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Staff Pick: A Melting Pot of Cultures

Blog/FavouritesMarch 20th 2018
Jayson Subaskaran

Born into a Sri Lankan-Canadian household, my family followed the cultures and traditions that corresponded to those of the general Tamil diaspora. However, when it came to the food, the situation was a bit more complicated. My father is the sous-chef at Fieramosca Trattoria, a restaurant specializing in Southern Italian cuisine in Toronto’s The Annex neighbourhood. Working there for over 25 years, my father’s cooking at home never disappointed my palate, allowing me to taste the elegance of Italian cuisine intertwined with the flavourful plate of spices in Sri Lankan cuisine. In addition to this, I always enjoyed the South Indian breads that my mother and grandmother made to enhance the savoury Sri Lankan curries, seeing as Sri Lankan and South Indian foods have always complemented each other so beautifully. Not to mention, my childhood hometown, Scarborough, was home to an abundance of Hakka restaurants that I would often frequent for take-out on a lazy night at home – I was in awe of the Indian and Chinese influences in this fusion cuisine. At the end of the day, food at home always resembled a melting pot of cultures; not one particular type of cuisine represented my preferred flavour profile. Even to this day, I view this melting pot to be an evolving concept.

I attended a Duke of Edinburgh Award leadership conference in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba in the summer of 2016, where I completed a team project proposal to generate a medium through which Canada’s mosaic of cultures could celebrate their differences, amidst the political tensions in foreign nations: a food festival! What better festive entity with which to do this, than food? I pondered on this inspiring thought for almost a year and reflected on how I could further the ideology behind this mindset via a personal endeavour. To catalyze this journey forward, I pursued chef school at Toronto’s George Brown College in May 2017. Using my free time on the weekends, this was merely the start to add to my never-ending, dynamic taste profile, that is my melting pot; over the next few years, I envisioned learning technical culinary skills, studying new gustatory combinations, and experiencing world cultures through tasting global delicacies (since travelling isn’t a feasible option for me right now).

So far, I have completed 2 introductory classes, a knife skills seminar, introductory Thai cooking, and sous-vide cooking. I am currently completing an introductory Indian cooking course and pasta-making course. I hope to continue using these chef school courses as a means of learning about the world’s different cuisines and sharing this passion to develop friendly, educational, and cultural networks.

My Simplified Food Philosophy: The 3 Ps

I envision any culinary endeavour to be:

1. Personal: Cooking involves choosing the aspects you love about the diverse cuisines and implementing them in your personalized recipes. A recipe is merely a guideline - cater to your preferred palate of spices!

2. Process-Oriented: It’s about the journey, not the destination! Becoming a successful home cook is an acquired talent. The techniques, knowledge, and effort put towards the creation of the product should be just as valued, as they are there to stay and be continuously transformed for improvement.

3. Precious: In any dish you create, whether it be a fancy, hand-made pasta dish that took you an entire day to make or a stir-fry put together from left-overs from yesterday night’s dinner, you have invested your time and soul into producing that product. Appreciate the knowledge you applied into putting that dish from page to stage, so to speak. Every creation is precious and should be a precursor to an even better dish you make the next time!