Shortbread Cookie in Nutella Mousse, Chef Shahir Massoud of Levetto.

The first edition of Love Food Fest was definitely a memorable one! Food lovers and charitable donors descended on Artscape Wychwood Barns on October 7, 2014 for Toronto’s newest food event. Love Food Fest is part of the Love Food Give Food campaign running all October-long for Action Against Hunger – an international humanitarian organization dedicated to ending world hunger, with special focus on children under five.

The theme of the event was nostalgia – a challenge for chefs to re-imagine and re-interpret food that we loved as kids, to now tickle our matured palates. What a perfect theme to delight the attendees, but more importantly to ensure that the spotlight shone brightly on the need to end child hunger.

With over 20 of Toronto’s top restaurants and chefs participating, the chef’s challenge produced some amazing and creative dishes.

With so many plates to sample, we decided to divide and conquer, sharing dishes so that we could taste as many as possible. For the savoury dishes, one definite highlight was Hey Meatball! Chef Rodney Bower‘s Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was a giant, juicy meatball stuffed with cheese, wrapped in spaghetti, and then battered and deep fried, and finally topped with spaghetti sauce and parmesan. Another highlight was the Nanbon Chicken, a collaboration between Chef Shinji Yamaguchi of Gushi and his Chef Tetsuya Shimizu of recently opened Yunaghi, inspired by Yamaguchi’s grandmother’s recipe. I’ve always loved fried chicken as a child, and now even more as an adult.

Dessert-wise, one standout was A Taste of Fall, from Chef Ivan Tarazona of Celestin. It was a re-imagining of his childhood favourite – chocolate cake. It was essentially the cake deconstructed, and then beautifully put together to resemble a fall scene, complete with chocolate twigs and an apricot candied leaf. Another great dessert was Levetto Chef Shahir Massoud‘s take on Dunkaroos (top image). It was a shortbread cookie with a very delicate nutella mousse. This one definitely brought back memories of childhood.

A Taste of Fall, Chef Ivan Tarazona of Celestin

A Taste of Fall, Chef Ivan Tarazona of Celestin

There were a lot of memorable dishes at Love Food Fest. It was really fascinating to see what inspired each chef’s creation. For Chef Alexandra Feswick from the Drake Hotel it was thanksgiving dinner. For Chef Eric Wood of soon to open Maple Leaf Tavern it was comfort food that his grandmother made for him when he was young. Whatever each chef’s inspiration was, all of the food we tried was delicious. Thankfully we didn’t have the unenviable task of choosing the chef’s challenge winner – this was upto the judging panel consisting of Abbey Sharp from Abbey’s Kitchen, Corey Mintz from the Toronto Star, award-winning freelance journalist and author Amy Rosen, and journalist, producer, and cook, Mary Luz Mejia.

Judges Amy Rosen, Corey Mintz, Mary Luz Mejia, Abbey Sharp

Judges Amy Rosen, Corey Mintz, Mary Luz Mejia, Abbey Sharp

With the competition very close, in the end after tallying the judges’ scores, the winner was Chef Matt Blondin from another soon to open restaurant, Junk Bar, with his recreation of the campfire classic – the s’more. This was a s’more elevated, with a variety of toppings and sauces, and the torched marshmallow sandwiched between chocolate drizzled cookies. For his win, Blondin will have the opportunity to travel to Peru in the spring, to participate in Action Against Hunger’s initiatives in that country. Congratulations to Chef Blondin!

The S'more, Chef Matt Blondin from Junk Bar

The S’more, Chef Matt Blondin from Junk Bar

Love Food Fest was a great event in its inaugural year. With so many of Toronto’s best restaurants and vendors, and the organizers doing a terrific job in ensuring the event ran smoothly, the guests looked very happy and satisfied with the evening, all in support of a worthy cause. While Love Food Fest was one day only, the Love Food Give Food campaign continues for the rest of October. Participating restaurants will have a special item on their menu, or collect a donation, in support of Action Against Hunger’s fight against malnutrition. Another way to show your support and your love of food, is to host your own fundraising event, whether it’s teaching a cooking class, or hosting a Masterchef-style competition, or another food-inspired event.

For more information about Action Against Hunger and the Love Food Give Food campaign:
http://actioncontrelafaim.ca
http://lovefoodgivefood.ca
Twitter: @acf_canada #LoveFoodFest
Instagram: @acf_canada #LoveFoodFest

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John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.