Famed food blogger, dietitian and Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium creator, Abbey Sharp is one busy lady, and this weekend she’s going to remind us once again why her foodie lifestyle never takes a break with the latest installment of her chef face-off. If you missed the first chance to experience Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium, it can best be described as a pop-up version of Iron Chef meets Chopped, where four Toronto chefs compete for best dish honours using a secret ingredient. Check it out this Sunday when Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium heads back to Little Italy for a serious throwdown. We caught up with Abbey before her jam-packed weekend to find out how what restaurant she’s currently obsessed with and how she spends her days as a professional foodie.
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I own Abbey’s Kitchen food media outlet, which basically means I’m a #foodporn seeking blogger, cookbook and food writer representing myself and other brands, while balancing a career in nutrition media as a registered dietitian. I know, kind of an oxymoron, but I embrace an “everything in moderation” approach to food. If I eat a little bit more one day because I’m out at a food event or media tasting (and you just need to read my blog to know that this girl can pack it in), then I’ll just add a little more veg or exercise into the routine the next day. No biggie. I don’t let myself feel guilty about eating a poutine or ordering dessert, I just make sure I sit my ass down in a chair, preferably with friends, and invest in that experience. Food needs to be savoured and in doing so, it becomes a pleasure. Recently, I saw someone post on facebook once “nothing tastes as good as skinny” and I cringed at the thought. No, Miss, I’m a dietitian and I think you’re wrong. Nothing tastes as good as poutine (except maybe poutine with, like, pulled pork on top).
How would you explain Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium to someone who’s never experienced it?
I’m a food event whore: I show up at every one and literally stuff my face, but I noticed that there were very few events in the city combining the whole “pop up” concept with entertainment. I really wanted to add in an element of surprise and competition with Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium (#AKS), so it’s essentially like a pseudo-Iron Chef “pop-up”. So, we have a secret ingredient (which you will find out only at the event) which four of Toronto’s top chefs have to use to prepare two dishes. The chefs then sell their food items throughout the afternoon at their pop-up stations, and later are invited on stage to be judged by a panel of celebrity judges. In the end, the judges choose a winner, who then will move onto the finale, which will be on the Food Network stage at the Delicious Food Show. There is also an opportunity for guests to vote online after the event for a “wild card” competitor to also compete in the finale. The whole series helps raise funds for My Food My Way – a local food initiative that goes into elementary schools and teaches the students about food in a way that makes sense to them! So they get to help create the nutrition curriculum, and they also get to do all the cafeteria cooking for their peers through their culinary program. I really, truly believe that nutrition education, particularly with children, needs to focus on the inherently “good” aspects of food rather than always harping about the “bad.” So My Food My Way aims to shift that focus which I think will have much greater long-term impacts.
What are three things you simply cannot live without?
Well, one would obviously be food, but to be more specific, probably yogurt. Uh, I know, such a dietitian thing to say, but without it, my whole body feels out of whack. Second, would be the treadmill. Again, I know, not so sexy, but when you do what I do (aka eat for a living) plus have to keep up appearances as a media dietitian, you got to find a way to fall in love with cardio. And three, again, not proud of this, but my partner would say my phone. He gets mad because I can’t sit with him for five minutes to watch a movie without simultaneously checking Instagram. But foodies, if you’re reading, I know you all agree.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
Yikes, a tough question for a food blogger, and I would have to answer the question with the clarification we are talking about my favourite restaurant “now.” Right now, probably Bar Isabel. I just really love Spanish fare because it begs to be shared, which is really my style of eating, and Grant van Gameren just nails it.
What’s your favourite drink/cocktail and where do you go to get it?
Again, this is a “now” answer, because these things change every week, but since discovering Dillon’s Distillers (from Beamsville), I’ve been a hardcore G + T drinker. And while, yes, you can occasionally find Dillon’s peppered throughout the city at various establishments, I say the best place to get it is at Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium events; for the July event, they’re doing a version with rhubarb bitters! Yum.
What’s the go-to meal you prepare for a special dinner party?
Well, I am British, so it’s likely going to be a roast of some sorts, and prime rib is really my specialty. If it’s a holiday, than I absolutely will have to bust out some of my “famous” dishes – I make a wicked sausage stuffing with candied pecans, pear and caramelized onions, and of course, everyone’s favourite, my streusel topped sweet potato souffle. It’s basically a dessert masquerading as a side dish. Admittedly, we rarely have many vegetables at these things. But heck, you did say a “special” dinner party!
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date with all your city-trotting?
You can check out my website Abbey’s Kitchen for events, restaurant reviews, recipes, and webisodes. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Also, be sure to check out Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium on July 21st, tickets are available here.