March 23, 2023

Elevated Home Cooking: Approachable and Affordable Recipes with Chef Christine Flynn

Elevated Home Cooking: Approachable and Affordable Recipes with Chef Christine Flynn

This week on Chefs Without Restaurants we have Christine Flynn, the proprietor of The Good Earth Winery, partner at The Good Earth Farm in Ontario, Canada, and executive chef and partner at iQ Food Co. She recently released her second cookbook, "A Generous Meal."

We talk about her culinary background, including her early love of food and cooking, and how her parents' three-bite rule helped her develop her palate. We discuss her cooking style, which she describes as elevated home cooking that is both approachable and affordable. Christine believes that everyone deserves to eat beautiful food, and the recipes in her book are both flavor-packed and easy to execute. 

She discusses her love for creating a beautiful life and how making food and clothes are part of that. Flynn finds inspiration from design, cozy aesthetics, places she’s been, music, and art. Christine discusses her approach to sustainability and cooking. Her expertise in using leftovers to create different meals is something she takes pride in and wants to teach others to do. She emphasizes that her approach is all about having fun and being creative.

Christine was also behind the viral Instagram account Jacques La Merde in 2015 & 2016. Jacques was known for his overly-worked and tweezered creations. They were elaborated interpretations of junk food. Think…the Michelin version of a Big Mac. While she had fun with it, she’s left her Jacques days behind her, focusing more on family cooking these days.

CHRISTINE FLYNN

Christine's Instagram
Buy the Cookbook A Generous Meal
Christine's Recipe for Eggplant Parmesan

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Transcript

Chris Spear:

This week on Chefs Without Restaurants I have Christine Flynn. She's the proprietor of the good Earth winery in Ontario, Canada and executive chef and partner at IQ food co, a restaurant group with multiple locations in Toronto. Christine recently released her second cookbook, a generous meal and came by the show to talk about it and a whole lot more. This is Chris spear. And you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants, the show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. Hello, everyone, I hope you're all doing tremendous, or is that tremendously? I'm not really sure. Anyway, I'm still battling a bout of bronchitis. So once again, I'm going to keep this intro short and sweet because my thoughts a little gravelly. Also notice the people across the street finally have their yard people here and there's some I don't know, leaf blowers. chainsaws are nonsense, so you don't need to hear all that. So let's get to it. Christine's new book came out a few weeks ago, and I think you're gonna love it. I feel like it finds the sweet spot between being a cookbook that chefs will like full of flavor packed recipes, but also having recipes that are relatively easy to execute quick and won't break the bank. If you're looking for some innovative ways to use a head of cabbage and some beans, this is the book for you. Christina is also a food writer, stylist and photographer. And if her name is familiar, but you're not sure where you might know her from she was also the person behind the Instagram account Jacques La Merde back in 2015 2016. For those of you who aren't up on their French, La Merde literally means the shit. Jacques was known for his overly worked and tweezers plates of beautiful food. But the dishes were composed of junk food, think modernise take on a Big Mac. And while she had fun with it at the time, Christine has moved past her jock days. Like myself, she's a parent of twins, and says that these days, she's more focused on family cooking, even talk a little bit about cooking with kids on the show. I asked Christine about her views on sustainability and what that means to her. And we just have a really great conversation about the cookbook, some of the recipes, her techniques and how she likes to produce food these days. So I'm gonna jump out of here and let you listen to the show. You can find links to her social media pages, her new cookbook and everything in the show notes as usual. And if you're enjoying the show, please share it. Let people know about the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time to listen to me and the show. And I hope you have a great day. Hi, Christine. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

Christine Flynn:

Thanks for having me.

Chris Spear:

It's great to have you here today. I can't wait to talk to you about your new cookbook and all the really cool things you're doing in the food and beverage world.

Christine Flynn:

Thank you.

Chris Spear:

So before we kind of dive into what you do now and the book and everything, I always like to start the show with a little bit of like culinary backstory. Are you have you been a lifelong food person? Like did you grow up loving food and cooking and kind of how did you get into this whole weird wild world of food and beverages?

Christine Flynn:

I mean, I've always loved food. My family moved a lot when I was little we moved I think seven times before I was nine. That's a lot. It is a lot. Yeah, Nova Scotia to England to Alberta, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Midwest, I would say, and back east and then sort of central. So we moved many times. And one of the ways that I think my parents sort of compensated for all the disruption was by having a very consistent dinner schedule. So we ate dinner together as a family pretty much every night. And we a home cooked meals. So I was always kind of poking around the stove and seeing what was going on. And I think every kid wants to, you know, mimic their parents. And so I got into cooking quite early. I think the first time I picked up a knife I was about five. And so yeah, I've just always I've always eaten and I've always cooked

Chris Spear:

and not picky eater when you were a kid. We weren't really

Christine Flynn:

allowed to be picky. My parents had a three bite rule. So you had to try three bites of everything, which I think helps build a palette from a very young age. And I think that the other thing was that with all the moves, I mean, my dad went back to school when I was quite young. You know, you you get what you get, you don't get upset. So it wasn't like we didn't like something there was an alternative was like, Hey, we're having beef tongue for dinner. If you don't want it. You just go to

Chris Spear:

bed. I love it. I mean that's how I was raised to in the 80s you know and now it's like my son could probably do to put on some weight and we talked to his doctor and they're just like, well if he doesn't want to eat don't make them eat and have some always available stuff. I'm like alright, like are you kidding my dad never would have let me just like get up and like not eat the dinner my mom made and make like a peanut butter sandwich. I remember sitting in front of like this pile of butternut squash for like two hours at the dinner table, they say you're not supposed to do that anymore. I don't know, I haven't done it with my kids. But I think it made me less of a particular eater as a kid. And similar to you, like I loved being around my my mom, particularly who cooked all the time. And that just instilled the love of cooking in me.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, and I think as you get older, you realize how important it is, particularly if you travel or, you know, working in the industry. Even if you're in the back, you end up at some, you end up at some fancy dinners every once in a while, you know, and I've had the good fortune to be in a few over the years. And you want to know how to behave. You don't want to be the person who's sitting there not knowing which fork to use or is like freaked out by the lamb brains on your play, you know, you want to just be able to, to eat and enjoy and go after those tastes and experiences. And I want my kids to have that. I really do. I think it's one of the most important things that's driven, driven me both in my career and in all the places that I've been is just, I'm hungry. And I'm curious. And I don't have to know exactly, you know, what's going to happen. And that's the great thing about being comfortable with food and around food and being able to move between worlds as I think most chefs are,

Chris Spear:

and it brings people together, you know, being around a dinner table, whether it be family or friends. And, you know, that's what I love with this, you know, food and beverage industry. It's what's kept me here for so many years. I know you've been around, you've lived in different places worked in different places. But you're back in Canada now. So what are you doing on a day to day for work? Oh, boy. Well of everything.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, currently, I I'm actually running a winery in Niagara. And amongst other things, I you know, I still have multiple jobs. But I'm, I'm partnered in a restaurant group in Toronto. And we do sort of a healthy, fast casual, it's very high volume experience. So I consult on the menu there. It's very vegetable forward, but it's also scratch made. So I develop those recipes. And I've been doing that for about 10 years. And that's been really fun, because I learned how to cook in a very different way. You know, I'm one of the only chefs I know who has really mastered making soup and a rationale oven. You know, we bake all our soups, there.

Chris Spear:

That's interesting. I've never, I've never seen baked soup before. Is that just like, because you had the rationale oven and you figured out how to do it

Christine Flynn:

is well, no, I mean, we use the I leverage the rationale. But it's because we don't have any range. Like all we have at those at those restaurants. And there's nine of them. Currently, we grew up from two locations when we started. There's no other way to cook soup. It's just like you put it in the oven, and you figure it out. So that's one very specific way of cooking. But then sort of when the when the pandemic popped off, I was on furlough for a while. And then I went back to reduced hours. I kind of wrote this book, a generous meal, did some consulting did a couple other things. And one of the things I was doing was just kind of part time, social media of all things for a winery. And then the winery was sold. And then the guy who bought it was looking for someone with a really specific skill set with a background in events in culinary, you know, in front of house in marketing, and I ticked every box. And so now I run it. But digging into the things I like so I teach cooking classes here, like do you enjoy the marketing piece and the branding piece, I have a lot of experience in that. But I really I like cooking, like in the classes. And it's a nice balance between my background, working nights and restaurants, which I don't really want to do anymore with two five year olds. And also just like I'm able to interact with the guests in a more meaningful way. So they're demonstration style cooking classes, and they're great. And every once in a while I cook dinner. So we have st Patty's day on Friday, and I'll do you know, kind of six courses and go all in and make a really Swan yay. And but I'll do it for like, you know, 18 people.

Chris Spear:

So is it like fancy are pretty traditional for the St. Patty's Day?

Christine Flynn:

Oh, well, I'm ethnically Irish. So I don't know. I mean, I'm doing elevated home cooking, which is what I like to do. You know, I want to make food that tastes like something your grandma would make if your grandma was a really good cook, but I want to make it look a little bit. You know, like a little bit more fine dining, but approachable. Like I think my goal as a chef is to really hit that sweet spot between aspirational and attainable and that's what I try to do in my books. I believe everyone deserves to eat beautiful food. I don't think it has to cost that much. I think you can get pretty far with a cabbage. So that's really what I that's how I like to cook. I'm not fussy, you know?

Chris Spear:

Yeah. Did you say in your book that you always have cabbage in the fridge or something, I think that was like the headnote of one of your recipes. Yeah, I

Christine Flynn:

have a whole essay, I actually compare myself to a cabbage in a complementary way.

Chris Spear:

Now I have some Irish in me and I grew up outside of Boston so very much with the, you know, New England boiled dinner, corned beef and cabbage kind of thing. And as I've moved around the country have had to kind of reinterpret that sometimes depending on where I am to make it a little upscale. So totally with you on that.

Christine Flynn:

No, one of the dishes I'm doing is actually is corned beef and cabbage. So I'm going to make almost like a corned beef like farce and then put it in a savoy cabbage and then I wrap it and call fat. And then you know, roasted and it's really delicious. And all the components of corned beef are there, but it's this beautiful little package. And, you know, it looks like something that we served at the Michelin starred restaurant I worked at in Burgundy.

Chris Spear:

Wow, I want to do that I've got the corned beef, I've got the cabbage on hand right now, I wasn't thinking about going super fancy at my house for dinner. But I might have to rethink that. Well, I love the area that you are in my wife and I and kids went up to like Niagara on the Lake this past summer. And I just thought it was so beautiful up there, I was amazed at the produce, you know, just because I always think of it as kind of being you know, it's Northern, and I was kind of picturing it to be cooler, but just the, like peaches, people like they, I didn't realize, you know, they're like, We have the best peaches in the world. And like, come on, that's Georgia, but the peaches were the peaches were delicious. And they are

Christine Flynn:

good peaches. I don't know, I've had some pretty good Georgia peaches too. But yeah, we have abundant produce here. And, and again, for me having lived kind of all over the world, like I'm very happy in Niagara, because we have such great access to produce. And we are, I think at an interesting time in the food culture here, where we are developing our own sense of Niagara regionalism in terms of cuisine, and it's, it's kind of neat to be on the ground level of that, not the ground level, I shouldn't say that. But in the mix, you know, as as we're kind of expressing it. Because Canadian cooking, really, for a long time. It's only identity was that it wasn't America, right? Or the routine here. And now, you know, in the last kind of 1015 years, you've seen chefs more stepping in to regional cooking in a more meaningful way than just you know, Montreal and Quebec, very much had a grip on it a little bit earlier. But you're seeing kind of, you know, different areas of the country really express themselves. And for me, it's always going back to the old recipes, right? And even if it's, you know, your grandma's cookbooks, or whatever, from, you know, the woman's Association in town, like reading those old recipes, and figuring out how to serve that in a way that feels both, like, timeless and timely. That's what I that's the kind of food that I like to eat. Oh, yeah,

Chris Spear:

I love those. I just had a podcast guest a couple of weeks ago. And his whole thing is he's has like a Instagram and YouTube channel. And He resurrects like those old recipes and has like a thing called like, bring it back or stay in the past. And he like, finds these random, like, women's society cookbooks. And we'll pull out some recipe that sounds like it's gonna be a train wreck. And then he makes it and kind of gives a breakdown as to, like whether we should maybe not make it but more often than not, he's like, this is you know, really delicious. And then you can possibly bump it up a notch and put a modernist twist. And

Christine Flynn:

I think they were taking the time and there was a level of there was a level of attention to detail to which I don't think that the average person who cooks at home, a lot of people, for them, it's it's really function is really just getting a meal on the table. And what I really try and encourage people to do is, you know, not look at cooking so much as like this thing that you have to do, but like this thing that you want to do, because it's actually pretty great, right? Like cooking, you have to make the whole meal. And I I'm very clear about that. I don't do that every night. You know, I do cook dinner every night, some part of it. But there's a lot of things I just don't like, I'm not going to make that you know, but I am going to spend 20 minutes with this cabbage and a 500 degree oven and make something beautiful. But I love cooking. Because it's like a little problem you can solve every day, right? And there's so many problems you can't solve, but like problem of what's for dinner, like just to kind of really like stick in and enjoy that as an activity. And to kind of value your ingredients, which is something that you know, like my grandmother's didn't waste anything. And even my mom did a pretty good job and with food but also I grew up with a mom who darned our tube socks, you know, like, it was just a completely different world. And somewhere we kind of went off track and bringing those kind of old values back those old recipes. I'm probably not going to darn tube socks, but I'll have you know, I'll amend a pair of jeans every once in a while.

Chris Spear:

Well I think having a good stocked pantry and that's in your cookbook, you know, people joke that like they opened my fridge and it's a million condiments but they could go with literally anything you could have a her recipes and that could go with a chicken or a fillet of fish or rub it on beat. Like if you just have a well stocked pantry of condiments and you know a bunch of grains and dry goods and beans and whatever, you can put together a pretty good flavor packed meal in just a handful of minutes. Absolutely, yeah, I

Christine Flynn:

make a I make a spicy honey. And it's available like all over North America. And people always like what do I do with it. And I was like, you can do literally anything with it. Like it's a starter for a salad dressing. You can dress a chicken in it, you can roast a bunch of carrots and like plunk them in a puddle of yogurt and drizzle it all over top. And it's like a fancy adjacent side, you know, and it's just a couple smart condiments. big ol bottle of white vinegar, probably one of my favorite ones. And and yeah, you can absolutely make something out of nothing. That tastes good. And I think nourishes you in more ways than one.

Chris Spear:

Well, I love the cookbook. And one of the things you know, I think we're in a great time for cookbooks. Because, you know, as a chef, I like those Sheffy kind of restaurant cookbooks, but I don't think I've ever made anything from them. Like, has anyone made anything from like the Noma cookbook, like not putting anyone on blast, but it just, you know, comes to mind, like I have all these coffee table books and books that I look through for inspiration. And then don't make anything and then there was always kind of like, the cookbooks that I felt were kind of mundane and boring I wasn't interested in and now I see these chefs making really great cookbooks, where all the recipes are approachable, they're affordable, they're fast, but it still feels like a very chef driven recipe. And I think that's where your book falls in. If you don't mind, that kind of generalization of your bones. I think it's, it's great. It's like the kind of book that I want to cook from these days. And the books that I I've been using more recently than not.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, I think, for me, I mean, this book is a very much a love letter to my career, but also to, to my family and the ways that my cooking has changed. And, you know, I mean, 10 years ago, I wasn't cooking like this, because I wasn't cooking for my kids, you know, and I wasn't I didn't care how much things cost or how long they took, and I cared about, you know, my chef crowd or whatever, and I don't really care about my show. Like, it's fine, you know, but like, I really, like I again, I love kind of like this little food challenge at the end of the day. And I like I like when my husband turns to me, and he says, you know, oh, I could really go for a Big Mac. And I think, Okay, I'm gonna make you that, but it's gonna be a salad, you know. And so kind of teasing out these flavors that we love. Using smart techniques from, you know, my whole career. And sometimes I don't even realize that those little touches that I do are anything exceptional because as chefs as cooks, this stuff is just de rigueur, like it's just more more like, you know, you know, to do X, Y, and Zed because it's just been beaten into you. Not literally, but But you just know all these little things that other people look at and you're like, oh my gosh, you know, even teaching people to season with acid as opposed to just reaching for salt and pepper. Or how far like a fistful of herbs can go and making a dish feel, you know, lighter and more compelling or which herbs to use, like these, it's just these little touches, that takes the home cook to the next level. And I love kind of creating that roadmap for them in a way that still feels relatable, and and achievable for sure.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I have a friend who as oil and vinegar shop in town and she always has people ask her like, how do you use vinegar? And to me that's like, mind blowing like What do you mean how to use vinegar? I probably have 15 coins in my pantry at home I use it in literally everything from a splash and a soup to on top of chicken as it comes out of the oven. Like to me it's just surprising that people have questions like you said with a hot honey like I thought everyone knew how to use hot honey, you can find it in every grocery store your mouth. Yeah, it's honey, which can go on anything and hot food goes on anything too. Yeah, it

Christine Flynn:

and but I think too people are so they're disconnected from food in a lot of ways to or they're nervous about it. You know, I mean, I use the white vinegar I use just big bottles of it. And I also will infuse it right like you know in spring I take all the chive blossoms don't my white vinegar over and I just have that all year. People like to keep it in the fridge. Where do you keep it? What do you use it for? Does it go bad? I don't like is vinegar like? No, it can't go bad. You know, it's one of the main preservatives. So yeah, I think that's also for me. Why I really like teaching the classes here at the good Earth because you really you're you're face to face with people teaching them how to cook. And you really start to learn what people don't know. And again, we're in this bubble, right? Like, we're cooks, we talked to other cooks, or we talked to like our spouses or friends who, even that, like there's kind of a level of knowledge. But when you just meet the average person on the street, you can be, you know, tosses out. And they're like, what is that? And then you have to explain that it's a regular, but they've just never seen it.

Chris Spear:

I did a pop up dinner this weekend. And there was we had like a chef's counter, and one of the guys sitting there had no idea what like anything was. And it was just because I was talking to the whole dinner and like everything I took out, he'd be like, what's that? And to me, it was all very basic, straightforward stuff. It's like, you mean, you've never like you've never seen grits before. And then I've got like, collard greens is like, I've never had those, what kind of greens are that? I'm like, you know, like, I was like, in his 30s, like, almost 40. I'm like, really, like, you don't know these ingredients. It wasn't like some exotic thing from another country, the other side of the world, but the things we take for granted.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, it's interesting, and the access that we have. And also, I think all all cooks, you know, kind of worth their salt, have a level of curiosity, right. And we're always reading, we're always, you know, we're always going to events, we're always looking at what other chefs are doing. And, again, I think we don't even realize how much we know, you know.

Chris Spear:

So why tackle a cookbook? I mean, I know we all have personal things to say about cooking and recipes. But there's 1000s of cookbooks out there, you know, it just seems like a daunting task to begin with. So you have to probably really be driven and committed to do this. So what made you want to do that as an undertaking?

Christine Flynn:

Well, it's funny, it's driven and committed are two words I would use to describe myself. But yeah, I mean, this this cookbook, in particular, I feel like these are recipes that are really tremendously useful. And I don't think that there are too too many cookbooks, which do celebrate humble ingredients like cabbage and like potatoes, and which really also highlight vegetables. In a way though, where it's not. It's not a vegetarian cookbook, by any stretch of the imagination, there's a section dedicated to meats, but I think it is a modern way of cooking in a modern way of eating. And it's an interesting thing to write because it was all written and tested during COVID. And I live in a small town at the time. I mean, I had an adult roommate, but I was, you know, living on my own with two kids who are at the time were about three. So it wasn't like I was able to like run to the grocery store. And we weren't even able to go to the grocery store for a little while. So everything that I was sourcing for this book was, you know, pantry items really cheap. The way that publishing works in Canada, like you really don't get a big chunk of that advance. So it was kind of all out of pocket for me. But the result is all these recipes are, you know, within reason, I would say like really affordable to make. And I'm not sort of like everything needs bacon, or like slather this in some sort of premium ingredient, it's like, you're gonna have to maybe put a little bit of work in, but not too much work in. And these are just simple ingredients that you can elevate with vinegar, or you know, herbs or whatever. And it's, it's about to like the pleasures of the table, but also the pleasures of cooking. And, I mean, I'm babbling now, but I really feel like I have a unique perspective. I mean, I don't think there's many chefs with my kind of background, which, you know, someone recently called me like the best kept secret in Canada or whatever. And it's kind of like a backhanded compliment. But I've been in this industry for 20 years, I've cooked at the James Beard house. You know, I've, I've been in a myriad of festivals, I was the culinary director of the Nantucket Wine Festival when I was like 27. You know, I was executive chef of nine restaurants by the time I was 35. And I have this huge, long career. But what I'm really focused on now is family cooking. And I think that merging those two things, it's a really special part of the Venn diagram that I'm in, and I think also as like a mother of twins. And, uh, you know, I mean, I'm married now, but a single mom for a long time. Like, there's just like a level of can do, which I bring to the whole thing, which I think makes it special. And also the aesthetics I mean, I'm driven by the need to create beauty in my own life, you know, as a little bit of almost like a small act of resistance. Like sometimes the world feels overwhelming, but I really put a lot into the way the book looks. Which again, it's just it's from my background and from the way that you know, I've lived my life, but just bringing that out and making like it's a really I think very unique book with a lot in They're so much that I can't form a coherent sentence or out.

Chris Spear:

I do love I'm drawn for some reason to this creamy radish dip that's in there. I feel like that's gonna be the first thing I'm gonna make. And again, that's something like I feel like people don't eat radishes like we always have them in our house. And like one of our big things is we always have like, crudity on the table, but then whenever I put them into a dish, people are like, what is this a radish? I'm like, yeah, you've never had them before. But, but for me, you do make this book that has a lot of really cool recipes that I think everyone's gonna enjoy. And I think it's also the kind of book that you could cook with kids. You know, it's not like Cooking for Kids per se or with you know, there's a lot of like cooking with kids books, I hate those books, because they're always so like, dumbed down and mundane. And I feel like a lot of these recipes, you know, I actually have twins myself. They're 10 I have boy girl twins, and they love being with me in the kitchen and finding recipes that I feel like are also accessible that they could help with. I think this is one of those books. So yeah, you know how that goes as we try and cook our way through this book.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, no, honestly, I mean, my kids started you know, mixing chia pudding when they were like a year and a half old, you know, and, and even now, like we eat a lot of carbs, but they helped me. They helped me roll pizza dough, we make Lamin which is like a Middle Eastern. It's like a It's a lamb flatbread, you know, spiked with like all spice and cinnamon and peppers. And it's delicious. And they just think it's pizza. But we make Lamington together, and they roll the dough and I made pads See you at home the other night, and they helped me pull the noodles. And you know, it's a real like, they don't know what they know. But cooking with kids doesn't have to be like Panda Bear cupcakes. It can be a panda bear cupcakes are great, or like happy face pizza. But it can also be, you know, more meaningful because cooking with kids. And I could talk about this forever. But like they're learning so much. They're learning fractions. They're learning teamwork. They're learning patience.

Chris Spear:

That's that's the way that I taught my kids fractions, because that's where my kids are in school right now is they're doing fractions. And when I think about fractions, that's literally what I use it for all the time. And when we're trying to visualize like they're having to add fractions. And the easiest thing is for me to take like a half cup measuring cup, and a quarter cup measuring cup out, and then the third cup and be like, see, that's how the numbers come together. One half plus one quarter equals three quarters. And for me, it just made sense. So I love doing that. It's like, let's just get over here with all the cooking stuff. And that'll help put it all together. Right.

Christine Flynn:

And I think particularly baking is great for that. And I'm actually I really love the baking section in this book. Because, again, so many people are daunted by baking, and particularly even in professional kitchens. Like, I just know so many folks who are like, I'm Chef, I'm not a Baker, and I'm like, Just wait, I

Chris Spear:

just wing it. I don't measure things, right? Isn't that what we've heard for so many years? Like,

Christine Flynn:

come on, man, like, my grandma could bake a cake. And she wasn't a chef, either, you know, and it's just like, there's a real, you know, oh, and it's like, yeah, baking is a science, but it's not exact science. And like we're not laminating any dose here. You know, you could knock together a cake in five minutes. You know, you just got to chuck a few things in the blender and pour it in a pan like you're fine, you know, and I do yeah, I really love like quick, kind of thoughtful but delicious, making recipes because I think it also it's just like one more kind of thing to have in your back pocket. And one more way to just enjoy being in the kitchen and to enjoy the results.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I work as a personal chef, that's my full time job. And you know, I don't really want to buy premade products and I had to kind of teach myself more and more desserts and I'm seeing that with a lot of my peers who are doing the same thing because so many of us were trained professionally in the savory kitchen you know you maybe did like expo or something or worked in pantry and had to like garnish desserts but we weren't making them into now offer 15 different desserts to my customers. You really had to figure out some things and you play to your strengths like decorating is never going to be my thing like decorating a beautiful wedding cake. I'm not going to get there but I can make some delicious desserts that I think still look nice. I have my eyes on the molasses chocolate cookies and your because Molasses Cookies are my all time favorite cookie. But chocolate chip are kind of like a close second. So I feel like you've kind of found a way to bridge that together. And are they good? Are they

Christine Flynn:

Oh good and they don't like they don't not like in a nice way tastes like a chunk some boy which I like I like when my stuff kind of tastes like something janky and nostalgic like from childhood so yeah, I actually made those the other day and and I mean my girls love them but like I love them. And after my girls went to bed I definitely also made an ice cream sandwich.

Chris Spear:

That's a pro move right there. Yeah, I

Christine Flynn:

was like, oh, but it's they have such a nice texture too, because I like them a little underbaked. And then they firm up and then it's, yeah, now I want that again. But yeah, they're great for an ice cream sandwich.

Chris Spear:

Where do you find inspiration and not necessarily just in the culinary world, I think we draw from all over. And maybe if you know, you're talking about the culinary world, that's fine. But also like what just inspires you.

Christine Flynn:

I mean, a lot of like, a lot of a lot of what inspires me is just the idea of, again, sort of creating like a beautiful life. And for me, food is part of that making in general is part of that, like, I really try and create more than I consume. And lately, I've been working a little more than I'd like to be. So I'm not doing as much creating at home, I'm still cooking a lot, but, but I so a lot, I really got into that a few years ago, when I started kind of making a lot of my own clothes. Actually, I made the shirt and sort of moving a little bit into that world, which Instagram is kind of a weird place. And I've had an interesting relationship with it over the years, because it's really helped me kind of grow my platform. But I also kind of, I'm really pretty selective in how I use it. Like, I don't really go on there and look at what other people are doing. Unless it's women in the sewing community, because that's like, my favorite thing. It's just a nice group of middle aged women complimenting each other. And I love that, right? So yeah, I'm very inspired by like design. I'm very inspired by like a kind of specific, sort of, like a really cozy aesthetic, if that makes sense. And I think in looking at the book it does, but I'm also I don't know, I'm also inspired by Yeah, just kind of places I've been and things I've seen and big, beautiful pieces of art, and wonderful pieces of music. When I was in university, through happenstance, I ended up in Czech Republic, and I studied the aesthetics of Baroque opera there, which you wouldn't think would be useful. But I just I learned a lot about like design there, but also about Eastern European culture, General, and history and communism. And yeah, there's a real kind of like thru line in my work that celebrates I think, Eastern European culture. And that sort of, I don't know, I love green velvet and brass.

Chris Spear:

No, that's cool. I want I think everyone should have hobbies, outside their profession, because, you know, it's fine to go deep. But I think it's also nice to have something and now we're in this like, side hustle economy. And like, every time you get a hobby, everyone's like, well, you should, you know, put that on Etsy, or whatever, or create a blog for it's like, sometimes I just want to do my thing. Like, I love photography. And I started my own Instagram, just for like photography to like, just post my stuff and not have to, like, make it optimized for the likes and the engagement, like Oh, three people like my photo cool, I don't really care. And then I just follow like artists and interesting people in the, you know, musicians I want to listen to, because you can't do that from your business account, because then it throws off the algorithm and all that nonsense, right?

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, I mean, Instagram is not the place I go. It's not really the place I go for much inspiration. It's certainly not the place I go for my news. And I think a lot of people are on the other side of that on the other side of that line, but I don't know, I don't want to open something that's supposed to be for fun and feel stressed out. I just, I can't live like that I can't create from a place of of anxiety and stress. And I can't come up with solutions from that place. Some people maybe can, but I think we're, we're often surrounded by a lot of negativity. And so I try and keep everything like light and bright. And, you know, I just look at a lot of pictures of mouse cartoons on the internet. And that makes me happy.

Chris Spear:

Whatever works for you, but you did have an alter ego a couple of years ago, right, like 2015 2016 or so like you were someone else on the internet.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, I had a satirical Instagram. And, you know, I mean, there was like anything I've done, there was a lot there to unpack. And I don't, you know, I it's not something that I really talk about much because it's a little bit like taking the hat off Mickey Mouse, you know what I mean? And this character kind of, he very much stood on his own, and I think was emblematic, you know, he's a bit of an everyman as a cook. And, you know, again, high level of detail, very specific backstory, like anyone who followed along, kind of got to know him and his way and I've really met him before in a weird way, but that was fun, you know, and it definitely I think it changed the course of my career too, because a lot of a lot of be I think being a woman in the industry, a lot of people don't really think that you're capable of much. At that time. I was just, I don't say just but yeah, you know, as a lady making salads in Toronto, and nobody ever suspects the lady making salads in Toronto having this Instagram account with like a huge following a tremendous following at that time. So it was fun, but it was also just kind of for me, it was like, Yeah, I can do this. I can do other stuff, too. You know?

Chris Spear:

Yeah. It's fun to poke fun at the industry, though. Like, I think whatever industry you're in, and I think that's probably why there was so much success. You know, I think you're seeing it now. If you've, you know, the sauce summons on Instagram kind of same thing, like subversive, subversive, like jabs at the restaurant industry and like a tongue in cheek way, but like, also kind of serious.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, I mean with with jock. He was never, he was never mean, right. And that was something that was really interesting. Like, I created this nice little corner of the internet where like, yeah, he would make fun of himself. And yeah, there was obviously some stuff there about the reliance on an immigrant workforce or workforce. Sorry. There was stuff about sexism, you know, there's all kinds of things down a layer, but it was never mean spirited. And it was never targeted at anyone. And it was never sort of, it never went after anyone and even the people who came with negative comments, which was very few. His response was always like, super cheerful and super, like, Thanks, brother, you know, and it was a really, you know, it was a really interesting social experiment for me. And it was a way also for me to use these skills, plating and, you know, develop some skills in photography, I guess, you know, that have really, yeah, I've really helped.

Chris Spear:

And I think at its core, like it was kind of like the food that a lot of us wanted to eat, like, how many times you talk about, like chefs who, like, really just want to eat a taco or a burger anyway, like, I work like, Cheez Its until, like, my dishes that I sell to my customers, you know, like, who doesn't love that stuff? So,

Christine Flynn:

yeah, and you think I mean, I think we see more of that now. For sure. But I think that that account, really kind of it changed the shape of food and you know, a little bit of a way because it was like, Yeah, who doesn't love a choco taco? You know, like, let's be honest, but I think there was also an element of plating kind of got out of control there for a little bit. And, you know, I would see these chefs with these huge followings online, and I would eat at the restaurants, I'd be like, this is not very good, you know, still out there. Yes, absolutely. emphatically, yes. And we do eat with our eyes first, but at the end of the day, like the flavors got to be there. And again, that's where with my food, you know, insofar as, like, I can put together a delicate plate. You know, there's also nothing wrong with a big nine by 13 pan of beige, you know what I mean? Like, there's a lot of good food out there that doesn't look that beautiful. And we really do have to strike a balance in the way that we are eating and the way that we're presenting and, you know, I think yeah, tiny portions, tweezers, everything and doesn't necessarily guarantee like a great eating experience.

Chris Spear:

No, I love brown food. You know, there's nothing. This again, at this dinner I did this weekend. It was grits with like a braised short rib and collard greens. We've got like yellow grits, and like brown meat with like drab green, but like there was so many flavors and what I worked, and I resisted the urge to just, like, throw nasturtiums on there just because or whatever. Yeah, it's like, you don't need to always do that.

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, and you don't always need to fuss with things so much. I think Julia Child very famously said that she didn't like food that appears to have been fingered, and, you know, absolutely like and I do love like every once in a while, like a delicate plate of crudo or something that clearly is had a lot of thought put into the plating. But there's a lot of dishes out there where it's like, you know, just just give me a piece of meat, you know, and some potatoes and I'll be happy.

Chris Spear:

I actually met you at the star chefs Congress. Like I guess that was probably like 2016 like probably like right after you're coming out there and I was there with will Gilson. Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. And I think like you're serving food for the lunch, one of the lunches that was days or something like I have picture somewhere in my archive. So if you like making food, I think

Christine Flynn:

I were you were to realize that at that time,

Chris Spear:

you were pregnant with twins at that time. Yeah. That was before I

Christine Flynn:

found out I found out. I was maybe six or seven weeks pregnant, where I was like, why am I getting so chubby? And it's because I was carrying two babies at the same time. But yeah, starships was one of my last kind of events that I did for a while there because I was just And yeah, I wanted to do something different and everyone kept trying to shuttle me into being this, you know, come here and play junk food and I was like, it's really not exciting. Like it was a joke, you know, and And now we're taking it too far. But I do love New York, it was a nice trip to New York, I remember that.

Chris Spear:

It's always a good trip. I've missed it, because they haven't had it since the COVID. Year. So I guess 2019 was the last year. What does sustainability mean to you? I know you talked about, like, using things, you know, that you had on hand. To me, that's a lot of sustainability is like wasting nothing. You've touched on that. And that's, you know, so many of the guests I'm talking to recently, that's one of the big things they've kind of been focusing on, you know, when they started their business or in the past few years. So what are like some of the things you're interested in, in the realm of sustainability?

Christine Flynn:

I mean, there's definitely a few different things and there's also like, my, my at home and my at work. But yeah, at home, I'm I'm pretty good, right? Like, I really don't waste too much. To the point where, like, it's a well known fact, amongst my group of friends that like my deep freezer just has like so much random stuff in it, but I'm like, I'm not throwing out those bones. Like I'm gonna make a stew. But yeah, I mean, I pretty much I use almost everything even if it's just, you know, the herbs are going a bit, man, you know, I put them in a ziptop bag in the freezer, they go into my next pot of broth. My next book, which I'm working on now, like I have a whole section on a little stuff I don't throw out and how to use it like whether it's, you know, cheese rinds, bread butts, dill pickle juice is a big one that like, I feel like people just toss and it's like, I can give you 10 different things you can do with that.

Chris Spear:

I have a jar in my fridge that it's a combo with like half and half dill pickle juice and like pickled jalapeno juice. And it's just like this master mother jar of like when something ends I add some more and yeah,

Christine Flynn:

like make a salad dressing like poach a piece of fish. Do you have your smash burgers? Like at the end? Not to start? Yeah, so many different things. Put it on oysters. But yeah, like I think I have a long list of things that normally people throw out and I don't really throw out. I make a lot of bras. I love soup. I don't know. Yeah, just everything goes into into something else. I feel like which is very funny and ironic because when I was a kid, we'd always be like mom corn and the lasagna again, like she and she always did that. So for me, like sustainability at home is really trying to use everything. And but in a way where you're not eating the same thing over and over again. And I think I'm really good at that I'm really good at taking, you know, one night's roast chicken and turning it into like six different meals, that all taste very different. Because I think like leftover fatigue is a real thing. And I think that in showing people how I do that pretty regularly like that is my little sustainability gift to the world. I try and feel like and again, the next book that I'm working on I you know, I actually have like Master recipes, and then how to use them, as well as sort of formula recipes where it's the same sort of base of X amount of vinegar, X amount of broth X amount of you know, delta. And here's how you would do that with tofu. Here's how you do chicken, here's a fish kind of thing. So I really try to create recipes that teach people that again, in a way that feels fun, right? Because some people want you to get on board with sustainability again, from a place of fear from a place of anxiety from a place of finger wagging. And for me, I'm like, yo, I'm having the best party, we've got the best snacks, would you like to come? Bring your puffy sleeves, you know. And so I think that is really important for me. And on the puffy sleeves. Note, I think, again, something for me that's important in terms of sustainability is. And this is a little detail in the book that not everyone will notice. But pretty much every single item of clothing in that book I either made myself or is thrifted. And we can all be here for the idea of farm to table which because it's not actually verified by anyone. What does that even mean? But we can all be here for like local sourcing and really trying to do our best with food waste. And I think that that is super important. But the number two worst environmental offender behind big oil is not big ag, it's fast fashion. And so that is another part of like my party, where like I'm usually wearing goofy clothing. And again, but almost like I haven't bought new clothes and maybe like five years other than underpants. You don't really have to talk about but you know what I mean? And so I stepped out of the cycle, which I think most of us are in it. We don't even realize it. But yeah, I don't support brands anymore, which are part of the fast fashion cycle. And that's a real key piece of sustainability. That for me is just like the soft sell where it's like yeah, like wear the shoulder pads like by the 80s clothes and just come to my party like come to this place of joy. And not sort of not the finger wag there's a party going on downstairs. Yeah, I mean, in general, restaurants are hard to make them sustainable. I, there's very few. And when you're a small business, it's really hard. But one of the things that we've really tried to do at my restaurants in Toronto is we've really tried to support and amplify regenerative agriculture. So that's another big one, just with climate change is letting people know, again, more about the solutions and less about the problems. So regenerative agriculture, farmers use low or no till farming methods, agricultural methods, and they're able to take carbon out of the atmosphere, and put it back in the ground where it belongs. And if we converted, like, I think it's like 1000, or something of like, just regular old agriculture to regenerative agriculture, we would not just stop climate change, we would actually be able to reverse it, which would be wonderful. Because sometimes, especially the summer when it's like real hot, and I'm like, I've never been this hot, like, you just want a turtle, right. And as a parent, it's something that I really kind of struggled with when I had, you know, my girls, and you're full of hormones, and you're kind of crazy anyway. And I was like, What have I done, you know, what are we doing, but you can't turtle but you can get on board with people who are doing the right thing. And even just letting people know that regenerative agriculture exists, I don't care if they come to my restaurant, I care that they know that regenerative agriculture is a solution and that they can go and buy st Bridget's butter, they can go and buy greens from the new farm. Like there's all these little, you know, kind of farms and producers who are popping up. And by driving the message home of this as a solution. I think that that's, you know, one of my things that I really try and do to help and I'm just one person, for sure. But I think, you know, I think that those kind of small solutions are helpful to people. And so that's what I try to do.

Chris Spear:

And it's not all or nothing, you know, I think sometimes it's really easy to get overwhelmed like that you have to be composting and saving all your scraps and recycling everything. And it's easy to just be like I can't do any of this. But like, start slow. It's like changing your diet and lifestyle. Like you don't have to start running marathons just like maybe get up and walk a little bit the same thing and trying to get people to just find one or two things that really works for them. And you know, then maybe it snowballs a little bit right. And I think it drives creativity for someone who's a chef or cook or culinary really inspired like the idea of vinegar, right? Like, I'm going on vacation, I got instructions in my backyard. I just go and grab them and throw them in a jar with vinegar and I come back from vacation I have this like really cool bright red nester, some vinegar, you know, it's like because I don't want to waste something that I put the energy into growing. So for me it like kind of drives creativity. What do I have that's getting ready to go? How do I use it and make some new condiments or something?

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, I find so much creativity in my kitchen comes from Yeah, trying not to waste things, you know, going to like no frills and seeing what's on sale. You know, I never really have a plan for what I'm going to cook each day. It's just kind of five o'clock. And I look around and I think like this is what I have. And yeah, being creative with what you've got or what you can get. That's a that's a huge kind of step towards sustainability. And people might not even realize that but it is

Chris Spear:

most definitely. Well, is there anything you want to share with our listeners before we get out of here today?

Christine Flynn:

Yeah, I mean, check out the book. It's called a generous meal, modern Recipes For Dinner. It's full of wonderful and sometimes weird recipes, and a lot of personal kind of touches and essays and little easter eggs that I think people will enjoy. But it's you know, it's meant to improve people's lives in a way that feels both aspirational and achievable. You know, and that's, I think the book for right now. And we're all looking for more recipes with cabbage and cans of beans. They're all in there, but they taste delicious, and they're easy to make.

Chris Spear:

I love the book, I'm gonna keep working my way through it. I'll keep you posted on how that's going. And as always, I share photos of my experiments on the internet. So for all the listeners, if you're following me, you might see some of these recipes pop up in your feed. And I'd like everything in the show notes so people will be able to pick up that book. Amazing. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I really enjoyed having you today. Yeah, thank you so much. This was so much fun. And to all of our listeners. As always, this is Chris and this was the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. Thanks for listening and have a great week. Go to chefs without restaurants.org To find our Facebook group, mailing list and check database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.