Toronto’s Kensington Market is a big influence on chef, author and TV personality Lynn Crawford. She grew up in the neighbourhood and studied culinary arts at a George Brown College campus in the heart of the bustling, multi-ethnic food shopper’s mecca.
She recalls being exposed in her childhood to “a lot of local products, a lot of seasonal products, a lot of ethnic diversity. We didn’t go to grocery stores; mom always shopped at Kensington Market. It was a really European way of life. We shopped often, looking for great ingredients, and you went to the people who were experts in their areas,” she says. In her cooking, her television shows, such as the Gemini-nominated “Pitchin’ In” and “The Great Canadian Cookbook” and her best-selling cookbooks — Pitchin’ In (2012) and At Home with Lynn Crawford (2013) — Crawford has pursued the same inspiration, but on a national level.
“I’ve always set the bar at being innovative, delicious, creative and doing the best job I possibly can. That’s the standard now, and across Canada, how lucky we are and how many incredible ingredients we have to cook with,” she says. “How lucky have I been that I’ve had the chance to go work with the fishers and the farmers across Canada, and have a little snapshot into their lives.”
Through the course of her career, Crawford says she has watched a “shift from fine dining to more casual dining, a lot more independent restaurants across the country opening up and a heightened awareness and the love of food, and so many talented chefs out there who are wanting to give that gift.”
As Crawford used to do in Kensington Market, “people are able to go to artisanal venues for baking or butcher shops, or go to a place for chocolates: little unique places that are specializing in one thing and you’re going for the best of the best from each area of expertise,” she says. “We’re also influenced by so many differencultures and history, and all the new Canadians who have come with the best of the best.”
Crawford admits she’s puzzled that Canadian restaurants have not yet been more widely recognized on the international stage. “We have to embrace what we have here in Canada, and everybody else will follow.
Written by Sarah B. Hood