Toronto-based writer Jesse Ship might be known for his electric personality, contagious energy and his passionate coverage of Toronto’s food and music scenes, but don’t let his amazing hair and great smile fool you: he once had a restaurant completely shut down. Okay, okay… in Ship’s defense, he didn’t wreak havoc on a restaurant with a scathing review, but he does have a great story to explain how he single-handedly closed down a Toronto establishment. But we’ll let him tell you all about that.
What we truthfully love most about Ship is that, even when we think we’re at the most obscure cultural event in the city, we almost always see him there just enjoying art in all its forms. You’ve gotta love a guy who genuinely likes art for art’s sake. Ship’s work has appeared everywhere from Aol Spinner and Now Magazine to Exclaim and Pound, and he also runs Shipwreck’d Media, a company he created to service the entertainment industry with press releases, bios and publicity. We caught up with Ship to find out more about his life interviewing some of the biggest names in music, refining his palate in the name of food criticism, and shuttin’ down restaurants…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I discovered myself as a writer while on an ESL teaching stint in Taiwan. While I was there, I took a stab at contributing to a few local expat mags and surprised myself and my friends. It’s a cliché, but the writer seems to find himself while abroad.
I attribute my interest in food thanks to being an expert at licking cake batter off of spoons as a kid (the best job you can get as a ‘special helper’), but also a Parisian upbringing. The high standards of French ingredients helped shaped my palate and I’d like to think that memories from those four years still influence me. Scents influence the most powerful of the senses, right?
I also specialize in covering electronic music, favouring abstract bedroom noisemakers to big room EDM DJs, but if it’s got a beat, I can move to it.
What are the biggest challenges and best rewards about what you do?
One of the biggest rewards is getting to meet and interview some of the musicians that first turned me onto music like DJ Shadow, Joshua Davis of Korn, Sasha & Digweed, Maxim Reality of The Prodigy, or newer artists that I adore like James Murphy of DFA/LCD Soundsystem, Trentemøller, and Justice. They say it’s best to never meet your idols, but I haven’t been disappointed yet.
Short post-show turnovers for reviews and transcribing artist interviews are considered to be the bane of most journalists, so I guess the “morning after” is my biggest challenge in that respect.
What are three things you can’t live without?
– Hot sauce containing a minimum of 7,000 Scoville units.
– $4.00 fresh bbq’d squid on a stick from an Asian night market. (Ok, I can’t actually get those in Toronto on a regular basis, so by going through the logic of this list, my life is not holding up so well.)
– Indomie Mi Goreng Instant Satay Noodles.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…I can go out any night and potentially find a band playing any style of music you can dream of, or comedy for that matter. And hundreds of restaurants representing far flung cultures under the sun.
What are some of your favourite annual cultural events in Toronto and why?
Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market rarely disappoints. I’m also a bit disappointed that Afrofest and the Mutahdi Drum Fest have been relegated to Woodbine Park. There’s more space but the Queen’s Park forest brought out the real afro vibe.
What’s one secret talent you have that people would be surprised to find out about?
The ability to close restaurants. A food critic’s dream, right? Hah, just kidding. But a funny thing once happened and I became indirectly responsible for shutting down the Happy 7 Chinese restaurant, frequented by city workers of all levels. I’m not very proud of what happened, but when you spy a convalescing mouse in the window of a restaurant next to a green food safety inspector sign, marked inspected just a few days before, it’s hard not to take a photo and send it to your favourite city blogs. I didn’t expect the story to go viral, or to get scooped by a certain local TV news team who likes to think that they are everywhere, but it caused a media frenzy and the restaurant was shuttered in weeks. However, they seem to have bounced back and now operate under the name King Lobster.
I’ve also made modest appearances in music videos, commercials and TV shows.