/Laura Rosen Cohen

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So far Laura Rosen Cohen has created 242 blog entries.

April 2018

Acing your Exams with Food

2018-04-17T16:22:05+00:00 April 17th, 2018|

It’s exam time and we know you have a lot of work to do. Tensions are high, it’s a stressful time for students.

While we here at Food Services have a generally tried and true “recipe” for staying healthy during exams, there’s something else for you to consider as you make your study, meal and snack plans for the exam period: adaptogens!

Adaptogens are “the trendiest stress buster in the wellness world right now” according to CBC news.

They are plant-based herbs that can provide a boost of vitality and increase the body’s ability to ‘adapt’ to stresses when ingested – and what could be wrong with that?

Our own Registered Dietitian here at UTSG, Pooja Mansukhani, says that there are definitely nutrients in foods that boost the immune system. Including these nutrients in your diet is always beneficial, and is particularly helpful when going through stressful situations like exams.

“There are certain vitamins, minerals, and ingredients that are reported to have a calming effect and help with stress. Some are known to be immune boosters such as Omega 3s, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc,” says Mansukhani.

These nutrients are found in just about every type of healthy food like fruits and vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens), fish, animal products, pulses, nuts and seeds, and certain whole grains. This means that a well-planned, balanced diet will give you all the immune-boosting power your body needs especially under times of stress,” she adds.

Good luck with all of your exams and feel free to share your favourite exam time de-stressing tips with us by leaving us a comment on our Facebook page, or by letting us know on Twitter!




Get to Know Chef Edward Low

2018-04-10T15:27:38+00:00 April 10th, 2018|

Chef Edward Low is the Executive Chef of the  Chestnut Residence & Conference Centre here at UTSG.  We spoke to him recently as part of our series of one on one Q & A’s with our culinary team. 

Q: Chef Edward, what is your idea of a perfect meal?

My favourite meal is always our holiday dinners, especially Christmas dinner. The best meal is always one shared with friends and family, and one where we can just enjoy each other’s company.

Q: What is your favourite food memory?

I would say my favourite food, and memory associated with it is the Black Tar Ham of my childhood in Trinidad. This dish is a prosciutto ham with the bone in, but it goes through a special process. First, the hams are cured for about a year, and then they are wrapped in brown grocer’s paper. The wrapped ham is then wrapped again in plastic. The last stage is dropping it into tar, which basically acts as a preserve. These are sold all over Trinidad at Christmas time. You go to the store and buy them in the tar casing, and then take it home to uncase it. You need to heat up a knife to cut the tar casing away. After you take it out of the tar, you soak it in water for two days, periodically changing the water. Then, you cook it like a regular ham. We always ate this with pickled vegetables, known as “Chow Chow; which is pickled onions and cauliflower with mustard seeds. This is definitely my best food memory.

Q: Do you have a special, secret ingredient that makes everything better?

Yes, of course. Care. If you don’t care about what you are making, you could have the best and freshest ingredients ever but it could still taste like garbage. Care is what makes everything taste better.

Q: Who or what inspired your love of cooking?

Definitely my Dad. You know, every Sunday in Trinidad, I would go to the market with him and we would pick out a live chicken and they would kill it for us at that moment. We would also pick up these special Indian sweets that were only sold at the Sunday market. Then, we would go back with our chicken, and my Dad would also always make a seafood dish, a noodle dish and a vegetable dish. We would go out to the market every Sunday morning. We would also always bring back a Trinidadian newspaper to read and everyone enjoyed that. This was our Sunday family routine and definitely inspired me.

Q: If you could have a dinner date with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I’d really like to have dinner or lunch with my Dad and relive those days.

Q: If you could go to any country, live there for a few months and learn their cuisine, where would it be?

I’d have to say Singapore. My daughter is living there now and she’s constantly sending me pictures of the food there. There is such an amazing variety of food. It’s just got everything and I’m always asking her ‘hey what’s that’, I’m living vicariously through her pictures. So absolutely, my choice would be Singapore.

Q: What is your idea of comfort food?

I would have to say short ribs and mashed potatoes with lots of garlic butter. You need to have those ribs braised really well, cooked in the oven for the whole day so that the meat just falls off them. And no vegetables! We are not going to be wasting room in your stomach with vegetables. Do not waste space on the plate with vegetables if you have these short ribs and potatoes!

Q: What is your favourite cooking utensil? The one you cannot live without?

My Victorinox serrated paring knife. I love it so much that I have two back-up ones just in case my current one wears out. It cuts everything. I highly advise having one, but you have to be really careful with it, it’s extremely sharp and I even cut myself with it when I started using it.

Q: What are the top five things that everyone should learn how to cook?

Eggs, that’s a food that everyone needs to know how to cook because it can be made so many different ways and you can make a meal out of eggs. Pasta, also because it’s so versatile and inexpensive. Soup, because everyone needs and loves a good soup. Steak, properly grilled on a BBQ with HP sauce and lastly, rice. My current favourite rice is an excellent Jasmine rice that I get at Costco.

Q: If you didn’t cook for a living, what would you do?

I guess once again, I think back to my Dad for inspiration. My grandparents moved from China to Trinidad. They started a small grocery store there and all the family worked there, including my Dad. They worked really hard, especially around holiday times. I remember everyone coming in to work before Christmas. We got special treats in like almonds and walnuts and made special displays including a beautiful tinsel Christmas tree. So I guess I would consider a small grocery store just like we had back then.

March 2018

Get to Know Chef Jaco Lokker

2018-03-13T15:49:49+00:00 March 13th, 2018|

Food Services recently had a chance to speak with U of T’s Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Operations, Jaco Lokker. We asked him the top ten food-related questions that have been on our mind for some time. We asked him about his favourite dishes, tools and other food-related preferences. We’re so excited to put a face and name to the highly talented and creative team that brings such fresh and delicious food to our campus on an everyday basis and will be featuring other campus Chefs and Sous Chefs in upcoming editions of Food365.  

Q: Chef Jaco, what is your idea of a perfect meal?

“To me, the perfect meal is a combination of the food and the people and conversation. I really like to be able to interact with people and have good conversation. So the perfect meal for me is sitting at the table, of course with all the foods at their proper temperature. Our family gatherings actually have a lot of tapas type of foods, like pates, cheeses and breads. For me it’s very important to be socializing and having good conversations while you’re having a great meal.

Q: What is your favourite food memory?

“A number of years ago, I had a chance to go to France with a group of chefs, to do a food and walking tour. We traveled down to Lyon and went to Troisgros there. Of course Troisgros is one of the icons of food. The flavours that we tasted there, and even the raw ingredients were absolutely incredible. We had red mullet there with a Sauterne and the combination of those two things, well, the flavours literally just danced on my tongue! That experience was my most memorable food experience to this day.

Q: Do you have a special, secret ingredient that makes everything better?

“Salt. So many people do not use salt! Without salt, a lot of food is really flat. If you hit your food with a bit of salt, and I mean a good salt, like a high quality sea salt, the flavour of the food comes alive.”

Q: Who or what inspired your love of cooking?

“Definitely my grandmother. My mom’s mom had a pastry shop and she was always cooking something. She would also make these wonderful soups and pick the fresh herbs from her garden and add them in. I used to wonder what gave her soups their unique flavour and it turned out that she added lovage, which is like a flat, leafy parsley with almost a celery-like taste. It’s an awesome herb. A few years ago, I actually got a local farmer here in Ontario to cultivate some seedlings for me so that I could use it in my cooking. It’s got a simple, hearty flavour, a little kick, and that’s the kind of food my grandmother cooked-simple ingredients making great flavours. She had a real love for food and for the people she served it to.

Q: If you could have a dinner date with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Chef Auguste Escoffier. He was the founder of the classic French culinary method, and his food fundamentals, like his idea of mother sauces, and his kitchen organization philosophy forms the backbone of classic culinary method that are used in the best kitchens of the world up to the present day.

Q: If you could go to any country, live there for a few months and learn its cuisine, what would it be? 

“I’m not sure I would go to a specific country, but I’d want to focus on a particular style, like Mediterranean. I’m really starting to enjoy Mediterranean ingredients, again for their simplicity. Simple ingredients are my passion. It is said that French food is really just simple, regional food done well. For example some French classics like Coq Au Vin-that’s a tough piece of meat that has been tenderized in wine, a simple food done well. So I do like the Mediterranean culturally, and the variety of fresh herbs that it uses, like cilantro, mint. I like the freshness of it also. If you ask me in the winter, I might have a different, heartier answer!

Q: What is your idea of comfort food?

“My favourite comfort food is a Dutch dish called Stamppot. You combine mashed potatoes, fried pork belly, head lettuce and vinegar and make a mash of all the ingredients. It’s pretty much my favourite food ever.”

Q: What is your favourite cooking utensil? The one you cannot live without?

“Definitely my turning knife. I use it for everything, especially for peeling vegetables and shallots, and for cutting. It’s absolutely my favourite utensil.”

Q: What are the top five things that everyone should learn how to cook?

“I’d say an egg (boiled), rice, pasta, vegetables and properly cooked poultry.

Q: If you didn’t cook for a living, what would you do?

“If I wasn’t a Chef I would be a landscaper, definitely. I have always cooked; I started working in a restaurant when I was twelve years old. However, I always have had a passion for landscaping, and I thought that would be my career path and that’s what I was planning to do. I was on that path when I had a chance to take a trip to Lyon on the Chef’s trip that I described earlier and on that trip and I fell back in love with food.”

February 2018

“Have I Told You Today That I Love You Guys?”

2018-02-28T16:59:30+00:00 February 28th, 2018|

That was the message that our very own Chef James shouted out to our amazing student Iron Chef team as they prepared their dishes at the student Iron Chef competition at McGill University.

Congratulations once again to our team for taking second place overall!

Read all about about it here. 




Iron Chef 2018: Montreal Here We Come!

2018-02-23T13:43:59+00:00 February 23rd, 2018|

The Food Services team recently had a chance to sit down with the four inspiring student chefs (Ailin Xi,  Felipe Branco, Avkash Mukhi and Ongelle-Lise Burnett) who make up U of T’s student Iron Chef team for 2018. Each of them brings their own individual culinary inspirations and skills to the table, and together, they have a unique energy and spirit and are aiming for gold.

This is Ailin Xi’s second year on the team. She says that this year, she feels a tremendous synergy with her colleagues and they work together as an efficient group in a really organic and unforced manner.

“We are working hard but really having a lot of fun at the same time,” she says.

“All of us love cooking and all of us have brought different cultural and ethnic flavours and backgrounds to our work here. I’m from Shanghai, China, so my cooking base is very Chinese but I’ve also studied Korean, French, Italian and Japanese cuisine,” she adds. Xi is also a trained sketch artist who sings and plays guitar.

Avkash Mukhi is of Indian descent but was born and raised in Japan. He started baking as a child and that is what led him to a love of cooking even while he was still in high school. He is an industrial engineering student and cooks for his friends all the time. He’s really excited about the new ingredients and flavours that the team has been practicing with.

“The great thing about the team is that we all have different strengths. We also all have our own tasks in the kitchen that we can do without interfering with anyone else’s, but when we need to, we blend our work as well,” he says.

“Generally, the kitchen techniques that we are using a lot more Western than I’m used to, so that has been a great learning experience for me. We’ve also used some vegetables that were completely new to me and other ingredients like caper berries and sumac that I’d never used before. All in all it’s great to learn about different types of food styles and techniques,” he adds.

Avkash says that part of their intense preparation has been practising a repertoire of recipes that can be modified or tweaked according to the surprise ingredients that are presented to them at the competition.

Felipe Branco is also participating for the second year in a row. He is a Rotman Master’s student and comes from Brazil but spent extended periods working in the food industry in Italy.  So while his base culinary influence is Brazilian and South American, he has a large European influence in his creations.

“I think we all really compliment each other,” he says.

“Some of us for example are better at plating, and some of us are better at flavours, so we really work well together and most of all, we really listen to one another,” he adds.

Branco, who founded the Rotman Culinary Club, says that every member of the team has their own favourite recipes, but are all open to new ideas. So, they have been able to consider traditional recipes, but also been willing to take some risks and create what he calls a unique fusion.

“The other thing that is amazing about the team is that we are all international students, so we all bring international flavours with us. Ailin has her Asian influences, Avkash has Indian and Japanese and of course Ongelle-Lise with her knowledge of African spices and fresh herbs. It’s great,” he adds.

Ongelle-Lise Burnett is a creative writing student who hails from Guyana. She says she is the main cook in her family, a skill that was passed down to her from her grandmother.

“The really great part about this team is the way we are all learning from one another. This has been a chance not just to cook together but to actually share parts of our culture with others,” she says.

Ongelle says that working in a professional kitchen has been a really incredible part of the process and that working with new ingredients has also been inspiring.

“Guyanese culture actually has six different races and then a seventh mixed race, so there is a real mix of cuisines. I like to cook Indo-Gyanese, Afro-Guyanese and Creole Gyanese dishes, and I love using spices. My favourite things are the spices and fresh herbs. Whenever we have them in the kitchen I just run to them, lots and lots of fresh herbs,” she says.

The preparations for the competition have already figured prominently in one of Ongelle’s creative writing assignments at U of T. She says it was a natural thing to write about and that her professors and classmates are big supporters of her culinary pursuits in general and the competition specifically.

The cohesion of the team, she adds, is a really unique and special part of the whole experience.

“I feel like I have found my food soulmates,” she says.

We here at Food Services wish our team good luck and will be rooting for you as you head to Montreal this weekend!

For more of our student chefs: 

Ailin can be found on Instagram @ailinnnnxi

Ongelle’s Insta is @grannygrandchild

Felipe is @felipebranco and the Rotman Culinary Club can be found @Rotman_Culinary_Club