I stumbled upon this progressive blog a couple weeks back, and was instantly impressed by it’s originality and the ambitious nature of this young woman. Marlene Benedicto is spearheading the mission to have every Toronto restaurant wheelchair accessible. In her blog, Tasting Toronto on Wheels (which recently got revamped), Marlene critiques the Toronto restaurant scene and everything that appeases the palate, even for the foodie on wheels…
She has dedicated her blog to narrowing down the few restaurants in Toronto that still lack wheelchair accessibility. Some of these restaurants either have stairs or a front step at the entrance, making it a challenge for this foodie to dine out. But she certainly has made her way through Toronto, eating and reviewing such restaurants as Thompson Diner, Tappo Wine Bar and Globe Bistro, which have all scored a 4/5 in accessibility (well done!).
Her writing career spawned after graduating from Humber College’s Journalism program in 2007. Soon after, Marlene got hired as a Listings Reporter for TV Guide Canada. In addition, she has made contributions to Sweat magazine and Convergence magazine, but has always held food close to her heart…and well, her palate too.
Let’s hear more about this inspirational gal…
When and why did you start writing about food?
I began writing about food in March 2011 with the start of my blog, Tasting Toronto on Wheels. Initially, I started writing my blog because I wanted a fun and creative outlet to utilize my writing skills. I also wanted to create a go-to place for the disabled community to learn about restaurants in Toronto that they may never thought of checking out due to inaccessibility fears.
What do you love most about food?
I like using food as a way to learn about different flavours and cultures and it is a way for cooks to be creative. I love trying new things!
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
This may sound cheesy but I love the Food Network. I’ve been watching cooking shows since I was probably about three years old (remember “Wok with Yan”?), so I constantly have the Food Network on as a way to get inspiration in my own cooking and to get ideas of what new types of foods I want to try.
Do you cook? If so, what’s your speciality? If not, why?
I love to cook. I’m not sure that I have a specialty because I’m constantly playing with different flavours. My food never tastes the same twice.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
I’m a sushi lover and tend to gravitate mostly to Korean and Japanese food. The best place to get anything Asian is Pacific Mall. There is a good variety of foods to choose from and the dishes are relatively inexpensive.
What’s your hidden gem?
Beard Papa’s at Pacific Mall. Their cream puffs are to die for!
What’s your go-to restaurant?
Guu on Church Street. I’ve recommended it to so many people! The food and atmosphere is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and I’m obsessed with the “maguro tataki” (i.e. seared tuna). Awesome restaurant!
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
I’ve gone to so many fantastic restaurants, but the most memorable meal I had was at Benihana at the Royal York Hotel. The Tappanyaki chefs are so entertaining and literally made my food fly onto the plate. It was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had at a restaurant.
What’s the one restaurant you have to try before you die?
Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Spago, the one in Beverly Hills. I know it sounds kind of contrived but it’s such a renowned restaurant that I want to go there at least once in my life.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (play nice)
The amount of inaccessible restaurants in Toronto. It shocks me that in 2013 there are so many restaurants that lack wheelchair accessibility.