Starting out with a 30-minute presentation by Canada's chef Bob Blumer the huge room was filled with an even mix of Torontorians. Blumer started the evening with "this is so rock and roll." He talked about his latest television venture after telling the audience about an early television appearance in Australia where he was pranked. The show was Tonight Live with Steve Vizard that aired in the early 1990's. Blumer was cooking filet mignon when two people from the audience were invited to assist on stage; Jane and Eddie.
"Eddie looked like he had never cooked. He tried to put mustard on raw steak....."
In the end Eddie was 'accidentally' set on fire. Blumer left the set thinking his career was over and Eddie would be going to a lawyer quickly. Feeling like all was lost back in his hotel room there was a knock on the door. Outside a bellhop stood with a tray of food and a bottle of scotch. Blumer grabbed the scotch and took a drink before reading the attached note.
"Dear Bob-Thanks for being such a good sport."
Eddie was a stunt man and the episode played on the Christmas Best of Show that year.
Blumer is now known for his extreme takes on food. He's also in the Guinness Book of Records for making the most pancakes. When the food network asked him to do an extra six episodes for the coming year he jumped, they then said they wanted to make them extreme. Starting January 3 viewers will watch the chef with a comic edge tackle six more Guinness Book Records.
His finishing touch was showing that an entire pasta meal could be made in the time it takes to make a can of SpaghettiO's where Blumer competed with audience member Erica. (They tied on time.) Announcing "that's it for the opening act" it was time for the star of the show, Jamie Oliver.
Oliver is well known to foodies. His Naked Chef show in 1999 changed the way many viewed cooking shows. Cooking for his mates at home allowed viewers to see a real person cooking at home adding extra touches of presentation that elevated his simple meals to a new level. He has remained a constant presence on television while running several restaurants. What sets Oliver apart from other chefs is that he has taken on the UK government to improve the food served in schools. The Food Revolution made headlines when millions of dollars were given to improve children's educational lives through the food they take in during their school day. That revolution has grown to working to improve the way people eat in the UK and recently in the United States.
Oliver has also created the Fifteen Foundation in 2002. Each year 15 youth coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, criminal records or history of drug abuse are given a chance with training in the restaurant business.
Tonight's event was not a cooking show, only two recipes were prepared, which some in the audience were disappointed with. Instead it was an evening of questions and answers showing a glimpse of the man that Oliver really is.
"Healthy eating is not being a food Nazi. Cakes are a beautiful thing to be enjoyed. It's about balanced, good and quick food."
His take on Oprah is that she is 'absolutely lovely.' His view on fellow UK chef Gordan Ramsey is a bit different.
"I think he can be very charming." Oliver continued talking about Ramsey's approach in the kitchen, "(I) don't like it to be honest. Don't really care." Oliver tried to edge away and then returned to the question about Ramsey's antics, "I do my thing and he does his. Got more important things to talk about." Oliver said that Ramsey's approach would not work at Fifteen, the youth working there don't need that kind of attitude. "It's a fine line. We have to deprogram the kids at 15. Mixing the attitude with hot oil, knives.......not a good mix."
When asked what's more important-organic or local, Oliver had no hesitation saying local. He added that "if you can have both happy day."
The Food Revolution part is hard work. He hopes that others will 'pass it on.' Oliver's passion is food and his family. His love for his wife Jools is visible in his actions. He beams when he talks about her and their children. Oliver's first son, Buddy Bear Maurice was born a mere seven weeks ago.
"All he wants is boob-one day we'll go fishing."
When asked what his favorite meal that Jools cooks for him Oliver answered quickly, "Nothing!" It seems that while Jools is quite good at cooking for the children she doesn't have the touch when it comes to cooking for Jamie.
"She doesn't cook for me and when she does its bloody awful. I have learned to lie. When she asks how a meal is I tell her it's wonderful and when she asks what she could do to improve it I tell her nothing. I then sneak into the kitchen and add some spices. God Bless Her!"
Oliver's manner is just like how he appears on television. He's a cute charmer with a wicked sense of humour and more than a bit cheeky. When asked boxers, briefs or other he answered with a wink, "free baller!"
He fights hard to change the way others approach their food. It's not fun and games for the man who grew up cooking along side his parents at the family pub, "The Cricketers." Stating that when it comes to the revolution he just puts his head down and does the work. He's not happy though that the government isn't working on food issues more than it does.
"The government should play a larger role in food revolution. It's slightly bonkers that a celebrity chef had to bring the awareness. Public awareness has made the difference. (I) am a totally everyday person. I'm like a bad rash that won't go away."
Oliver isn't going away any time soon. His message of 'pass it on' isn't just words but actions. He has a true vision about how people should be eating healthy meals and the passion to carry through on those ideals and the cheekiness to get it done.