10 Questions with Ryan Donovan (Toronto, ON)
1. What does “good food” mean to you?
Good food is accessible: it’s the right price, it’s close by, it’s understandable and easy to share. Good food is the food you always reach for again and again.
2. What was the last meal you ate that you loved?
Breakfast this morning. I love eating in the morning.
3. What’s your favourite dish to share with friends and family?
Corn on the cob. It’s always fun to shuck it all as a group and put on a big pot of blanching water. I love eating it with my daughters, who are just old enough to have teeth… so it’s a real treat for them. I remember this meal at so many stages of my own life: from being a kid eating it for the first time, being a teenager and playing in cornfields with my friends, to now teaching my own young family to enjoy it.
4. What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?
Salt. It’s so important, and you can’t make good food without it. I love the way it feels between my fingers when I season food… and the taste is the best. I love salt.
5. If you could pick anyone to cook for, who would it be?
My wife. She is constantly providing, hosting, mending, caring, nourishing and doing. Making her dinner is always so fun: she loves food, loves good company and so appreciates being cooked for.
6. What’s your most beloved food from childhood?
Pierogies because they were the first thing I learned to cook on my own. I remember becoming a tennager, and constantly burning so many calories that my mom couldn’t keep up. Everyone would be ready for bed and I’d need to eat dinner again. So she taught me to blanch pierogies then sautee them in a pan: I could add whatever I wanted and of course learned the importance of bacon very quickly. I still love that dish.
7. What’s your favourite song to listen to in the kitchen?
It always changes and it depends what I’m making. But Wilco’s Impossible Germany seems to work most of the time.
8. What do you think needs to change in Canada’s food system?
Our definition of food. What is food? What does it mean to feed someone? Are we counting calories, conquering hunger, meeting a nutritional requirement, distributing leftovers? I’d love to help come up with a good definition for food and access to food as an inalienable right. It has to be more than simply freedom from hunger.
9. Why do chefs make great advocates for change?
I think people are naturally inclined to listen to people that feed them. If someone in your life helps you meet a basic need each day, and offers you some advice at the same time you’re likely to take that advice…along with the food.
10. Name and describe a person/organization that you believes does inspiring work in helping to build a fairer, healthier, and/or sustainable food system.
I love what Brent and Gil have been doing at The New Farm. They’ve made a viable business in a very tough industry: farming. At the same time they’ve created an organic farm that’s hospitable, educational, charitable, thriving and trend setting. What a brilliant place and a brilliant family. Pretty good disc golf course too.