Cooking for Food Literacy
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Cooking for Food Literacy

Lemon-filled phyllo with blueberry compote and candied lemon, from Bernardin.

Toronto food fanatics are always looking for a fine excuse for a feast. Lucky for us, non-profit FoodShare’s annual fundraiser, Recipe for Change, brings together local chefs and diners in an effort to promote the importance of food literacy for future generations.
An organization focused on examining all facets of the food system, FoodShare runs a variety of programs, from building partnerships with local farmers to designing school lunch plans. Now in its second year, the Recipe for Change event is specifically geared towards raising awareness and support for FoodShare’s Field to Table program, which provides children from kindergarten to Grade 12 with experience growing, cooking, composting, and consuming fresh and sustainable food.

Spot prawns and caviar from Pangea.

“Food education disappeared from schools long ago,” says FoodShare’s fundraising and communications manager Adrienne De Francesco. “Now some kids believe that tomatoes come in plastic containers, and they are shocked when they learn that a carrot comes out of the ground. We are focused on preparing creative, age-specific, hands-on food activities and workshops, and making food literacy a necessity for graduation in all Ontario schools.”
To further their cause, FoodShare recruited over 25 of Toronto’s celebrity chefs, including Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Martin Kouprie (Pangea), and Rocco Agostino (Enoteca Sociale and Pizza Libretto), for an evening of food fit for a king—or a philanthropist. “All these chefs work in Toronto and are deeply engaged with where their food comes from,” says De Francesco. “The spirit of the event brings together all these folks with a common mission, and the mood in the room is a lovely, joyous, engaged one.”

Top: Mad Maple Farm’s maple glazed duck. Bottom: one very luck toddler.

As home to the first ever Toronto farmers’ market, the St. Lawrence Market was a fitting venue for the evening. Spread out in booths across the north end, the bustling hall was a Food Network fantasy come to life. The chefs were on hand to prepare, plate, and serve their food, and discuss their inspiration with the guests. For an aspiring gourmand, the chance to get up close and personal with the city’s best culinary minds, who are so often hidden in the kitchen, was a treat in and of itself.
And the food!
From Cowbell’s butter-smooth dry-aged beef tartare to Local Kitchen‘s smoked ricotta and wild garlic mustard stuffed pasta, which was so pillowy you could take a nap on it, nearly every chef turned out a winner. Highlights included the tenderest maple and beer–glazed duck nestled on top of a wheat pancake with apples and walnuts (courtesy of newbie chef Miriam Streiman of Mad Maple Farm) and Oyster Boy‘s fresh Atlantic oysters, a Canadian ingredient so luscious in and of itself that it required no accompaniment, save the requisite squirt of lemon. While there were a number of dessert options, it was a bakery—Epi Breads, located at Yonge and Eglinton—that stood out, presenting a dark chocolate and raspberry mouse that, garnished with 24 carat gold and salted caramel nougat, was a perfectly indulgent conclusion to a decadently diverse meal.

Epi Breads’ dark chocolate mouse with gold flakes.

This year’s Recipe for Change marks an important milestone for the Field to Table program: last year, they successfully implemented Toronto’s first ever school farm at Bendale Technical Institute in Scarborough. De Francesco describes the farm as the epitome of the goals of Field to Table: “Kids are growing the food, cooking it, serving it to one another in the cafeteria. It’s the whole idea of everything we stand for,” she says.
As the evening wore on, the chefs and patrons alike leaned back to sip their wine and contemplate the night’s objectives. For some, it hit particularly close to home. Albert Ponzo, the executive chef at Le Select Bistro, had his family on his mind as he plated his Moroccan-spiced lamb sliders. “I like the idea of FoodShare, because I have a kid of my own,” he said. “It’s a great cause.”
Photos by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.