This week we bring you the man who wants nothing more than to connect people with food, Joel Solish of communityfoodist.com. Community Foodist is more than a food blog, Joel encourages people to go out and enjoy the food that our city has to offer. Not just by enjoying a great meal but by being able to learn and grow from the diverse food culture here in Toronto. Joel brings all of these aspects together in Community Foodist. In addition to the work Joel does with Community Foodist, Joel is co-creator of the popular Death Row Meals Supper Club, which brings together some of Toronto’s finest chefs to prepare an unforgettable meal that would be fit to be your last! Death Row Meals take place at various locations across Toronto with different themes and participants to keep you coming back for more.
Joel is quite the busy man, but the fact remains clear he is passionate about what he does: bringing people together to want, crave, learn, and grow from the best food Toronto has to offer. So take a moment and enjoy the answers of a man who knows about the best…and lives to share it.
When and why did you start writing about food?
I started my food blog three and a half years ago as a place to chronicle my quest to source my food better, and to share what I get up to in my kitchen. The concept was to connect with my food on the deepest level possible, and connect with the people and places in Ontario that my food comes from. Friends and family encouraged me to do this, as I tend to be quite opinionated.
What do you love most about food?
I love food for the tradition and the process, bringing people together to enjoy an experience together. I love recreating dishes for friends that I grew up eating, especially ones that were prepared by my grandmothers. That’s where I learned my love of food and being in the kitchen. As my mom would say “my boy was a challenge from conception,” and the only place as a young hyperactive child that I would behave was in her mother’s kitchen on a Friday afternoon while preparing the Shabbat meal.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
I work in the food community in southern Ontario to create brand awareness through a number of activities, working mostly with small businesses to lend them a hand in their marketing activities. My passion is my series of food events called Death Row Meals, that I work on with my partner (and culinary genius) Trish Gill, chef at Spin. I also volunteer at the Evergreen Brick Works Saturday farmers market with Vicki’s Veggies. This is important to me, as I get to support the people who grow my food and feel more connected to it, from earth to table. As well, I love volunteering at any and all food events that I can find time to be involved in. Future plans include…well that’s a secret…
Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? If not, why?
I cook as often as possible, and always cook with my moods so things are always changing and developing in interesting ways in my kitchen. I am a big fan of preserving and canning, and in season that is where you will find me. Love making meals for friends at any opportunity, and recently made a 60s steakhouse themed meal for a friend’s birthday, including two massive tomahawk steaks from Sanagan’s. So good. Being Jewish, a lot of my food has those influences, but also I am known for my love of the pig, so that always leads to interesting combinations, never traditional.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
My comfort food is Schnitzel, and I have been going to Country Style in the Annex for most of my life. Always cheers me up and makes my belly happy!
What’s your favourite hidden gem?
If I told you it wouldn’t be hidden anymore, would it?
What’s your go-to restaurant?
There is no way to pick just one, as I mentioned I eat with moods. I am a fan of dirty, greasy, consistent food, so in my short list would be places like The Stockyards, Holy Chuck Burger, Buster Rhino’s BBQ, Caplansky’s, and places like that. Stick to my ribs food!
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
Too many to mention, and pick just one. The current favourite that comes to mind was on my visit to Jerusalem last summer. Machneyuda is the hottest restaurant in the city, and arguably the country. Situated in the shuk (open air market) in modern Jerusalem, the chefs make a daily chalkboard menu with what they find at their favourite vendors each week. This restaurant reminded me of the early days of The Black Hoof, and their sister restaurant across the street. Machneyuda has a restaurant and cocktail bar on opposite sides of the street, and I was treated to quite the experience there. Great space, gorgeous Israelis, and some of the best food I have ever had. Oh, and a great party too! Standout dish was sweetbreads falafel style. Can still taste it.
What’s one restaurant you have to try before you die?
Before my uncle’s mother in-law passes on I must eat at her house. They live in Thailand, and she specifically lives in a very small village in the south, and farms rubber trees. When I visited her in 2003 we shared a meal at her house, that sticks out in my memory as being such a cherished thing. Even better, getting to pick dessert off of trees in her yard! Now, the meal was nothing special, but rather it was time and place which is so important to me. Food memories.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (Play nice.)
People who do not remove their wailing children from public places, especially restaurants. Also, I am not a fan of lineups, although sometimes they are a necessary evil.