Luminato 2012: Toronto Carretilla Initiative Offers Free Food and Community Spirit
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Luminato 2012: Toronto Carretilla Initiative Offers Free Food and Community Spirit

From now until Sunday, take part in a group cook via a mobile kitchen inspired by the sad state of Toronto's street vendor offerings.

Toronto Carretilla Initiative
Various times and locations (schedule)

Last Saturday at 3:30 p.m., there was one attraction at the Distillery District’s 1000 Tastes of Toronto multi-vendor food festival that stole the attention from all the other booths. It was the Toronto Carretilla Initiative, an installation created by Austrian artist Rainer Prohaska that combines visual art and food, moving to different locations in the city for the duration of the festival.

This mobile kitchen was inspired by a recent visit to Toronto, where Prohaska couldn’t help noticing the city’s abundance of hot dog vendors, and very little else in the way of street food. He decided to take on the challenge of creating a food-based initiative that would meet strict Toronto Public Health regulations, and allow the public to take part in the cooking of a meal to be enjoyed by many.

On Saturday, before the afternoon shift began, 10 bright orange Loblaws shopping carts—eight set-up as cooking stations, two as hand-washing stations—had already been strategically placed so that a dozen (pre-registered) festival-goers and six Luminato chefs could prepare the day’s meal: a simple Italian potato soup. The carts were decked out with various combinations of corrugated roofs, wooden planks for countertops, and clamps and zip ties holding everything together. This is the sculptural aspect of the event: depending on the recipe, which changes each day, the carts will be brought together in a different way.

When asked why they’d signed up as volunteer chefs for the project, most of the festival-goers gave similar responses: “We just decided to sign up because it sounded fun,” said Leigh Krekoski, there with his brother Brent, who was visiting from Vancouver. “We knew we’d be cooking, and there was some sort of sculptural thing, but we weren’t quite sure exactly what it was.” There was also, of course, the promise of free food; not just for the volunteer chefs, but for anyone lucky enough to be wandering by when the soup was hot and ready.

After about 40 minutes and several hundred chopped up potatoes, carrots, celery roots, and onions (and the addition of rosemary, pepper, and olive oil), the alluring scent was in the air and the line started forming, eventually feeding more than 100 hungry festival-goers. Apparently, the $5 offerings from some of Toronto’s most buzzed-about restaurants at 1000 Tastes of Toronto couldn’t compete with free potato soup cooked in a collection of shopping carts.

Photos by Laura Godfrey/Torontoist.