Menus & Entertaining

Under the apron with Christine Cushing

By: Mary Luz Mejia

Author: Canadian Living

Menus & Entertaining

Under the apron with Christine Cushing

By: Mary Luz Mejia
Christine Cushing loves spending time around food. Whether it's in front of the camera (she's hosted three TV series, with a new one called "Fearless in the Kitchen" on the way this fall on VIVA. See for programming information.), at an event, or at home, food is the one ingredient that ties her love of sharing and eating well. I caught up with this chef and food stylist recently in between shoot days on her new television project to quiz this multi-faceted dynamo about, what else? Food!

1. Canadian Living catches you checking out at the grocery store at 5pm - what's in your basket?
I have organic milk, organic mixed greens, pre-washed baby greens, mini cucumbers (also known as Persian cucumbers), a fresh baguette, and a whole Mediterranean trout in my basket. This, for me, makes up dinner in a flash!

2. It's late at night and you're heading home. Where do you stop for a midnight nosh, or what do you cook up when you get home?
If I'm really tired I'll stop by Alexandros Gyros on Logan, just north of the Danforth in Toronto's Greek Town for a chicken gyro. I go there because it's so satisfying, the gyros are made fresh and I know he'll be open. Now, if I feel like cooking, I'll probably make a tomato and feta salad, open up a can of tuna and have some kind of bread with it. I'm not hard to please, except that what I eat has to be good quality!

3. What's your "closet" food indulgence - that embarrassing thing you wouldn't want your foodie friends to know you eat?
Few except my partner Bosko know this, but since you asked- my one food indulgence is actually Dairy Queen. I like the strawberry sundae with the chopped peanuts and their Peanut Buster Parfait. They use real strawberries in their topping- not this pie-filling-in-a-can stuff that's way too sweet.

4. What's one ingredient you use all the time that we might not know about - but should?
I'd have to say Vin Cotto, which means "cooked wine" in Italian. It's similar to Balsamic Vinegar and it's made by taking grape must (pressed juice that contains the grapes' skins, seeds, and stems) and cooking it down into a syrup. Perfect for dressings and sauces, I love it for its balanced sweet and sour flavour that still tastes of grape! It is hard to find but you can locate them at higher end grocery or specialty stores.

Page 1 of 2 - Read page two to read about Christine Cushing's first restaurant job!

5. The first restaurant you worked in - how old were you and what did you do?
I was fifteen years old and I worked at The Mill Restaurant in Fairview Mall as a busgirl. It was hard work, very intense and it taught me responsibility. I worked there all summer, five days a week. That job also taught me that I had no plans on becoming a career busgirl!

6. What's the one piece of foodie knowledge you would pass on to kids, and why?
Keep it simple! That's important because it makes you understand that using great ingredients and good technique will always yield great results. It doesn't have to be complicated to be good, but do start with great ingredients. I'd add that a passion for food will definitely fuel the execution of a beautiful dish.

7. What possesses you about cooking, and/or what are you most passionate about? (a method; an ingredient; a political issue; a region; a taste).
My passion is definitely the Mediterranean. The older I get, the more I recognize that these are the flavours that drive my love of food. It's also a combination of being born in Greece, studying in France, visiting Italy, and having a father that was born in Egypt. The food that grows there and how it's combined is what really continues to excite me.

8. To whom do you owe your success?
It's not one person but rather many people that I owe my success to. My father, for the genetic pre-disposition and love of cooking, both of my parents for supporting my decision to leave linguistics at university, even when they wondered "what is she doing?", and every place I've worked. It's all of these threads of experience that have helped weave the tapestry of my food knowledge today.

9. Anything else you would like to know?
I think we're at an interesting crossroads food-wise in Canada. While more people are going for convenience with packaged food, there are also a growing number of passionate people that believe food is life, like I do. I think we can change the face of our country's culinary destiny by supporting them. It's starting to happen already. We should worry about why farmers can't support themselves or their livelihoods the way they once used to. I believe we should be supporting those that put their heart into providing good food in this country.

By joining the masses and consuming mass-produced food, we diminish the chances of people after us eating the way we once did.

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Menus & Entertaining

Under the apron with Christine Cushing