Interview with Scott Vivian

scott-vivian-slow-food-torontoMiriam Streiman met with one of Slow Food Toronto’s gifted chefs, community leader and all around good guy, Scott Vivian, to discuss his rich culinary history, his relationship with food, and his approach to good, clean and fair cooking.

Get Scott’s delicious Cassoulet recipe in the SFT Recipe section.

MS: Scott, I don’t know much about your culinary history; can you share your journey on becoming the incredibly gifted chef that you are?

SV: I started cooking professionally in 1994; I will preface this with, I was born in Montreal, my parents moved to California when I was three years old and I lived the first part of my life there. My father worked for Coca-Cola, his job ended up moving us to Atlanta when Coca-Cola moved its headquarters. So Atlanta was basically where I started my professional cooking career. Although it was in high school that I started cooking in a professional kitchen – it was a pizza place called California Pizza kitchen. I learned how to make pizza doughs in wood-burning ovens and they also had a saute pasta side. So I briefly learned about that.

After high school, when everyone started going to college, I decided that was not for me, so I went out to Colorado. I couldn’t find a job waiting tables, and that was what I wanted to do because I heard that was where the money was. So I was forced to get a job in a kitchen. It was a small kitchen, an 11-table bistro restaurant. The chef took me under his wing. I started as a dishwasher and moved my way up learning how to cook. I signed up for a two-year apprenticeship with him. After that I moved back to Atlanta.

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Author Margaret Webb – Talking to Farmers

Author Margaret Webb Talks about Talking to Farmers

Farmers say the darnest things – wise, perceptive, gritty, funny things. But most of all, they speak about the joys and challenges of growing food from the quirky depths of their hearts. While we eaters debate food issues, farmers work in the muck of them.

Electrifying is how I would describe the many conversations I’ve had with farmers while researching my book, Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover’s Tour of Canadian Farms ( Just get a farmer talking, in the workshop on a rainy day, in a long truck ride through the prairies, on horseback during a cattle roundup. What you will hear are the passionate, earthy ruminations of people who are trying to do what is right by food and nature, while trying to scratch out a living in our deeply flawed agricultural system.

Sadly, too few of us get to make this connection to the people who grow our food, the chief reason I wrote my book and also why I initiated an interview series called, Talking to Famers, during my book tour across Canada. In an effort to give farmers their rightful place in the food debate, at centre stage, I invited a few local farmers to be interviewed live, before an audience. I hoped the event would introduce local eaters to local food producers and also start a conversation between strangers about the thing they have in common, namely, our food.

From my vantage point on stage with the farmer, I could see that the audience of urban eaters got the same thrill from listening to farmers as me, and so I started taping and videotaping the conversations, trying to bring the voices of farmers to even more people.

Here are a few of those interviews, with farmers near my home in Toronto and in my home country of Simcoe. The video, Farming: What Future? features two new farmers near Creemore, Ontario, speaking about the farm crisis in Canada.

To watch Margaret’s videos, click here.

Interview with Chef Marc Breton

February 3, 2009

marc-breton-slow-food-torontoSlow Food Toronto’s Miriam Streiman met with Chef Marc Breton, Executive Chef at the Gladstone Hotel, to discuss how his upbringing influenced his approach to food, the importance of food and our seasons, and building relationships with local producers.

MS: Why did you become a chef?
CMB: I am French Canadian and grew up with food being a big part of everyday life. When I was young, eating was a social event.  I did well in high school and then went to University.  I hated it and ended up answering an ad for kitchen help.  I started as a dishwasher and moved my way up.

MST: What were the traditional foods eaten at home?
CMB: Some are on our menu now; tourtiere at Christmas time, for Harvest Wednesday this year we made Head Cheese, but it was not as good as my mother’s. We had the staples growing up, baked beans, pies. We also did a lot of preserving, which we have done at the Hotel all along.  That was from my grandmothers and mothers kitchen.  I remember going to pick fruit as a family, and going back and making plum jam. With my grandmothers cooking, it was like you had died and gone to heaven.  It was not do you want pie, but what kind of pie? My grandmother was an amazing cook.  She used lard to make her pie crust.  Now fat has become a bad thing, but then, we needed to eat fat to survive the winter, we also used a lot of pork and cheaper cuts of meat.

MS: Are people more open to eating animal fat now?
CMB: People are making a political statement when they pick up their fork. You have to eat in a healthy way and in moderation, diets are not moderate, they are too extreme.  There is no reason you should not have a little bacon now and again, or some of those excellent dried cured salamis.

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Farmers and Producers Forum

An interactive discussion, moderated by Margaret Webb.

When: Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 – 9:30a.m.-12p.m.
Where: Hart House, University of Toronto – 7 Hart House circle

Local, small-scale farming produces better food, is better for the environment and can adapt more quickly to food crises and demands. Yet government policies and corporate manipulations make the survival of such farms a serious challenge.
Join us at this Town Hall discussion to think about solutions to help make small-scale farming a sustainable economic model.

We will have an open format meeting followed by small break out sessions where we will discuss specific topics. We welcome your suggestions regarding topics that are relevant to your operation. Please submit topics or let us know if you would like to make a short presentation no
later than Friday, December 5th , 2009

Contact Arlene Stein to rsvp at 416-978-8393 or arlene.stein[at]

We look forward to this first step in the process of finding solutions.

Arlene & Paul

Current suggestions for topics, and background:

Fair prices for food; GMO; Supply Management; Maintaining a network of small-scale abattoirs; Collaborative Certification; Distribution; Conversion of Industrialized Farmlands; Government Policy