Friday, August 4, 2023

All Sorts of Action At Newcomer Kitchen...

Pizza and Champagne... you bet ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿฅ‚! To inaugurate our move into our new office at Centre of Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina three months ago (posting late, better than never)... thanks to a generous grant from @cityofto ๐Ÿค—. I also started in my new role as Program Manager so woohoo to that too ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽŠ!

It was a hop, skip and a jump over (next door) to a much larger office (previously occupied by @nowtoronto magazine). Hardwood floors, exposed brick, light soaked, panoramic view of the skyline in a beautiful 1920s building on the top floor. We built an enclosed office space, have a large common area with a couch, big dining table (doubles as a work table) and a kitchenette that also serves as a demo cook station for various food workshops. 

Here I am with chef Mary Freij, our Willing To Work Evening Program Trainer and Sandra Lefebvre, our XP Program Coordinator in charge of our newly launched next level up program for selected W2W alumnis who have shown the most potential in starting their own food business. Over a few months, they will take various business-related workshops and take on farmer's market and catering opportunities from our returning clients and new.

Notably, in May CSI held a Career Pathways event which gathered more than 26 organizations working in newcomer and settlement services to strengthen our ecosystem and partnerships. Here with Tamara Chaikin, NK Director of Operations and Cara Benjamin-Pace, NK Executive Director.

Past graduates catered to the event who are now part of our newly launched XP Program๐Ÿ’ฅ!! 

The XP program were also part of the celebrations with Carleton University and their graduates, catering to a 10 years anniversary event with their Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program at CSI Annex. We served a beautiful array of Taiwanese and Syrian finger foods, dips and petit fours with the showstopper Ukrainian honey cake from my past group Taste Elle's Liza ๐Ÿ’—! 

Catering for film ๐Ÿ“ฝ๐ŸŽž! 
A joint effort with both Willing To Work Food Business Program and XP Program women!

The 14th edition of The 8 Fest @the8fest (July 28th to 30th) celebrated and presented films from Toronto, across Canada and from small-gauge creators (8mm, Super 8 and 9.5mm, as well as works in installation, loops, handmade, experimental, animations, diaries, etc.,) and communities around the world. Their first annual festival was held in February 2007.

Punjabi Kala Chana Chaat (Black chickpea salad)

Moroccan Vegetarian "Candy" Cigars

We offered on their opening night an International menu of appetizers ranging from deep-fried vegetarian South Asian bites and chana chaat to Turkish meat skewers to Eritrean agelgil (injera layered with shiro chickpea stew) and meat sauce to chocolate baklava. We heard we had the loudest raving cheers when they announced us as part of the credits at the end of the night. YAY ๐ŸŽฌ๐Ÿ˜‹!

Meet chef Mary who works with me! She is the owner of notably recognized on @torontolife's best 20 restaurants to eat in Toronto 2023. Who better to learn from than a food entrepreneur who did just that, coming from Dubai seven years ago. Incredible ๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿ’ฅ!

Catching a glimpse of her mouth watering and economical mixed grilled platter for 2 #halal on insta, I had to give it a go. One of the highlights is “Pandan Kebab,” fusing the Southeast Asian herb with their popular customer Middle Eastern mainstays- sheesh tawouk, beef kafta, sumac fries, fresh salad and sauces (toum and tahini) atop spiced rice ๐Ÿ˜‹. I also picked up their Beirut chicken wings with a spicy coriander garlic glaze and more potatoes- battata harra mixed with a spicy pomegranate sauce. Moist and flavourful all the way!

One of the fab perks of having our office at the CSI Spadina is being close to the regular action cultivated to bring members together- Tuesday community kitchen salad lunch bar, Wednesday community coffee chat and so much more ๐Ÿฅ—☕..

Here at the first of two annual CSI laneway summer BBQ connecting members in work that supports people and planet- environment impact innovation, social injustices and empowering newcomers to name a few! Great networking event and walked away learning something new and inspired ๐Ÿ’ก๐Ÿฅฐ! 

“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on” ~ Serena Williams

14 weeks from the very start of our 'Willing To Work' program and both evening and daytime program women graduate ๐ŸŽ“. Not only did they gain food savvy business skills and learn to punch out production as a team for three real life food events some have grown their language skills, confidence and fellow networking- an integral part of what we strive to do #empowerment ๐Ÿ’ฅ

Newcomer Kitchen trains newcomer women food preparation and entrepreneurship funded by the Immigration Refugee Citizenship of Canada (IRCC). This "learn and earn" program helps prepare their food ideas to market with all revenue generated going back in their hands. It was so incredible to see these ladies awarded with their certificates of completion alongside the money they generated (prepared take out meals, product to market and catering)... for some, it was the first time they earned money... ever! The proud look on their faces, made me so proud ๐Ÿฅฐ!

Congratulations Tasty Cultures and Sisters Multicultural Kitchen! Wishing you all the best ๐Ÿ’–!

Saturday, July 1, 2023

O Canada Day Feast With Newcomer Kitchen...

What a successful event it was with Newcomer Kitchen current Spring day program group Sisters Multicultural Kitchen and the one and only The Depanneur serving their curated O Canada feast menu ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿด to a Sold Out crowd of 60! And that was even before our menu was posted ๐Ÿค—! It was a beautiful Thursday evening- a celebration prelude just before the long ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ weekend. 

The Bentway and Len Senator at The Depanneur have been teaming up again to bring you a fabulous lineup of diverse and delicious dinners. Newcomer Kitchen’s cohorts are made up of women from around the world who have come together to share their foods and cultures with Toronto. These ladies ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ were excited to create a truly international meal just in time for Canada Day — a celebration of what makes this country home for so many.

Family-style dining in a truly unique urban setting. Communal Tables are seated, family-style meals, served and shared at 10 tables of 6, where you bring your own plates and cutlery.

Introducing themselves and the dishes they prepared, they were experiencing public speaking likely for their first time! They did so well ๐Ÿค—!

Moroccan Mixed Vegetables Tagine anyone? Prepared with tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini, chickpeas and black olives slow simmered with preserved lemons ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ˜‹- the vegetarian option for the main meal...

Or do you want Harpreet's Punjabi Lemon Chicken with a lemony black pepper sauce ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿ‹... ๐Ÿ˜‹?

How the rest of the delish menu looked like ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿฝ!

Asmait's Eritrean bread was a major hit- perfect served with the Moroccan eggplant dip, with the main meals or on it's own. Usually this is baked on a special pan with lid called a magogo and served on special occasions. What a treat our guests enjoyed.

Some more kitchen prep and incredible event plating shots!

Sucharita preparing her Indian onion pakoras. To be served with Asmait's green chili data'aa.

Madhuri prepares her tasty cumin basmati rice, a harmonious complement to either mains.

Indian Onion Pakoras with a dip of Eritrean Data'aa

Zaalouk- a lovely Moroccan Eggplant and Tomato Dip

Refreshing watermelon, cucumber, shallots and mint salad sprinkled with black salt- the only way Indians eat their watermelon. The sulfuric flavour elevates the cool and sweet taste with a hint of salt.

Ahhh, a cool frozen fresh strawberry infused kulfi- an Indian delight in individual containers for a portable finish to an AmaZing ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ meal!

Enthusiastically working together and volunteeringly serving the great crowd of guests with a smile on their face is what we call a Dream Team ๐Ÿ’ฅ! 

Congrats Sisters Multicultural Kitchen ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Celebrating Asian Heritage Everywhere All At Once In May...

What a honour it was to speak at Dentsu Canada last week about my Chinese Food and Culture to celebrate Asian Heritage Month ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ. Denstu is one of the largest media and marketing agencies in the world headquartered in Tokyo, Japan with offices across the globe since the 1960s. This was hosted in their Toronto office with their Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal offices livestreaming in to watch ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ“ฝ.

I was invited by their Business Resource Group to raise awareness around different immigrant cultures to bring people together through food as part of their second event in this series, with South Asia being the first. The presentation was followed by a Chinese luncheon also in their respective Canadian offices. The menu was extensive and varied including many classic dishes that are beloved catered by the one and only Hong Shing Restaurant on Dundas West. 

I started my presentation on the distinct cuisine flavour characteristics of the various regions in China, then proceeded to talk about my favourite comfort food (wonton soup), special traditional food (zong zi sticky rice ode to my grandma #myfoodhero), what a typical Chinese meal looks like in the day, table etiquette, a soy sauce difference educational piece followed by information on my cookbooks, Chinese food documentary recommendations and recipes to share.

How to Prepare Dumplings

Soy Sauce Differences

As a wrap up, I shared a beautiful quote from the film, A Bite of China-- "A mother instinctly implants flavour into her child's memory. For the child, the flavours becomes kind of like a mother tongue. The memory of the familiar flavours becomes a compass forever pointing to home." ๐Ÿฎ

Catering by Hong Shing Restaurant

Dentsu's organization team was excellent to work with, very approachable and professional. I felt very welcomed and the sense of a great inclusive culture at Dentsu. As one of their staff walked me out to the elevators, I said this was warm hospitality at it's best- thank you all ๐Ÿ™!

What does Korean chap chae, Filipino adobo chicken, sushi wraps and bubble tea all have in common? Answer: they are all food students @tdsb_communityservices prepared this May to celebrate #asianheritagemonth๐Ÿฎ

Filipino Adobo Chicken

Japanese Sushi Wraps

Prepared Bubble Tea for Assembly

On a different high note, it's this exuberance I feel when I see young people try a new cuisine for the first time. Korean chap chae and egg dumplings (with noodles) prepared by two male youths new to my newcomer culinary program at JOhn Poilanyi Collegiate- one from Mexico and the other Dominican Republic. Paired with kimchi (another new food), we had a great time eating and chatting with bacchata ๐ŸŽต๐ŸŽถ being played in the background. And in the adobo chicken and mango salad session, a new Russian student prepared and tried Filipino food for his first time, and took leftovers home for his parents to sample! 

Talk about cross cultures, cross generations, cross connecting. Gotta ❤ it!! ๐Ÿค—

And ending the Asian celebrations on an even higher note with my dear friend @lisa.eats and her family here for a BBQ and swim ๐Ÿ—๐Ÿฅฉ๐Ÿฅ—๐Ÿ’ฆ. Yes, it's finally that time again and what an absolutely beaute of a day ๐Ÿ”†๐ŸŒธ!

My darling hubs the King of the Grill for the day

Grilled Korean Gochujang Chicken Wings (adapted by
Serves 6

4 lbs chicken wings, broken down into drummettes and flats with tips
1/3 cup Korean red chili pepper paste (Gochujang)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Garnish: sesame seed, sliced green onion

Add raw chicken wings to a large ziploc bag.

In a small bowl, whisk together chili pepper paste, brown sugar, soy sauce, water, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper until combined. Add the marinade to the wings and seal the bag. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat grill to 400°F and remove wings from bag, reserving the marinade. Add wings to the grill and cook until the skin is crispy and they are cooked through, flipping them every 10 to 15 minutes as they cook. This will take about 30 to 40 minutes. 

Brush the finished wings with the sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onion. Serve immediately.

On The Menu: Buldak stir-fried noodles, Grilled kalbi ribs,
Szechuan Spicy Cucumber Salad, Gochujang chicken wings,
Okra and Tomato Salad, Grilled shrimps with cilantro lime sauce and Chap chae.

On the Dessert Side: Easy Creme Caramel with Fresh Fruits
and Coconut Tapioca with Taro, Grass Jelly and Jackfruit

And on the friendship side, Lisa and I, my baby with her baby.... So Blessed ๐Ÿ™! 

How did you celebrate Asian Heritage Month?