Two years ago Anne Sorrenti left her job of 10 years working for a Toronto MP to become the Executive Chef of Morgans, a new restaurant on a stretch of the Danforth populated by methadone clinics and dive bars, along with one of the most supportive neighbourhoods in Toronto. Friends, family and strangers commented that this was a crazy move, but she has no regrets and thoroughly enjoys featuring local food and social justice on the menu whenever possible. This Sunday September 22, Anne will be taking part in the 3rd Annual Toronto Garlic Festival at Evergreen Brickworks. These are the pages that have inspired her career path…
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
This book was recommended to me at the age of 19. I was living in Vancouver and attending Emily Carr, taking 3D Form and Material and Art History. Written in 1972 as a companion to a BBC series of the same name, it opened my eyes to the power of the artist to manipulate the viewer. The way that the author was able to make the link between the tradition of oil painting of the 1500s to the present methods used by advertisers to elicit specific reactions fascinated me. A follow-up book, About Looking by the same author, delved deeper into the social justice aspects of art and elitism, the idea of class discrimination. It really altered my view of the world and forced me to look at my surroundings and choice of study in a new light.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
When I picked this book up I read the jacket and my expectations were quite low. What I encountered was a story that dealt with issues of poverty, alcoholism, discrimination and intolerance within the context of Brooklyn slums pre-WWI. Though specific in it’s location, the story of the Nolan family has universal themes that echoed many of the stories of my own mother’s childhood poverty. The female characters were very strong and determined, much like own mother and grandmother. The character’s complicated relationship to near constant hunger in relation to pride and charity resonated with my strong sense of food security as a right. The fact is that access to good, healthy food plays an important role in people’s sense of success, and their ability to move forward, is as relevant today as it was a century ago. It pushed me to be aware that how you give is at times as important as what you give.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Initially reading this view from the “inside” had me alternately laughing and cringing. The tales of the miscreants and ne’er do wells encountered by Bourdain made me wonder if I would ever want to pursue being a chef full-time. I had seen the alcoholism, the hierarchy and the sexism first-hand, but it seemed to me that it was rather embellished. I was working in politics at the time and part-time in “the biz.” Fast-forward, and after the past two years of running my own kitchen, I re-read it with a much different view. I nodded a lot recognizing characters, customers and situations we all encounter. I skimmed the parts that grossed me out knowing I would never tolerate some of the crap he got up to, and in the end decided that 10 years in politics had toughened me enough that I could take whatever this profession wanted to dish out. I love it and I know made the right choice.