did! I arrived at 9:45am for a 1:00pm signing and was somewhere around 60th-70th in line. I sat in line and read for over 4 hours for a quick 20 second meet and greet, and got a few candid shots with him. Side note: – I have to say, he looks much more handsome in person, his eyes are very blue and he is much tanner than he appears on the show. The theme song, Sugar Sugar by the Archie’s was sung by the original artist, which I thought was neat. Also a fan in front of me went to Carlos Bakery in Hoboken and had a Carols Bakery tee shirt to tell his tale! When all was said and done over 1000 people showed up and the line went out the building and spilled outside. Buddy was supposed to only to stay until 3pm but he stayed until everyone got their book signed, what a guy!

For 4 ½ months I held onto my surprise and when April rolled around I gave my friend her present and she loved it! She finally has her own autographed cookbook by Cake Boss. The look on her face made me so happy.

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