Joshna Maharaj is a chef and writer and who is passionately committed to good food and ideas of sustainability. A dedicated food activist, she works to promote the awareness of the power of food to nurture, build and strengthen communities. Joshna is a regular guest chef on CBC’s Steven & Chris, maintains a blog, and speaks to anyone who will listen about the importance of good food.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I lived in an ashram in India for a year after I graduated from university, and was put to work in their very humble village kitchen. I learned so much about the power food has to transmit love and nourishment to people in this kitchen, and had the time of my life! I came home from India, and enrolled in the George Brown Chefs’ School.
What is your favourite dish to cook and why?
I don’t work in a restaurant, but one of my favourite things that I make at home a lot is a mighty BLT. The other day I made one on olive bread with avocado and chipotle mayo, and it was outrageously delicious.
Three ingredients you couldn’t live without and why?
1. salt – if you don’t have salt, you sadly, don’t have very good flavour.
2. lemon – there’s nothing quite like the fresh tang of a squeeze of lemon.
3. masala – I’ve got a bag of mixed masala that my mother and I made, from her aunt’s recipe. It’s the most magical stuff, and is the secret behind my family’s delicious curries.
On your day off – what are you cooking at home? If you’re eating out, where do you go?
If I’m cooking at home, I’ll either just eat breakfast for dinner, which I do a LOT, or I’m having people over I will throw down a full, delicious spread of food. This said, I eat breakfast at the greasy spoon around the corner often, and go out for late night sushi all the time. I move between New Generation (493 Bloor Street West) and Big Sushi (388 Bloor Street West).
What is your favourite thing about the food scene in Toronto?
The diversity and authenticity! You can get pretty much any food from around the world prepared authentically by people from that community. We all know what a proper shawarma tastes like, or what good dumplings are supposed to be like, and that is fantastic. I love how much choice we have when we want to go out to eat, and I love sharing the edible glory of this city with visitors.
What’s coming up?
This year’s Picnic at the Brickworks is going to be the best one ever! We’ve divided Southern Ontario into 12 growing regions, and have 6 chefs working with local products in each region. Guests will get a true taste of what the land around us has produced, and there are also lots of new chef/producer partnerships which should play out beautifully on the plate. This is the most delicious afternoon of the year, and is definitely not to be missed! Tickets are still available.