October 22, 2020

Through Intimacy and Inspiration – The Seductive World of Cookbooks

My interview with Donna Dooher explores the continued popularity of cookbooks and our deep relationship to print as Canada celebrates National Cookbook Month and gets ready for the Taste Canada Cookbook Awards on October 25th, 2020.

S&S: Tell us a bit more about “There’s A Chef In My Pantry” IGTV series and your focus during October to celebrate National Cookbook Month.

DD: We started our Instagram Live series when Mildred’s Temple Kitchen went into lockdown back in March. The series There’s A Chef In My Pantry
(aka TACIMP) essentially was born out of being inundated with cooking requests like “how to cook this” or “can I have the recipe for that”. What I realized was that people were suddenly finding themselves stuck at home, scratching their heads on what to cook. So, we decided to engage with our loyal followers and cook our way through our beloved cookbook Out to Brunch every Thursday.

We’ve been gob smacked by the viewer engagement and honestly having so much fun. It’s given us the opportunity to stay connected with our regulars, friends and staff.  When we eventually did re-open the restaurant (which was months after we had anticipated), we decided to keep running with the series. For October we shifted our focus to exploring the subject of cookbooks. In Canada October is National Cookbook Month and the Taste Canada Cookbook Awards ceremony is on October 25th so there couldn’t be a better time to shout out about all our favourites cookbooks.

S&S: What are your thoughts around how Covid may have sparked a return to cookbooks, or shall we say the kitchen?

DD: I think there is a silver lining if one can say that. It has exposed our vulnerability when it comes to food and feeding ourselves. I feel it’s been a good reset and given us the opportunity to pause and think about something that is so important to our survival, our relationship with food.
I do believe that Covid has pushed people into their kitchen and what’s really exciting is that they are enjoying it and finding satisfaction in cooking, whether elaborate or simple meals. I am also hearing that people are feeling physically better due to improved eating habits, more cooking from scratch, less eating out, less eating on the run. We’re shopping differently too, more direct from the farmer, or local producer. Technology has broken down the barriers to distribution and we can have farm fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs delivered right to our door step. As a result, we’re tasting food differently too – which is remarkable.  Suddenly the difference between salad from a bag versus the whole head of lettuce is being recognized and celebrated.

S&S: I dare ask, how many cookbooks does your collection hold?

DD: I will have to estimate here as I’d lose count if I even thought about starting to count – so I will say approximately 1200, it’s frightening. Although they are not catalogued with any discipline, I can put my finger on any given title or recipe when I need it.

S&S: Your top 10 books for any cooks library.  

DD: Loaded question but here goes and in no particular order. And of course this goes without saying that Out to Brunch and Recipe Shorts should be in everyone’s library.
After compiling this list I realized that many of my choices are rooted in traditional French cuisine but titles start to tell the story of how techniques and ingredients take influence from all around the world. This is the beautiful thing about cooking; it’s this fabulous melting pot, a united nations of sorts, where all the ingredients can get along no matter where they originated.

1.Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen)
With the focus on plant based eating this book’s back in fashion.
2. The Silver Palate (Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins)
This is a timeless book and on so many levels it embraced the simplicity of cooking. The lay out of the book and recipes took cookbooks in a new direction.
3. How To Cook Everything (Mark Bittman)
A great book to lay the foundation in becoming a serious cook. An updated version of Joy of Cooking.
4. The Silver Spoon (Edward Park)
The bible for Italian cooking. A must for anyone who loves Italian.
5. Ottolenghi The Cookbook (Yottam Ottolenghi)
I love his first book - and it captured the essence of Middle Eastern cooking, one of my favourite styles of cooking.
6. The French Laundry (Thomas Keller)
This book took classic French cooking in a whole new direction.
7. The Heaven on Earth Project (Michael Stadtländer)
So much more than a cookbook – this book tells a story and takes you on a journey that captivates the fascinating relationship we have with the terroir and our relationship to the table.
8. La Technique (Jacques Pépin)
Solid instructional book.
9. How To Master French Cooking
We all need a little Julia in our library.
10.  Salt Fat Acid Heat (Samin Nosrat)
I’ve just bought this and very excited to dig into it. I listen to her podcast Home Cooking and highly recommend!

S&S: The digital world continues to transform the world of cookery – whether we like it or not. What is your opinion on a digital cookbook vs print cookbook? How do you see the future of the cookbook ?

DD: Digital is here to stay and we certainly can’t ignore it. However, there is a certain intimacy that comes with a printed book that we just don’t get with a digital experience. When you speak to people about books that they love or books that have been passed along to them, they’re full of bits of history inside, like hand scribbled notes or dog eared pages for favourite go-to recipes. I feel that cookbooks become companions; so much is lost with digital to shameless self-promotion and pop-up ads that that the sensual experience of food is lost.
The market for printed cookbooks is robust and, statistically, printed cookbooks are still one of the highest selling categories. But I do believe there is a great opportunity to create that same intimacy you get with a cookbook somehow through a digital experience. I don’t know what it is, but I am sure it’s out there.

S&S: Just for fun….last 3 recipes and the book you used to cook these recipes.

DD: I rarely cook recipes from cookbooks. I definitely take inspiration from the recipes but to be honest I find so many recipes published today just don’t work. The intent is there but the development of the recipe is poor. I think this is to the determent to many of the great books that people are putting together in this market. There is a real art and science to developing a tried and true recipe. I am fiercely proud of Out to Brunch, beyond the beautiful photos, anecdotes and beautiful illustrations the recipes work. 

S&S: Your deep involvement with Taste Canada must mean you see a lot of books come across your desk. What do you see as the next trend or the future in cookbooks?

DD: I really believe that story telling within cookbooks will remain an important feature. It needs to feel personal in order to connect.

Donna Dooher

Donna’s been skipping the light fandango through the Toronto restaurant scene since she and her partner, Kevin Gallagher, opened the beloved Mildred Pierce Restaurant in the city’s west end warehouse district. Always up for a great kitchen party Donna went on to create the Cookworks Cooking Studio, which parlayed into a popular Food Network show called The Cookworks with Donna Dooher, watched by foodie fans around the world discovering their love of food in their own kitchens. Donna introduced the phenomena of brunch to the sleepy town of TO when Sunday’s were just a day of ‘rest’ and went on to publish her award-winning cookbook Out To Brunch. She joined forces with the country’s top editor’s, designers and publishers to bring Wish magazine to Canadian readers and collaborated on the best seller Wish | Market to Table cookbook.

Donna’s latest venture, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in the heart of Toronto’s Liberty Village, reflects her commitment for the return to the table and her passion for locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, simply and sumptuously prepared. Donna is actively involved in Canada’s hospitality community and a self-proclaimed ‘fork hugger’, dedicated to supporting Ontario farmers and local agriculture.

Donna’s served as the National Chair of Taste Canada, the Chair of The Board of Directors and CEO of Restaurants Canada, Co-chair of the YES CHEF! Fundraising Campaign at George Brown College and has worked extensively with Brand Canada to promote Canadian hospitality around the globe.

Donna’s approach to cooking (and life in general) - cook with love and reckless abandon!

June 11, 2020

Lockdown, community and save the cheese

I have a love/hate relationship with social media - like many of us I'm sure. The good. The bad. The evil. THE POWER. All forces to be reckoned with.
I partake, of course, dipping in and out, taking the temperature of the moment and engaging when I see fit.

The recent cry out via the social channels to help our British cheese makers, as they struggled with an overload of product due to COVID 19, was a prime example of an amazing outcome from a few posts that went viral and in turn helped save many in the craft cheese community. An unexpected virtual hug for all the artisan cheese makers dotted around the country! Recently Jamie Oliver collaborated with many of these artisans on Instagram sending heartfelt thanks to all of us that contributed this movement.

I ordered my cheese from The Courtyard Dairy and for those of you who know me, I am a sucker for creative packaging - so you can imagine how chuffed I was when I dug through shredded hay-like paper, only to find handwritten labels on every cheese, boasting stories of the cheesemakers, the milk type and processes. Simple and real. I felt like I was meeting each cheesemaker personally.

I've spoke to many during this lockdown and how our habits of shopping continue to evolve and change, for the better I might add. Online, direct to farmer, click and collect from our favourite restaurant turned take away, avoiding the queues at the big box shops and eating what the season has to offer. We're getting to know our farmers and understanding how important animal welfare is. We're supporting the little guy who needs it now more than ever. We're sharing with our neighbours and strengthening our communities. It's amazing how food will always have a way to bring us together during good times and bad.

July 16, 2020

Behind The Hospitality Mask

Five minutes with Andrew Kemsley of 10 Hospitality

Tell me about 10 Hospitality
AK: 10 Hospitality is a consultancy that specialises in helping businesses
deliver the very best service, hospitality and engagement through the
training and coaching of restaurant managers, owners and their teams.

My USP is my passion for helping people and brands achieve their true
potential. Nothing I do is off the shelf. I tailor each piece of
work to individual clients, challenging what they do and establishing
solutions for them. I get under the skin of the business,
learning everything I can about it - the proposition, menu,
ingredients etc and always feel that this gives me an authentic edge and
an approach that can never be compromised. I like to say I am the outside man on the inside.

Let's talk about 'Guest Experience'. In your opinion how do you see
the guest experience in this new Covid-19 era?

AK: I think the single biggest challenge will be providing hospitality from behind a mask. That is, in my opinion, the only obstacle. I don’t think the
1 meter vs 2 meter social distancing will matter. It’s going to be all about the mask - how loudly we speak, our hand signals, the value of our eyes, eyebrows and smiles. The design is super important – restaurants need to invest in this and bring a brand aspect to the mask. A common surgical mask will result in a clinical feeling and certainly won't enhance the experience.

We are in the business of looking after people. I think every restaurant will adopt the improved safety measures. There is no question that overcoming the physical obstacle that will cover 50% of a server's face will take time to get used to. It’s the real conversations, the engagement, that make our industry what it is.

Tell the readers about S.H.A.R.E.
AK: As a trainer of people and always sharing information and inspiration
with people I like to keep the delivery very very simple. Share came to
me on one of my many bike rides. I was thinking about all the safety
measures that were being repeatedly hammered via all the media
channels, and I was thinking we were forgetting the most important piece – which is why people go out to eat! And I thought what would be
something that would be really simple and easy to remember and
something that restaurant managers could pick up on daily with their
S = safety
Having a safe environment is critical
H = hospitality
We mustn’t compromise it by focusing too much on safety but they do
go hand in hand
A = awareness
We must be aware of everything and everyone…the kitchen, guests,
R = respect
Everyone is going to have a difference in opinion on the virus and how
it has been managed on every level. We must respect this and each
E =engagement
We must engage with our guests even more so now with all the safety
measurements in place. What is our voice? It will be so important over
the coming weeks and imperative for restaurants to deliver these
messages in a genuine, heartfelt way behind the mask. 

The S.H.A.R.E. method is underpinned by these three simple memorable

  1. Uncompromising Safety
  2. Exceptional Service
  3. Genuine Hospitality

If you were to give an owner/manager 3 tips on how to enhance the
relationship that they have with their teams as they begin to reopen
what would you recommend?

  1. Engage their team – talk to them from the heart – openly and
    transparently – bring them on the journey together as a team
  2. Train them and share their vision of what post Covid looks like
  3. Listen – you will learn huge amounts about how they are feeling or ideas that could be implemented. Have open conversations – they are on the front line.

What have you missed most during lockdown?
AK: Working. I love talking to people. Working is my hobby. I love inspiring people. I have missed all the conversations…that always start with a flat white…and if it goes well, it ends with a meal! I guess, in all seriousness, the freedom.

Will you be making any fundamental changes coming out of lockdown?
AK: I’ve questioned whether to change the business model … I certainly have had to adapt and evolve during lockdown by using video and webinars. I have always been "live and in person" for all that I do – but perhaps now, I may use online technology more in the future as I believe it can be time efficient, cost effective and equally engaging. Watch this space!

What has kept you sane during lockdown?
AK: My local coffee shop (Sydney Rocks Coffee) – it reminds me of what was and what will be and this is important to me. My family has been so supportive but even the wider family of the hospitality industry – sharing information, encouragement. I’ve never felt alone and we are all in this together.

Post lockdown resolutions?
AK: Coming out of this from a self-looking perspective…I will be fearless.
I will continue to ride my bike. I will be sharing more about my meals out and try to bring attention to the small businesses in order to help them.

In closing, can you leave us with a little of AK’s inspiration ?
AK: Be kind, it’s so easy. If you always do the right thing, you can never be
wrong. It’s the small things that make a difference.

Andrew Kemsley
Founder & Director 10 Hospitality

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Ready to chat?

Email us to talk all things food & drink.