NICK & TAYLOR’S FOOD SHOW
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘Sorry I’m late, guys,’ Chef Nick Benninger declares as he hustles towards our table. ‘Stuck in meetings.’ It’s no wonder. After all, Nick does run four restaurants. All along the strip in Uptown Waterloo. There’s Harmony Lunch. Marbles. Taco Farm. And the place that started it all – Nick & Nat’s. Nick takes a seat and unloads a stack of books he’s carrying. Onto the table, in front of Taylor and me. Taylor Jackson. Wedding photographer. Cinematographer. Entrepreneur extraordinaire who knows his hustle inside and out. Just like Nick.
‘These should get you started,’ Nick remarks, addressing Taylor. Gina Mallet’s Last Chance to Eat. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Mark Schatzker’s Steak. Rudolph Chelminski’s The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine. I ask what’s up with all the reading. ‘I want to learn more about the impact of a carnivorous diet,’ Taylor replies. My eyes move back and forth and back again between these two. And for a split second I wonder if this is all a bit of theatre to make me believe that the two of them philosophize about food all the time. After all, that’s why we’ve met. At Lancaster Smokehouse. (The irony in our having lunch in a haven for carnivores is not lost on any of us.) To discuss the new local food show that Nick and Taylor are about to release. Which is exciting – not least for me.
You see, I’m a food show fanatic. Hot Ones. F@ck That’s Delicious. The Burger Show. The Pizza Show. Chef’s Night Out. And anything at all by Anthony Bourdain. To be sure, this very magazine draws inspiration from Youtube food shows like these. (And of course Petrolicious too.) So when I found out that Nick and Taylor were preparing to do a show highlighting our regional culinary scene, my curiosity was piqued. And I wanted to find out more. Which is what got us all together at ‘the Lanc’ – which is also the setting for the first episode.
Our food arrives. Brisket. Ribs. Pig’s tail. Cheesy grits. Collard greens. The good stuff. And we begin to eat. And continue to converse.
‘We decided to put this together,’ Taylor begins, ‘because no one’s done anything like this about our local food scene. There’s too much talent in the region for people to ignore.’ Nick echoes Taylor’s sentiment, adding: ‘Over the past five years, the local culinary scene has exploded. And chefs who once looked toward Toronto as the place to grow their careers are now sticking around these parts.’ He goes on: ‘There are so many advantages for chefs and restauranteurs to set up shop here – not least of which is our proximity to literally hundreds of farmers and producers. It’s like a goldmine.’
The show’s premise is straightforward enough. Over the first seven episodes of this inaugural eight-episode season (which are each a digestible ten to fifteen minutes long), Chef Nick tours culinary neophyte Taylor around the region to a number of Nick’s favourite culinary haunts – interviewing chefs, learning culinary techniques, tasting great food and discussing the region’s culinary landscape. There’s the episode on the Lanc, of course, where Chef Tim Borys demonstrates how to prepare a show-stopping rabbit dish. And one on The Bruce in Stratford, where every single ingredient used is local to these parts. And late night pizza at the storied Pepi’s Pizza in #dtk. And cocktails at The Grand Trunk and Jane Bond. There’s a chicken wing special, and an episode devoted to late night eats. (Shawarma poutine, anyone?) And ice cream at Four All. ‘One of our region’s great culinary success stories,’ adds Nick.
And then there’s the last episode, in which the tables are turned and Taylor gets to plan his own menu for a couple dozen guests at Nick’s Taco Farm restaurant. ‘To get him out of his comfort zone and see what he’s learned along the way,’ notes Nick. ‘And to make for great content too,’ adds Taylor. (Tickets may still be available for this: visit 519foodshow.com to find out.)
‘The show’s a bit of a lark, of course,’ notes Nick as we get to the bottom of our barbecue. I survey the scene. Not a clean hand or napkin in sight. Nick continues: ‘A great opportunity to see what we can get up to at some of the region’s most unique and cherished destinations. But,’ he adds, ‘I think it’s also an important thing we’re doing here. Our regional culinary scene hits well above its weight class. And it’s important that this story – these stories – keep getting told.
‘Besides,’ he adds with a bit of a smirk, ‘there’s an appetite for this.’ .