The Globe and Mail and Lincoln Motor Co. will present their Toronto Catalysts event on Thursday at the Liberty Grand, with a special appearance by chef, author and TV personality Curtis Stone.
It's probably fair to say celebrity chef Curtis Stone is known as much for his blue-eyed Aussie charm as he is for his cooking.
He became internationally famous when he began hosting Take Home Chef, a TLC show on which he would approach a female grocery shopper and head to her house to help her cook a meal.
But it took more than surfer-blond good looks and amiability to make him the bestselling cookbook author and kitchenware mogul he is today. Stone emerged from a strenuous training ground, spending years honing his culinary skills in London's high-pressure restaurant scene.
"To me a great chef is a mixture of talent, passion and tonnes of hard work," Stone says.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Stone starting cooking at 4, inspired by his mother and grandmother (his first recipe was his granny's Yorkshire Fudge).
After dropping out of business school, Stone found work in the restaurant of the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne. But he soon felt an irresistable urge to wander and left to travel Europe. At 21, he found himself in London, penniless and jobless, but determined to get back into the kitchen.
Eager to learn from the best, Stone volunteered to work for free at Café Royal in London under famed three-star Michelin chef Marco Pierre White. His gamble paid off and he was eventually hired at the restaurant, where he remained for two years. More promotions followed: sous-chef at another of White's restaurants, the Mirabelle, and finally head chef at White's legendary Quo Vadis. This high-stakes environment was essential to his development as a chef, Stone says.
"Marco taught me so much about cooking and working hard," he says. "He showed me what excellence meant in the culinary world [and] I think that was really important."
Stone began appearing on British cooking shows, and was subsequently chosen to host Surfing the Menu, an Australian program that followed him up and down the coast of his home country as he cooked with locally sourced ingredients.
Then came Take Home Chef on TLC in 2006, which has now been seen in more than 70 countries. A deal with NBC followed, as did appearances on shows such as The Biggest Loser, The Today Show and Celebrity Apprentice.
In 2008, Stone launched his line of cooking products, called Kitchen Solutions, at high-end housewares retailer Williams-Sonoma. More hosting gigs followed, including Top Chef Masters and Around the World In 80 Plates.
Stone is the author of several cookbooks, including his latest, What's For Dinner? All of his books espouse his quick-and-easy cooking philosophy, while also promoting his passion: the use of local, seasonal and organic ingredients. "Whenever I need inspiration, I look to Mother Nature and the bounty of fruits and veggies in season," he says. "Seasonal produce is the foundation of great meals."
Now a dad to one-year-old Hudson and husband to actress Lindsay Price, Stone is living the dream in Los Angeles. (Word has it he has taken over a small Italian restaurant on Beverly Drive, which would fulfill his goal of opening his own restaurant in the city.) But he says he's most gratified when fans tell him he changed their cooking habits for the better.
"When you walk down the street and someone comes up and says, 'You know what? We never used to cook fish in our house. Since we've tried that salmon recipe we have it once a week.' The feeling that gives you is worth a million other things."
He has this advice for people looking to improve their own cooking skills:
"Cook more. It brings confidence and inspiration," Stone says. "If you feel lost, follow recipes exactly. You'll start to pick up cooking techniques and flavour combinations. Eventually you'll be adding in your own twists and making dishes your own."
Curtis Stone will be a special guest at our Catalyst event in Toronto on Thursday. The event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Grand, 25 British Columbia Rd. at Exhibition Place. Stone will be doing a cooking demonstration, sharing some recipes from his latest cookbook and chatting with Globe and Mail journalist Amberly McAteer. Tickets, which cost $75 a person, are available through globerecognition.com.