Writer, on-air personality, and a foodie to boot, Pay Chen is an east coast transplant making waves in Toronto. This media maven explores the city’s homegrown restaurant scene for her weekly Toronto Standard column, and chats in-depth with guests on Newstalk 1010 every Sunday night on The Pay Chen Show (8pm EST). Find out more about this talented tastemaker in today’s Q&A…
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I’m from Nova Scotia. I like to say this because people automatically assume east-coasters are friendly and this means I don’t have to work as hard to make them believe I’m nice. But Maritimers really are the nicest. Growing up, my dad’s business was making tofu. On weekends my little brother and I would go on deliveries with him because sometimes he’d buy us Pocky from one of the Asian shops he was making a delivery to. None of our friends knew what Pocky was, but they liked it. I’d say this was the one time I felt like a food trend hunter. Or a Pocky pusher.
I did production and wrote TV shows long before I got my first on-air job at OMNI-TV in 2002. I was actually about to move to Australia to get my teaching degree when I was offered the hosting job at OMNI. In addition to food writing, I also write cartoons and other kids shows. I left a pretty sweet TV position to freelance and dabble in things that have always interested me. So I’m writing more, exploring more, learning more, and trying my hand at doing my own talk radio show on Newstalk 1010. I feel like I’m learning a brand new set of skills.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…anything is possible. Except reliable transit.
What are three things you simply cannot live without?
1. Hot sauce. 2. Carbs. 3. Moisturizer (I own many tubes, jars and bottles).
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
This is like picking a favourite child… if I had children. I have favourite places for different things.
Hawker Bar for their wings (they really are the best wings I’ve ever had. I’ve even ordered another round at the end of a meal instead of dessert). I still think Foxley has some of the best food in the city – everything is delicious. And I can’t go through Kensington Market without picking up a chicken empanada from Jumbo Empanadas. There’s something about finding that one black olive and 1/6 of a hard boiled egg that makes me feel like I’m getting a prize.
What’s your favourite drink/cocktail and where do you go to get it?
I don’t have a particular favourite. But I love cocktail bars like Barchef where you can ask them to surprise you with something different.
Who’s your favourite designer/brand and why do you sport their fashions?
If you’ve seen me out, you know I’m not particularly fashionable. On TV I wear what looks good even if it’s not the most comfortable. Day-to-day I tend to be quite casual. If I had an unlimited wardrobe budget, I would wear local designers as much as possible. There’s a lot of talent here.
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