Inspiration is all around us. I get mine from the typical to some of the most unexpected places. I am fortunate to have travelled to some amazing countries but my own backyard is just as plentiful. I think the familiarity of where we are can often hide the unexpected. We just have to practice seeing the possibility in the everyday. I enjoy art and photography as much as I do cooking and travel so I make it a point to be aware and absorb as much as I can from my surroundings.
Cooking shows have evolved so much. If you grew up in the 60s or enjoy watching some of the old classics you may remember two of the first popular cooking shows from the 1960s Graham Kerr: The Galloping Gourmet. He’s still around but is now preparing much healthier fare. Gone are the butter laden recipes with rich sauces. Now he’s serving up lean, clean, healthy fare.
What cooking show today does not owe some thanks to Julia Child: The French Chef? Julia has contributed much to the culinary world and her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a staple in many kitchens. There is also the delightful movie Julie and Julia where she was brilliantly portrayed by Meryl Streep and the part of Julie Powel by Amy Adams … well done Julie Powel .
Cooking programs today are entertaining, informative and focused on healthier choices. You wouldn’t want to take the butter completely out of some recipes but you can use less and there are more substitution options available today.
Some of the programs that inspire me are:
Anna & Kristina: The Shopping Bags and Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag ~ watch them on OWN
It’s the perfect cooking storm. These two Canadian personalities test recipe books as well as many of the products and ingredients that they use during the segments and invite top chefs to taste the results. What better way to find out if a recipe book, food product or kitchen gadget is worth your hard earned money than watching these two entertaining women put them through their testing methods?
Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic are informative, entertaining, hilarious to watch and don’t try to hide what can go wrong in the kitchen. Because we all know from experience that the kitchen does not always produce the picture perfect results that we see in the recipe books.
Another great Canadian celebrity chef, among many, is Lynn Crawford and her program Pitchin’ In on the Cooking Channel.
Lauded as Canada’s top female chef and a Gemini Award nominee, Lynn doesn’t shy away from rolling up her sleeves and really, literally getting dirty as she helps the people who grow, harvest and produce the goods that are made available for us in our grocery stores. She has such an infectious enthusiasm and an incredible cooking talent which culminates in an amazing meal that she prepares for some of the farmers, artisans and workers that she has helped during her program. I really enjoy the fact that each segment showcases a main product and reveals the progression of how it goes from the fields to our tables. Lynn also has a restaurant here in Toronto that I have on my list of places to visit this year ~ Ruby Watch Co.
Anthony Bourdain’s: No Reservations on the Travel Channel
Opinionated, blunt and often profane, Anthony Bourdain takes us around the globe on a culinary adventure. If you have seen the show and are not offended by his one-liners (Bourdainisms), or by the frequency of the beeps during his dialogues as the camera takes in the scene, then you I will certainly enjoy his view of the gastronomic world. If what they air on TV is the cleaned up version, I would love to see what the outtakes were. I don’t think I would be as open to try some of the dishes that he has, at least that’s what I think when I’m watching his latest episode. But if I had my own program… who knows!
Chuck Hughes: Chuck’s Day Off Renown Montreal chef, Chuck Hughes entertains customers, friends and suppliers on his day off by whipping up fabulous meals. Two more restaurants to add to my bucket list…Garde Manger and Le Bremner.
John Catucci: You Gotta Eat Here on the Food Network Canada
Do you have an amazing restaurant in your neighbourhood that you rave about? Invite John to give it a try. John travels across Canada for the most delicious comfort foods in the most unassuming locations. I love his gusto as he dives in to the favourite dishes that the patrons rave about. It’s down to earth unpretentious and some of the meals are surprising.
What can I say? New and used, I collect them. I love the ones with great photography and step-by-step pics of how to produce the recipes. It’s always good to see what the results “should” be. It gives us a target to aim for and, hopefully, we achieve the same if not better results. I put tabs on the pages of recipes that I want to try and make them. I share them with friends and families and use them as inspiration for creating my own. Unless it’s baking, which can be a very precise art, I like putting my own spin on the recipes that I have tried. Maybe it’s a particular ingredient that I would prefer, a different spice or herb, fish instead of chicken, lamb instead of beef…
Whatever it may be, for me recipes are a guideline of the possibilities not a strict rule that has to be followed precisely or you’ll be doomed to failure. We all know recipe failure can happen at any time, but it can also be the creation of something unexpected.
At a local market…
Wandering through a farmers market or walking into an ethnic grocery store and seeing a new ingredient. Last year I picked up Ramps for the first time at The St. Lawrence Market. Also known as wild leeks, these tasty onions have a wonderful garlicky-onion taste to them and should be appearing in the market soon. You can eat the whole thing and I like to lightly sauté them whole until tender.
The seasonal Food & Drink magazine produced by the LCBO is amazing and FREE!! You can pick up your copy at your local LCBO but they disappear quickly! Watch their website for the release of the next issue.
If you can read French then you will enjoy picking up the Signé M magazine produced in conjunction with the program airing on the TVA Network. Louis-François Marcotte is the talented Quebec celebrity chef whipping up enticing recipes from his home to ours.
And then there are the countless informative websites and blogs for every type of diet and cuisine.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Get out there and explore!!
(Please note that all celebrity photos are from their websites. The pics of the cookbooks and Signé M magazines are by me.)