The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us.
I have a number of Canadian Food heroes. They for the most part are the mentors who helped shape my career. There are a number of them, but I will concentrate on two, who helped me understand food and editorial in different ways.
The first, Elizabeth Baird, is one of the greatest Canadian food personalities and icons.
Elizabeth is my hero for multiple reasons. She has mentored many food professionals across Canada. Her keen understanding of what it means to foster and nurture neophytes in the food industry is well-known. Like Lucy Waverman, Monda Rosenberg and Bonnie Stern, she made her mark on the food industry and then continued to do so by mentoring protoges throughout her career.
She has always understood that in the editorial side of the food industry, we are first and foremost there to serve our readers, not indulge ourselves.
I learned recipe writing and development at her side.
Words have always important to Elizabeth, and she always allowed me to find my way and my voice (at times stumbling along the path) while gently guiding and moulding me.
My first article for Canadian Living, as a freelancer terrified me. I agonized over it, testing mulitple times, writing it cautiously, reviewing it, rewriting, editing and rewritng. The truth was I had never written nor published recipe before when Elizabeth handed me my first assignment.
Once submitted, and relieved, I waited for her edit.
Instead of making me feel dumb, she very kindly, asked me to rewrite the ingredient list, making sure the ingredients were in descending order of quantity, and that they corresponded to the method (what I later learned was the proper way to write a recipe). I never forgot that lesson.
The second was that she always allowed me to figure it out on my own.
I had a family recipe for something we called “Plum Pudding.” It wasn’t Christmas pudding as you might suspect, but rather a type of baked strudel that my grandmother made for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. Since my Baba (grandmother) died, my mom sisters and I would make this family favourite annually.
When I was assigned a story on Rosh Hashahna desserts for Canadian Living, early on in my career as a staffer there, I was certain “Plum Pudding” fit the assignment perfectly.
I made, remade, redeveloped that recipe at 4 or 5 times. Each time, Elizabeth and I critiqued it, discussed and tasted. Instead of crushing me, by telling me that my family recipe, really wasn’t up to the caliber of a Canadian Living “Tested Til Perfect” recipe standard, she allowed me to come to the conclusion myself, and find a my way to honour my family tradition, by redeveloping the recipe in to a Apple Plum Raisin Strudel instead. I am not sure I ever told her how grateful I was for this lesson.
Recently, I learned Elizabeth will be honoured with THE ORDER OF CANADA for her vast contribution to the Canadian culinary scene.
I am thrilled for Elizabeth to receive this deserved accolade and honoured to have worked by her side for so many years.
My second hero, whom I also worked with at Canadian Living, for many years is Andrew Chase, former editor of Homemaker’s magazine.
I worked alongside Andrew for years, first when he was in the position of Associate Editor at Canadian LIving, and then when he was Food Editor of Homemaker’s. For a time Canadian Living and Homemakers worked in adjacent kitchens on the second floor of Transcontinental Media in Toronto.
Under the guidance of Canadian Living Food Editor Gabrielle Bright (who succeeded Elizabeth) Andrew became a welcome and frequent participant in our recipe tastings and critiques.
Gaby, having worked with Andrew in the restaurant business in her past, must have already known what I soon learned- Andrew has an exceptional palate and understanding of flavour. In don’t hestiate to say that Andrew has the best palate of anyone I have ever worked with-bar none.
Andrew has a long history in the Canadian food scene, and brings with him a wealth of life and culinary experience. His keen intellect makes its presence known in unassuming ways, but most of all, he is generous and humble.
By working alongside Andrew, tasting his food, listening to him discuss flavours, have him taste my food and make suggetions on how to improve it, I learned more about how good food tastes than any other time in my career.
Whenever Andrew made something, from Pizza, to authentic Chinese food it was incredible. I remember urging Andrew to open a pizza restaurant, his pizza was so good.
I was both amazed and thrilled to learn he was self taught .
This also helped me to accept the fact that I am mostly self taught.
I was always a little uncomfortable that I never was not formally trained as a chef. Though I attended George Brown, I attended their year long Baking Techniques program. When it ended I had my third child and got my first job testing recipes for Today’s Parent quite by accident.
I learned first hand from Andrew, you don’t have to be a trained chef, to be an exceptional cook. (I still correct people if they ever call me a chef or a pastry chef, I am a good and a pretty good baker).
I am quite certain Andrew has no idea the impact he had on me-so Andrew if you happen to read this (I know he isn’t a big blog reader) Thank You!
I have so many more heros in the Canadian food industry, many who I’ve had the good fortune to work with.
Trish Magwood, for her moxie, her savvy and the fact that she can and has done anything she set her mind to; Dana McCauley, for her smarts, her understanding of trends and always being one step ahead of the curve, Bonnie Stern for her consistently delicious, no-fail recipes and for being my first “culinary teacher” as I attended numerous classes at her cooking school in Toronto before going to George Brown and now my friend.
We in the Canadian Food industry are fortunate to have food heroes all around us, from farmers and producers, to fantastic brigade of talented chefs, to culinary teachers moulding future generations of foodies. One doesn’t have to look to far find a Great Canadian Food Hero.
Adell Shneer, Food and Recipe Developer, Cookie Artist and Former Test Kitchen Manager for Canadian Living writes about her Canadian food heroes and mentors for the Great Canadian Food Experience and Project.