Everyone knows that the best parties always end in the kitchen. With our series, Kitchen Party, we’re sitting down with Feast On Chefs & purveyors to get to know them and the local foods that inspire them a little better.
Meet Boss Lady, Marie Fitrion who started Urban Acorn Catering, with her partner Executive Chef Daniel Holloway.
Do you have a favorite childhood food memory?
I have food memories that give me throwbacks to my childhood. I’m half Haitian and half Scottish. [My husband] Daniel was always really interested in getting to know my Haitian heritage from a food perspective.
Three or four years after my Haitian grandmother had passed away, Daniel was playing in the kitchen, and he asked me to try this sauce that he made. I tried it and I just started crying, because it was like my grandmother had possessed him in the kitchen.
There are certain foods that certain people make, and when that person passes away, those dishes are gone if you didn’t learn how to make them. My grandmother used to make this fried chicken with a specific sauce, and I never bothered to learn how to make it, but when Daniel recreated that dish, I was thrown back to my childhood with my grandmother cooking in the kitchen.
What’s the most enjoyable part about being a leader of a food business?
I love the tasting sessions that we host – they are my favorite thing ever! I basically get to sit around with potential clients and just chat and eat. I have great conversations and awesome food. It’s the most fun activity ever! I just love to be able to meet new people and eat.
What are some things that you enjoy doing outside of your life as Boss Lady?
I like playing dominoes and cards and spending time with my kids. Having children provided me with a great wake-up call, so the last 24 months have been a process in trying to create boundaries. Daniel and I have also started to prioritize health, so we’re getting into working out a little bit more and that sort of stuff; but yeah, playing games hanging out with the kids, that’s kind of my thing.
You’ve shared on your website that you’re inspired by art, music, and using food as a dialogue for social change. Can you share more about that?
I mean I really feel like the last year cemented what I meant, although I didn’t ever imagine it would go down that road. But I think that it’s really easy to not address division.
I’ll use veganism as an example, because that’s how we try to inspire social change from a food perspective. I think a lot of meat-eaters think of vegans in a certain way and a lot of vegans think of meat-eaters in a certain way, and we can apply that to race, culture, religion, whatever. When you don’t know somebody in a group, it’s really easy to cast judgment on them and be like, “oh they’re just like this”, and once you remove someone’s humanity, once you start to separate that [their humanity] from them, it’s really easy to start abusing them, or hurting them, or not care about them. It’s a fundamental problem we have across the board. Veganism is my example because veganism is a choice. A lot of these other things aren’t choices. You’re not necessarily born vegan, a lot of us are socialized meat-eaters, and so you have to make an active choice to be part of that group. And so, the idea behind our company was asking how we could create a place where people can come together and get to know one another in a place that is safe. A safe space. That’s what our Supper Club was birthed out of, which is why they’re always vegan. It’s not that we’re vegan, it’s just so that they’re accessible.
When our Supper Clubs were in person (we now do them virtually), they were communal, guests would be at a table with strangers. Some people were vegan, and some were not, but the communal setting would always start a dialogue, and result in a non-vegan being able to say, “I do now know somebody who is vegan”. It’s a lot harder to dehumanize an entire group when you start enjoying the company of people who fall into that group. This is why it’s important to have diversity in our friend groups, because people will be less likely to be prejudiced, hateful, and come from a place of ignorance as opposed to knowledge.
So naturally, I have to ask, who is your favorite musician, and how has the work of that musician influenced you?
So Daniel and I had our first date at the AGO. The name Urban Acorn was inspired by one of the exhibits that we saw there, and that’s part of the reason why art has been such a big influence Daniel is also a pretty fantastic artist. If you ever see his plating, it is art, it’s beautiful.
We did a supper club that was Beatles-themed. They use a lot of vibrant colours, and I like that their music catalogue is so different from album to album. I remember before meeting Daniel, when I thought of The Beatles, I thought of Paul’s little ballads and cheesy love songs, but then you go through the music catalogue and you’re just like, well this is super edgy, that’s kind of creepy, and that’s really psychedelic. Their music is a journey and I think that’s what food is like as well.
Radiohead also comes to mind because it’s another band that has a very weird catalogue, where album-to-album, song-to-song you’re going on a journey, and I just feel like when you do a multi-course dinner that is kind of what you’re doing. You’re bringing people on a journey through a story.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home?
A client of ours is a YouTuber and her YouTube name is Edgy Vege, and she has a really really good beef wellington recipe, but I made it into a vegetarian turkey Wellington, and it’s great. It has puff pastry, a vegetarian ground round, dirt loads of mushrooms and spices, and at the end you make almost like a turkey gravy. It is so phenomenal.
For Hogmanay, which is Scottish New Year’s, I made Scotch eggs, but I made it vegetarian with the beyond meat around the egg, and then put in batter and then in the air fryer. It was great!
Why is Feast On important to you?
In Urban Acorn’s infancy, I had a friend that just had concluded her yoga training and she was really into the locavore movement, so I started digging more into it, and then I fell into a lot of Michael Pollan’s work, and started realizing that food, and where you get your food is really political. Around this time, organic was getting a lot of radio play, and I think that organic is great, but I thought that local was great too, because when you support local, you’re also stimulating your local economy and supporting your community. I think that farmers are the backbone of all communities. If you look at how cities are built, they are built around water, and access to food. Community is such a huge, important part of our company and what we do as caterers, so I wanted to support local farmers and local initiatives so Feast On made sense for us. We actually learned about Feast On through Farmhouse Tavern, which is one of our favourite restaurants, and I asked about the program, and we just wanted to be a part of it.
What does your perfect weekend in Toronto look like?
We enjoy renting Airbnb’s! The last time that we rented an Airbnb, our kids were able to play in the backyard and in the pool. When we do this there’s usually a mix of making our own food and ordering food when we’re feeling lazy. I’m a huge sushi fan, so I order a lot of sushi. But I also do like Matt’s Burger Lab, and 416 Snack Bar for late night eats.