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Meteorologist Claire Martin

3 Mar

IMG_3376

Date of lunch:
Saturday, March 2, 2013

The company:
Claire Martin is the senior meteorologist for the CBC. Her background is incredible. She is trained as a meteorologist, not as a television personality and has insisted in her time at CBC that the News Weather Centre be staffed with qualified meteorologists who understand the science behind weather. But her lack of formal training in television presenting has by no means impacted her abilities as an on-air personality. She has been named the “Best Weather Presenter in the World” three times by the International Weather Festival.

The food:
We ate at one of my very favourite restaurants in Toronto, Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington. I honestly dream about this place. I want another pizza right now. Claire had the mushroom pizza and I had the prosciutto pizza and we each had a piece of the other’s. My pizza was awesome as usual, thin crust, tons of prosciutto and a perfect tomato sauce. This is my go-to order. Claire’s mushroom pizza had rosemary and gorgonzola and it was also delicious, especially the bites with the cheese. I had a coffee and we both drank water. Total bill was $40 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Claire does amazing work outside of the CBC by traveling and educating people about weather all over the world. Working with the UN’s WMO (World Meteorological Organization), she has travelled throughout Africa, to Afghanistan and other locations and met with locals to teach them about the science of weather and prediction and how it can impact farming, how to sort out insurance for crops and more. In her travels, she often comes across many other people like herself. People with valuable skills, taking their vacation time to travel and educate locals (in weather, law, broadcasting, etc.) and help them to succeed on their own. You often hear about the international aid organizations working in developing countries and their work is extremely valuable (Doctors without Borders being one of my personal favourites) but you very rarely hear about these individuals who are making huge impact all over the world.

The lunch:
When I originally outreached to Claire to arrange this lunch, it was a day or two before Toronto’s big snowstorm at the beginning of February. I always notice when a storm like this approaches, everyone becomes obsessed with the weather. Is it a Frakenstorm? What’s a Nor’easter? Will there be thundersnow? (Okay, maybe it’s only me who asks about that as thundersnow is my fave.) Twitter explodes with nicknames for the storm, Instagram images of snow covered roads, buildings and trees and thoughts on whether Toronto will call in the army. Social media has definitely brought increased interest in weather or maybe it has just illustrated an interest that’s been there all along.

And while observing, talking and complaining about weather often seems like a national past time in Canada, the science behind it is incredibly comprehensive. CBC staffs a team of meteorologists, led by Claire, that work every day to analyze and predict weather. Claire told me the amount of data processed daily by the CBC News Weather Centre is more than the data processed daily by a bank. While Environment Canada provides the images of the current weather systems, the CBC team will work together to analyze its path, timing, impact and what it will mean to regular folks just trying to go about their day. This scientific analysis is why Claire wanted to ensure that her team members were trained meteorologists. She also mentioned that there is an art to the flow of weather patterns and the most successful meteorologists have both the scientific credentials and an artistic side.

I have already shown my love for thundersnow but I wanted to know what type of weather is of most interest to Claire. She didn’t even take a second to think about it: hurricanes. She talked about how this is a weather system that all animals feel, there is a smell in the air, its power is all around you and there’s nothing else like it. Although she wasn’t on-site for Sandy, she has traveled to hurricane sites in the past including Katrina and Wilma. She has seen the destruction first hand and saw it coming in what is likely a clearer lens than most people.

And all of this work and travel has led her to understand climate change like few others. Climate is changing and while human behaviour has sped up the change, climate is going to change no matter what. Although there is continued debate about whether the climate is changing or whether its human behaviour that has caused it, Claire thinks the most important question is not necessarily being addressed – how are we adapting to the new climate reality. Claire discussed how condos are creeping closer and closer to the water’s edge in Florida and destroying some of the natural vegetation that is there to help lessen hurricane damage. She even mentioned Brad Pitt building new homes in New Orleans on stilts. Why is a movie actor doing this and not the government? Building higher levies can’t be the only answer because what happens when those levies are breached? Homes need to adapt to the climate realities.

I left this lunch with the continued bit of regret in my belly that I didn’t study meteorology in university. I think about it sometimes because I do geek out about weather and I was no slouch at physics and math. Ah well, at least I’m able to use my lunch blog to step into the shoes of a meteorologist for a brief moment. The work Claire does is even more interesting that I could have imagined.

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TTC CEO Andy Byford

5 Jun

Lunch with Mary 061

Date of lunch:
Monday, June 4, 2012

The company:
Andy Byford is the new (as of March 2012) CEO of the TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission. There was definitely a lot of news around Andy’s appointment as his predecessor, Gary Webster, was fired by a vote of the City of Toronto’s executive committee. Andy was already working as COO with Gary and positioned as his likely successor upon his retirement, so it was quite fitting to have Andy immediately take over once Gary was forced out. Now there are many opinions that can be written about how this all went down but that isn’t what this lunch was about. I am an avid transit user, a daily commuter and a big TTC fan (some would say transit nerd) most of the time. I wanted to hear from the CEO himself about what the future holds for the TTC. Prior to joining the TTC, Andy was the COO of Railcorp in Australia and before that he held many positions with the London Underground including line foreman, customer service manager of a station and general manager of customer services of several tube lines. He does not own a car and is very passionate about public transportation.

The food:
We ate at Grano on Yonge, a few blocks north of Davisville and the TTC head office. It’s a very cute Italian restaurant. Andy arrived earlier than me and spoke with the owner Roberto. On our way out, Andy was introduced to Roberto’s nephew who was on a break from his job as a subway driver. They all seemed to be very happy to meet each other and it was pretty cool to see the interaction. I had the fusilli chicken pasta with mushrooms and Andy had the risotto special. We shared a large bottle of sparkling water. My pasta was absolutely delicious and I ate every last bite. Andy said his risotto was very good but his eyes were bigger than his stomach as he was unable to finish. Total bill was $46 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Andy told me that he has always wanted to work for the TTC. He said he knew that if he ever got the call from Toronto, he would move. He said there are many amazing things about the TTC that Torontonians don’t realize. He was able to point one out to me that I had no idea was unique. Multi-module hubs. Allow me to explain. At stations like Dundas West, Bathurst, Spadina and St. Clair, you can get off the subway and get onto a bus or a streetcar or in Spadina’s case, a different subway line, all within a paid area. Andy let me know that in other cities, including London, you most often have to leave the subway station and walk a block or so to make the transfer. As someone who switches from subway to bus in a pay zone every single day, I had no idea that this was unique but I do love the convenience of it all. So all of you TTC complainers – here’s something to be happy about!

The lunch:
Andy is really excited about his new role and very excited about transforming the TTC. He has a five year plan and he hopes at the end of it, people really look at the TTC and really see the difference and understand and appreciate the improvements. It is a lofty goal.

Andy’s goal is both internal and external. He wants to improve the customers’ experience but he also wants to improve internal processes and employee morale. One of the first things he put together was a document for employees that includes “10 things to think about.” Number 5 on that list is “Delight customers with quick wins.” And you can see one of those quick wins already with the renovated washrooms across the subway line, including the once disgusting facilities at Bloor Station. Although I am still a bit scared to ever go back into those washrooms, I am happy they’ve been improved.

He’s also instituted a daily customer service report that includes objectives across all areas of the TTC that everyone within the TTC must strive to meet and he has identified key performance indicators, things like delivering a punctual subway service and providing easy access to customers with functional elevators and escalators. Every day the service is measured against the objectives. Seems like a good start.

And one day when service did not meet its objectives was Friday, June 1 when Union Station was flooded. Andy was actually travelling on the subway when it happened and his train bypassed Union and took him right to St. Andrews Station. He got off the train and ran over to Union to see what was happening. Incase anyone was wondering, he said the smell was absolutely awful. But he was pretty impressed that it was cleaned up so quickly. Now his focus is on determining why it happened and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

As mentioned above, Andy does not own a car so he rides everywhere on the TTC and he thinks it’s important that he uses the service. He does say it can be a bit uncomfortable when the subway stops underground between stops and all of the other passengers look at him. But otherwise, he said it has been a pretty positive experience.

Andy is very new to Toronto. His wife is a Canadian (from Ottawa like me) so he’s actually been to Toronto quite a few times but he’s just getting into all that the city has to offer, including sports. He’s a die-hard Plymouth Argyle football fan. It’s his hometown and he’s still a season ticket holder, he showed me his card. As such an avid Plymouth fan, he hasn’t yet quite embraced the Toronto FC but he’s very excited to check out a Jays game and is actually really looking forward to watching the Argos (you don’t hear that every day). His enthusiasm for Plymouth and English football has renewed my wish to get to the UK and watch a game, Andy was actually quite insistent that I do. And although he does play for Manchester United, Andy actually doesn’t mind my favourite player Paul Scholes.

There is a lot of exciting stuff happening with transit in this city, not only with the new LRT lines but also Presto passes that will be similar to the Oyster Card in the UK and the Metrolinx rail line to the airport that will connect with the TTC. I am pretty excited about all of it. And I was pretty happy to have a fellow transit nerd to chat with. Now if only we can get people to stop blocking the subway doors at St. George Station every morning.

Former Mayor of Toronto David Miller

10 May

Lunch with Mary 059

Date of lunch:
Thursday, May 10, 2012

The company:
David Miller is one of the more well-known people I have taken out for lunch. It is a bit strange when everyone in the restaurant recognizes the person you are lunching with. So if you don’t know who David Miller is, he is Toronto’s former mayor. He was our mayor from 2003 to 2010. He was a Toronto city councilor for many years prior to that. In his life post-mayor, David is Counsel, International Business and Sustainability at Aird & Berlis, as well as Future of Cities Global Fellow at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, where he both teaches and assists in developing programs that connect technology and society to solve urban issues.

The food:
We ate at Mercatto on Bay Street. It is a very bustling place at lunchtime. We both had the soup to start, white bean and ham, and then I had a Caesar-like salad and David had the scallop appetizer. The soup was absolutely delicious, David had high praise for his scallops and my salad was pretty average, although very pretty on the plate. We both drank sparkling water. Total bill was $46 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I asked David what he misses most about being the mayor. His answer was not what I expected. He said for seven years, eight years when you count the campaign, he was forced to be his very best. And he explained there are very few times in your life when you are forced to always be at your best and you start to simply exist at such a productive level. As an avid follower of Toronto city politics, I do see how long the hours can be and, as my lunch experience today taught me, it’s not like the mayor of Toronto can ever really be off the clock. So you’re always on and you’re always working and always working towards something. David said that was the thing he missed the most in the first few months when he was no longer mayor. However, he said he does now enjoy being able to coach his daughter’s soccer team and plan family vacations less than six months in advance and know that he will be able to actually take the vacation.

The lunch:
I was so nervous for this lunch. But as I was waiting for the Yonge subway to head down to Mercatto, I was just hoping for one of the new trains. Ever since the new subway trains started running, I feel like they are my good luck charm. I know I will have a good day if I catch a ride on a new subway. I may have once (transit nerd confession) completely gone out of my way and changed my entire commute just to stay on a new train for a few more stops. But today was not my day, a new train came heading north but alas, my southbound train was an old one.

But as soon as David and I sat down, I let him know how I was really wishing for a new train but didn’t get it. This got us started on Toronto transit. One of my favourite topics and, David let me know, one of the topics everyone wants to speak with him about. I ride transit to work every day and I am relatively positive about the TTC. Being from Ottawa originally, the subway is still impressive to me in how far a distance you can travel in such a short time. But our first transit topic was St. Clair. I live very near St. Clair and I am a HUGE fan of the streetcar right-of-way. It really bothers me when the route is called a disaster when I have seen first hand how great it is – both in terms of travel time and the noticeable improvements in the community.

This point is something that David feels strongly about. When you invest in a community, such as the $100 million investment in St. Clair, the community will benefit. You see it on St. Clair, you see it on Roncesvalles.

And this brought us to the idea of the “Future of Cities”, David’s fellowship at New York University. I asked him if there were other cities that he sees as great models. He did say that revenue-wise, there are models in Europe that simply are not feasible for Toronto, but he does love Berlin. He says it’s just an incredible city with great transit infrastructure, three operas and in general a lot of stuff going on. He says they want to do something and they just do it. I know a couple of fantastic Toronto artists who have moved to Berlin and have fallen in love with the art scene there. Seems like a place that I definitely need to visit.

We also talked about how I was able to set-up my lunch with David. I did it through a simple tweet. I just asked him, in a tweet, if he’d like to have lunch with me for my blog and he replied that he would. And here we are. He spoke about how Twitter has been such a great way for him to have conversations with Torontonians, both when he was mayor and since. I agree that it is a great tool for having access to people that we never used to have access to in the past. I am glad to see people like David Miller using Twitter so enthusiastically.

I left the lunch feeling that the culture of a city cannot be created by the government, such as, for example, a city’s music scene is often something that exists organically within a city on its own. But, and this is me speaking, investment in communities helps to build this organic growth. And, again this is me talking, a city is not a business – it is a mass of people with incredibly diverse needs be they business, cultural, health, employment, social, housing, transit, etc. – and, it should be noted, Toronto is a pretty amazing mass of people. I do love this place and I hope it keeps getting better.

‘Drunk Jays Fan’ Andrew Stoeten

23 Jan

Lunch with Mary 058

Date of lunch:
Monday, January 23, 2012

The company:
Andrew Stoeten is one half of the Drunk Jays Fans blog and podcast. Dustin Parkes, the other half, was planning to join us but was unfortunately not feeling well. Drunk Jays Fans started as a personal blog in 2006 after Andrew and Dustin had sufficiently annoyed their friends with rants against baseball writers on unrelated email trails. After two years and the development of a huge and devoted fan base, Dustin and Andrew were approached by The Score to blog on its website and produce a weekly podcast. Both Andrew and Dustin now work full-time at The Score and have basically accomplished what many bloggers only dream of – they found a way to make a living off blogging, without compromising the original premise of Drunk Jays Fans.

The food:
We ate at Canyon Creek on Front Street West. I am on a horrible diet as ordered by my naturopath so I ordered the only thing on the menu that I was able to eat – grilled chicken. Although I would have preferred one of the burgers on the menu, the chicken was very good. Andrew had the prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes that made me extremely jealous. We both drank water – so I guess Andrew isn’t such a drunk Jays fan after all. Total bill was $34 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Sabermetrics! Andrew and I had an interesting conversation about the concept in Moneyball, which is called sabermetrics. Since I had never heard of this strategy prior to watching Moneyball, I did not know the backstory. There is quite a bit of debate in the baseball community about this strategy. One area of contention is the bunt. As someone who has watched a fair number of baseball games, I have always felt like the bunt does not work. Andrew explained that the theory behind getting rid of the bunt is that the entire focus should be on not getting any “outs” so any play that would get someone “out” is not worth it. But on the opposing side of the argument, the bunt can work and put a player in scoring position and it’s exciting for the crowd. Although I enjoy watching sports, it’s obvious from the success of Drunk Jays Fans and fantasy pools, that half the fun for super fans is the debates and analysis that occur outside of the actual games. I am pretty sure I could never keep up with Andrew in a debate but maybe I should read up some more and start some arguments this spring.

The lunch:
Obviously my first question had to be Andrew’s thoughts on Alex Anthopoulos and the coming Toronto Blue Jays season. In short, Andrew likes him and feels good about the direction of the team. I am one of those people who loves cheering for underdogs (exhibit A: I’m a Sens fan) so I like the idea of building a team with good, young players who will just get better and better. This seems to be the path we’re on with the Jays. And it seems to fit the Blue Jays budget a little better.

I also wanted to learn about how Drunk Jays Fans became what it is today. As a blogger who really enjoys what I do with my site, I always want to hear how other people have found success with what they love to do. Andrew spoke about his relationship with the Score and how him and Dustin are able to do what they’ve always done. And then he spoke to the real trick is having success as a blogger – producing good content. Drunk Jays Fan have a weekly podcast, as well as lots of posts throughout the week. For a blog such as theirs, I think it’s key to post often, consistently and never compromise on quality – because there are plenty of other blogs on the Internet where your readers can go.

My other favourite baseball question has to do with at-bat songs. I am fascinated by the songs players choose. It gives a little insight into the player’s personality plus I always picture at-bat songs in real life, like if I had a song every time I entered a boardroom for a meeting. I asked Andrew what his at-bat song would be. He said he has thought about it and it would most likely be Search & Destroy. He then said one of the best entrance songs was in the 1970’s when Yankee’s closer Sparky Lyle would walk out to Pomp & Circumstance. That is pretty amazing. My at-bat song would, of course, be It’s a Long Way to the Top.

Andrew is getting excited for the upcoming season. He said he plans to watch some games from the media box this year for the first time. He doesn’t consider himself a “sports journalist” – especially given the blog started by criticizing sports writers. But these days, Drunk Jays Fans is competing with those sports writers for the very same audience. And it seems like they’re doing just fine.

Leading International Climate Scientist Dr. Ian Burton

8 Nov

Lunch with Mary 057

Date of lunch:
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The company:
Dr. Ian Burton’s resume is incredible and beyond impressive! He is a professor emeritus with the University of Toronto’s Adaptation and Research Section at the Centre for the Environment and was formerly a senior policy advisor with Environment Canada. Currently, he is a consultant to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Bank, European development assistance agencies, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the list goes on. He also received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report. So I lunched with a Nobel Prize winner, no big deal. The report was honoured that year along with Al Gore’s work on climate change. Incase you are curious as to why it was a Peace Prize, it is because according to the IPCC there is a real danger that “climate changes may also increase the danger of war and conflict, because they will place already scarce natural resources, not least drinking water, under greater pressure and put large population groups to flight from drought, flooding, and other extreme weather conditions”.

The food:
We ate at Kalendar on College St. at Euclid. I was trying to find a quiet spot for lunch but it’s not always easy. Kalendar was quite nice for a lunch conversation with no loud music. However, as the lunch crowd grew it did get a bit noisy. Dr. Burton had the orange and ginger carrot soup and a Kalendar salad. I had a single scroll 5 – a Kalendar specialty. We both seemed to enjoy our meals as we completely cleaned our plates. We both drank water and each had a coffee after our meal. Total bill was $37 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Basically every moment of this lunch was so incredibly interesting. But Dr. Burton was able to really show the immense impact of climate change when he spoke of his work with the government of Bangladesh. The water levels are rising in the Bay of Bengal due to melting ice caps and Bangladesh is slowly going underwater. Unlike the Netherlands where levies and containment walls are doing the trick, Bangladesh is at a far greater risk. The sea around the country is much more susceptible to extreme typhoons. The rivers that run through Bangladesh swell at a much greater rate during monsoons. Basically the water will rise and there’s no stopping it. Already, salt water is seeping into the ground. Dr. Burton told me there are rice fields that have now been converted to shrimp farms. Dr. Burton is working with the government as they develop industries and training that will help citizens move north to cities that are on higher ground. Climate change is happening and people are being affected today.

The lunch:
Dr. Burton and I had to meet this week as he is about to leave for a three week trip to several environmental conferences. He first has meetings in Kampala, Uganda where the IPCC is to adopt a report on climate change and disasters for which Dr. Burton is a Lead Author. He then heads to Cape Town, South Africa where he is helping scientists there have their research published. He then will head to 17th annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) in Durban, South Africa. The COP meets annually to assess the progress in dealing with climate change. It was at this conference in Japan in 1997 that the Kyoto Protocol was created. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

In 1997, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. With 2012 fast approaching, Canada’s greenhouse gas output is now, according to Dr. Burton, somewhere around 30 per cent higher than in 1990. Now many climate scientists will say that these targets were not well understood at the time of ratification and were perhaps never realistic.

Dr. Burton believes that although there are climate skeptics now, they will come around and the necessary change to reduce greenhouse emissions will happen – likely in something like 50 years. The problem with this scenario, according to Dr. Burton, is that many irreversible impacts of climate change will have already occurred. He told me about scientists in the UK who track different types of plants, insects and animals. Already they are seeing butterflies in northern areas where they were previously unable to survive. Although butterflies floating around doesn’t seem that bad, foreign species can have devastating effects on an ecosystem. In places like the Arctic, roads and buildings are built on permafrost. As that permafrost melts, all of this infrastructure is being destroyed. This impacts industry, jobs, the economy and more. Although it might seem expensive to reduce carbon emissions now, it will be more expensive in the long run.

In the past 100 years or so, the average global temperature has gone up by one degree. Dr. Burton was able to simply explain this to me. One degree might not seem like a lot. But do you know what the average temperature was during the ice age? Only five degrees cooler than today and four degrees cooler than 100 years ago. So each degree has an enormous impact.

I wouldn’t classify myself as a die-hard environmentalist, but listening to the impact of climate change in places like Bangladesh and the Arctic is quite frightening. I hear politicians doubting the validity of human’s impact on climate change. It is depressing when the evidence is quite clear. Hopefully with people like Dr. Burton on the case, we can work to find implementable solutions for both developing and developed nations.

As the COP approaches, you will notice more discussion of Kyoto and emission targets in the news. I will be trying my best to pay close attention as this is something that is really going to affect everyone – all over the world.

Member of Parliament Andrew Cash

5 Aug

Lunch with Mary 055

Date of lunch:
Friday, August 5, 2011

The company:
Andrew Cash is my MP. He is the Member of Parliament for Davenport in Toronto. A few years ago, I was able to take out Andrew’s NDP colleague Olivia Chow for lunch, who was my MP when I lived in Trinity Spadina, and I was excited to take out my MP in my new riding since moving last summer. Andrew is a relatively new MP, having just won his seat in May. But he’s no stranger to the community, having campaigned for two years and as a long time community advocate. Andrew is so excited and so honoured to represent Davenport in Parliament and it was really great to speak with him.

The food:
We ate at Black Skirt by College and Dovercourt, it’s right near Andrew’s constituency office. We both drank water and Andrew also had an Americano. I had the grilled chicken and goat cheese sandwich. It was beyond delicious – a great marinade on the chicken, I could have ate two. Andrew had the cured meat sandwich special. We both had side garden salads. Total bill was $24 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Andrew explained his role as an MP and that he wears three hats. First, it’s meeting with his constituents who have concerns about things like immigration, employment insurance and other issues that fall to the federal government. He can then see how he can help. Second, is his role as a member of the NDP caucus, sitting in the House of Commons, participating in debate and voting. Third, it’s simply as an elected voice in his riding. As mentioned, Andrew spent over two years campaigning and spent much of that time listening to the concerns of the people he now serves. He understands that as an elected official, he needs to hear and understand the concerns and issues of everyone, whether or not the issue is federal. And he and his staff will see how they can help.

A lunch aside:
Before getting into the details of the lunch, I want to take a minute to mention that Andrew and I were supposed to meet for lunch last week but he had to re-schedule because he had to go to Ottawa for the interim leader vote. I am, as I am sure all Canadians are, keeping Jack Layton in my thoughts and wishing him a full and speedy recovery. Cancer is a jerk. Cancer recently took my boyfriend’s father and with that so fresh in our minds, seeing Jack’s press conference was very difficult. It seems right when he had accomplished something on which he’d worked for so long, cancer came along and ruined everything. Let’s hope we can get rid of this disease in our lifetime. Here are some links if you’re so inclined: Canadian Cancer Society and Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.

The lunch:
As soon as we started our lunch, Andrew told me that today was a really exciting day for him as it’s his first full day of scheduled meetings with his constituents. He has already met with several people in the morning, had lunch with me (a constituent) and then a full afternoon. I had actually never considered setting up a meeting with my MP (or any other of my elected representatives) to discuss a specific issue or concern, so it was so nice to see that not only is Andrew doing this but he is SO excited about it.

We talked at length about the new NDP caucus. The media did criticize how young and inexperienced many of the members were. But one perspective is that more than any other party, the NDP is a microcosm of Canada with different ages, backgrounds and lots of women, which is great to see. Andrew is in a unique position of being a rookie but also having a lot of experience and he is thrilled about the people in the caucus, especially the young MPs. He told me to mark his words, a future prime minister of Canada is in his caucus and it’s one of the young MPs that people were so quick to criticize.

Andrew talked about some of the priorities and goals of the NDP and he spoke of a national public transit plan. Watching what is going on in Toronto right now is terribly depressing. As someone who takes public transit every single day to work, it irritates me to no end that the elected officials making the transit decisions don’t even use transit. And they’ve just canceled Transit City for a tiny subway route that serves less than 10% of the population that Transit City did. How is this happening? Well Andrew believes that with a federal mandate, there will be more logical and more cohesive transit, and hopefully more federal dollars.

Now many of you may not know that Andrew Cash is a very accomplished musician. He was actually in a punk band in Toronto in the 1980’s called L’Étranger with fellow NDP MP, Charlie Angus. He happens to be the MP for Timmins-James Bay, which includes good old Kirkland Lake, the hometown of my boyfriend. We never thought there was another connection between our Davenport home and Kirkland Lake and we’re happy to have found one. Maybe they can play a show at the Bellevue Tavern on Prospect Ave. We’ll be there for sure!

Much like my lunch with Olivia Chow, I left this lunch feeling very encouraged and optimistic about our elected representatives. They are enthusiastic, dedicated and excited to represent their constituents in Parliament and it’s great to see.

Lunch with Mary on Huffington Post

9 Jul

Huff Post Screen Grab

My lunch posts are now featured on Huffington Post Canada! So exciting. You can check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/mary-warner

Globe and Mail European Bureau Chief and Author Doug Saunders

2 Apr

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Date of lunch:
Friday, April 1, 2011

The company:
Doug Saunders is the European Bureau Chief for the Globe and Mail, an award winning columnist and author of Arrival City, a book about the “cities” that immigrants and village-to-urban migrants create within or just outside existing cities. It is a very interesting look at moving populations and a global shift from rural to urban living. I went to hear Doug speak at an event at the Toronto Reference Library back in November and tweeted throughout. Doug then tweeted back to those of us “live-tweeting” so I took the opportunity to invite Doug for lunch over Twitter. And here we are. I was able to grab some time on Doug’s calendar as he returned to Toronto for his book tour.

The food:
Doug wanted us to have lunch around Spadina and Dundas as it’s his old stomping grounds and it ties in with the theme of his book as a sort of arrival city for Chinese immigrants. I suggested my fave Pho Hung. However, due to a last minute scheduling conflict, we moved our lunch to the Pho Hung at Bloor and Avenue. Same great food but without the atmosphere. We both had a small #2, which is the rare beef Pho and my favourite Pho in the city. It was delicious as always. Pho Hung fact: the food at the Bloor location is less spicy than the Spadina location. We then shared the beef rolls, which were not pre-assembled. I think attempting to roll rice paper rolls at the table is a bit difficult so definitely would have preferred pre-rolled rolls. We shared a pot of green tea. All in all, it was a great meal. The total bill was $24 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
As we were finishing up, I asked Doug if he had seen Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Gadhafi’s sons. Doug let me know that he had and then told me a story of when he interviewed Gadhafi’s son Saif. He said he was driven out to his compound and spoke to Saif as he fed beef cubes to his pet Bengal tigers. What?!?!? So that is the difference between consuming the news (me) and producing the news (him) and that is why Doug is so fascinating to speak with.

The lunch:
Doug and I talked a lot about his book Arrival City and how he went about visiting all these cities around the world and what he learned along the way. I am mid-way through the book and it is so interesting and a must-read for anyone developing immigration policy, as he offers a real understanding of how these cities or enclaves of arrivals work and how support and consideration could really help.

A detail in his book and something we discussed was how rural and farming populations are shrinking around the world as more people move to cities. Because of this, families are no longer as large. Many rural families were much larger as the parents and children took care of the farm, but in an urban setting that changes and large families are not necessary or financially viable. Many experts and Doug believe that the world’s population will level off around 2050. This is good news to all of those people worrying about overpopulation. In general, I think fear mongers of many stripes could really learn something from Doug’s book.

On that note, one chapter of Doug’s book juxtaposes two Washington, DC suburbs – Herndon, VA and Wheaton, MD. Both have large populations of Mexican, Central and South American immigrants. I am going to over-simplify here so please read Doug’s book for more details. Herndon did not embrace these arrivals. When a Herndon mayor created an indoor day-labour centre to help the men looking for cash work, he was quickly voted out in the next election. The new mayor closed the centre, made it illegal to gather and wait for cash work, or live in apartments with four or more non-related adults. Without support or means to make money, these arrivals were having a very difficult time surviving. On the other hand, Wheaton embraced the arrivals and saw it as way to revitalize their town and realized that with their success, the town would benefit from the wealth creation. Wheaton engaged with the new arrivals, helped them to access government and non-profit services and celebrated the new multi-ethnic cultures. I will let you guess which town is now more prosperous.

Doug and I talked a bit about the revolutions going on in the Middle East. Doug has long covered and traveled to these areas for the Globe and Mail. He said he did travel to Libya at the beginning of the protests. He entered the country through Tunisia into a rebel held area. He would go in for the day, speak with and interview people and then head back to Tunisia. As he saw the conflict worsening, he decided to leave and head back to London and work from there as bureau chief and other Globe and Mail reporters took over. He says many of the reporters he was with in Libya pushed East towards Tripoli and were taken prisoner, beaten and tortured. I think we forget in Canada how lucky we are to have a free press who can question authority without reprisal and it’s something we all need to make sure never changes.

I really enjoyed my lunch with Doug. I am a total news junkie so it was incredibly fascinating to talk to someone who has actually been to the places and met the players. Doug is also exceptionally nice – something that always makes a lunch more enjoyable. I look forward to finishing Doug’s book with my new insight and again, so grateful to this blogging thing for giving me such awesome opportunities.

Chef Massimo Capra

9 Oct

Lunch with Mary 044

Date of lunch:
Friday, October 8, 2010

The company:
Massimo Capra is a well-known chef. Many people will know him from his appearances on The Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover. He is the owner of Mistura and Sopra on Davenport Road. He is also an author having published One Pot Italian Cooking and currently promoting his newest book 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men along with Michael Bonacini (of Oliver&Bonacini) and Jason Parsons (of Peller Estates). He is incredibly friendly, enthusiastic and has such a love and passion for good food. And he has an awesome moustache!

 

The food:
We ate at Tutti Matti on Adelaide Street. It was Massimo’s choice. Being that he is a chef, I left it up to him because I didn’t want to choose somewhere awful by accident. Massimo is a huge fan of Tutti Matti because he says it reminds him of home cooked food. If there are any imperfections in the food, it is just the way nonna would make it, which makes it that much better. Even the smells of the restaurant reminded me of my nonna’s cooking. We split the fettunta (which is like bruschetta in my non-professional opinion), Massimo had the ravioli special and I had the fettucine with meat sauce. Important to note that all the pasta was made in-house, yum! We both drank water. Total bill was $49 with tax.

 

The lunch lesson:
We talked a lot about Italian food. My mom is from Italy, actually not far from where Massimo is from, and I grew up eating Italian food. Massimo explained that he is taking traditional Italian dishes but changing them slightly and updating them into his own recipes and food that he knows his customers here in Canada will enjoy. He says the food that we eat now in Canada and the US that is labeled Italian has gone through much of the same transformation as his cuisine and is its own form of Italian food. He said in Italy, if you order a specific dish like fettunta, no matter where you get it, it will be the same. While here, chefs are all putting their own take on it and Massimo has mastered this with years of dedication.

The lunch:
About a year ago, I saw Massimo at the Loblaws by my house when I was grocery shopping with my boyfriend. We wanted to follow him around the store and buy whatever he was getting, because we figured then we might be able to cook up the same great meal that he was making. Then we just felt awkward and gave up on the idea. But Massimo is the type of chef that cooks food that fills your kitchen with smells that are warm and comforting and is exactly the kind of food that I want to make.

Massimo still likes to work in the kitchen at his restaurant. The restaurant seems to have a real family feel, his wife works there too. He has been lucky to have many members of his kitchen staff stay on for upwards of ten years. Massimo told me that a lot of his longtime employees do leave eventually but he encourages them because he believes that chefs need to go out in the world, see what’s happening and learn along the way. His ex-staff members are now working at restaurants all across the globe.

Massimo told me about a new show he is working on that is currently being pitched in Cannes. It’s called Gourmet Escapes and Massimo travels around the world trying different cuisines and experiencing different cultures. So far, he has been to Iceland, South Carolina, Italy, Nova Scotia and more. Massimo told me about his time in Iceland and how much he wants to go back. He said the food is amazing, there are lots of great restaurants, a happening night life and the hot springs that everyone talks about? He said he could’ve stayed in them all day.

Hearing about his new show reminded me of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I’m a huge fan of the show and so is Massimo. He told me that after watching the episode of Anthony Bourdain in Chicago, Massimo took a road trip and went to all of the same places. He said it was an amazing trip and included eating the most delicious hot dogs and tamales at a diner in a trailer. Often when I watch No Reservations, I want to go to the city and try the food. I liked that a professional chef like Massimo is also so enthusiastic and open to try out what other chefs are doing around the world. As this blog has taught me over and over again, you really never stop learning.

World Economic Forum Associate Director and Obama Campaign New Media Team Member Rahaf Harfoush

20 Sep

Lunch with Mary 043

Date of lunch:
Monday, September 20, 2010

The company:
Rahaf Harfoush, after living in Geneva, has just moved to Paris (jealous) and works for the World Economic Forum as the Associate Director of the Technology Pioneers Programme. She is also a sought after new media and technology speaker with engagements all over the world from Egypt to Uruguay to Toronto. In 2008, she was part of the new media team working on the Barack Obama campaign in Chicago. She has published a book about the experience called “Yes We Did: An Insider’s Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand”. She is currently in Toronto for 10 days for several speaking engagements and interviews and I was very happy to get some time on her very busy calendar.

The food:
We ate at Kit Kat on King West. I was a bit disappointed in that I made a reservation and was then given one of the worst tables in the restaurant. What’s the point of a reservation? We were, however, able to move in the end. Rahaf had the warm scallop salad (which looked delish) and I had the agnolotti daily special – it was FULL of cheese and amazing but I assume extremely unhealthy. We both had diet Cokes and Rahaf had a tea. Total bill was $40 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I feel a bit silly writing this but having lunch with Rahaf kind of felt like a life-changing moment. I spoke with Rahaf about the amazing things she has already accomplished at a young age, like having a successful book published and working on Obama’s campaign. She just explained that she is like a dowsing stick. When an opportunity arises or she is looking into doing something, she wants to be so excited about it that she is shaking like a dowsing stick that has found water. And if she feels that way about a job or opportunity, she will find a way to do it. I have never met someone who so fully lives by this rule. She searches out inspiring work and makes it happen. Now this book I keep talking about – it’s time to make it happen.

The lunch:
Rahaf explained to me that while working on the research and writing team for Don Tapscott’s book “Grown Up Digital”, she interviewed Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and coordinator of online organizing for Obama’s campaign. After speaking with him, she knew she needed to get on the ground and be part of this amazing movement. She called Chris and he told her to get down to Chicago asap. So Rahaf put her current work contracts on hold, found roommates on Craigslist and moved herself to Chicago.

I love Chicago and had the pleasure of being there just a few weeks before Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 and the city was buzzing. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be in the campaign war room and part of the groundbreaking social media campaign as excitement was continuing to grow.

Rahaf’s current work at the World Economic Forum is really fascinating. The Technology Pioneers Programme identifies companies from around the world that are involved in the design and development of new technologies, typically in the start-up phase. Once identified as a Technology Pioneer, these companies become part of the World Economic Forum’s network and benefit from this integration. 2011 Pioneers include foursquare and Scribd.

Rahaf has now gotten her work schedule down to about 70% of her time so she can commit herself to writing her second book, which she is co-authoring with Len Brody tentatively titled Misfits: How We’ve Outgrown the Way We Live and What to Do About It”.

 As I mentioned above, Rahaf also commits a good deal of her time to speaking engagements and through this she has had an amazing opportunity to travel all over the world, and sometimes add a few days here and there to be a tourist, such as an extended trip to Portugal earlier this year and another trip to Uruguay and one to Columbia coming up. For someone who admitted to me that she doesn’t like to fly, she certainly is racking up a lot of air miles.

I was truly inspired after my lunch with Rahaf. She is so positive and driven and genuinely excited about the work she is doing and the future of her career. It’s really amazing to see and something I hope that everyone can accomplish in their lives. I hope to be able to speak with Rahaf again and see how she’s doing on her current and new projects and perhaps try to get some of her incredible optimism, drive and perseverance to rub off on me.