A Flash In The Pandemic
A Flash in the Pandemic is a youth-led cookbook capturing stories, recipes and photos from restaurants and chefs in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not quite a love letter, it’s a thank-you note. A Flash in the Pandemic: Images, Recipes and Survival Stories is a snapshot of restaurant life during the COVID-19 era. We would rather forget about the pandemic, but the stories of flexibility, drive and partnership speak to the strength of Toronto’s communities.
What started as a way for a group of 11 high-school students to earn volunteer hours during a lockdown blossomed into an e-cookbook celebrating culturally diverse culinary delights from restaurants across Toronto. Images, recipes and survival stories illustrate a central moment in the city’s hospitality industry. With dynamic and lively photography that leaves you wanting to make and eat every recipe, A Flash in the Pandemic: Images, Recipes and Survival Stories tell a story of what restaurant owners, their staff and patrons endured as a result of the lockdowns, paying homage to the temporarily shuttered restaurants where they had once gathered with friends.
Original creators Charles Debane and Finn Creeggan developed a plan to showcase “the vast array of ethnic restaurants that help define Toronto’s distinct neighbourhoods,” says the Daily Bread Food Bank. As the duo reached out to chefs and restaurants, they soon realized that there was more they could do. Individuals who had been laid off during the pandemic were visiting food banks to survive, and Debane knew that this project had a bigger purpose. As the project grew, the duo was joined by Moineau Shin Binon, Jadyn Cialini, Eloise Debane, Madeline Jones, Sidney Moore, Aria Ruscitti, Kolya Salter, Kai Samuel- Szablowski and Haley Varone-Evans. Helping to spread the word, the high school students were driven to finish this cookbook, knowing the impact that it could make.
Together, they approached over 100 restaurants — in the end, 35 answered their call. The students worked closely with each restaurant and chefs to select and prepare signature dishes, fine-tune recipes and stage the photos taken by the students that appear throughout the cookbook. The book includes intimate quotes from chefs describing how the pandemic challenged them, what they learned and the difficulties they had to overcome. Many of the co-authors, including Moineau, whose mother writes a food blog, attribute their love of food and interest in developing a cookbook to their parents.
For Moineau, it was connecting over food and community. “The pandemic forced us to think in different ways. It was very tough to get through, but it pushed us to work hard, and we are better now because of it. Success to me is not the amount of money that comes out of something, it is how proud and accomplished you feel in the end.”
Working in back kitchens where mountains of take-out boxes replaced plates and once-crowded dining areas suddenly stood empty, Charles witnessed the devastation the restaurant industry sustained as a result of the lockdowns. “We saw firsthand the number of servers and chefs who had lost their jobs. We knew that many of them would have to access social support, so we decided to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from the cookbook to The Daily Bread Food Bank.” The Daily Bread Food Bank has grown to become one of Canada’s largest food banks.
Food bank visits in the city continue to hit record numbers. By purchasing the Flash in the Pandemic e-cookbook, you are helping to provide emergency food access to families and individuals who experience hunger.
This book is an ode to restaurants, not quite a love letter, but a thank you note.
Experience A Flash in the Pandemic: Images, Recipes and Survival Stories and purchase your copy today at dailybread.ca/flashinthepandemic
INTERVIEW BY ESTELLE ZENTIL