: Caroline Ishii
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In this funny, frank, and tender memoir, much-loved Ottawa chef Caroline Ishii recounts how she opened the first vegan fine dining restaurant in Canada - and then, eventually, left it. Born in Toronto to Japanese parents, Caroline learns early to love humble food like daikon pickles and rich mushrooms. So when she decides years later to become a chef, a career switch that is part naïve and part completely inspired, it is early food memories that she mines for encouragement. What unfolds is unexpected and inspiring. Caroline holds vegan pop-up dinners that land an internationally syndicated documentary-reality television show, The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave, and garner wide support for her restaurant-to-be, ZenKitchen. Together with her community, she raises funds, guts and renovates a space in Ottawa's Chinatown, develops a menu, hires staff, passes inspections, and dodges cameras throughout it all. Part cookbook, part biography, part industry tell-all, each vignette in this memoir is framed as a food memory and accompanied by a recipe for simple, delicious, mostly plant-based fare. The Accidental Chef is a moving and honest account of one woman growing up and into herself. A series of short, compelling narratives traverse Canadian geographies (Vancouver Island, Toronto, Ottawa) as well as international locales from Caroline's yoga and food experiences: San Francisco, New York, and Massachusetts, her extensive travels in Japan, and her time spent as a relief worker in Russia and the Ukraine. This is a cosmopolitan story of the way that food defines memories, losses, accomplishments, and sense of self. Ishii's position as a Japanese-Canadian woman frames The Accidental Chef and lends freshness and insight to personal reflections on childhood, family life, education, entrepreneurship, and, of course, food culture. Sarah Brown, Former Editor, Ottawa Magazine Part memoir, part cookbook, The Accidental Chef is a beautifully crafted chronicle of Chef Caroline Ishii's life journey from rebellious Japanese-Canadian schoolgirl to celebrated vegan chef. Each chapter relates a pivotal moment in that voyage and ends with a recipe - a taste memory that serves as a touchstone Ishii identifies with a key mentor or major event from her past. In one chapter the author focuses on kokoro, a Japanese word used to describe something that comes from the heart. The Accidental Chef embodies kokoro - a generous guide and recipe journal offered with love. Peter Hum, Food Editor, Ottawa Citizen Caroline's life story confirms what you instinctively knew if you'd eaten her delicious and innovative vegan dishes - she's a positive, principled, thoughtful person who gives the best of herself for those around her, be they family, friends or customers. This is an uplifting read - and one you'll event want to cook from. Sachiko Okuda, National Association of Japanese Canadians, Ottawa Japanese Community Association Ishii's style is fresh, insightful and always genuine... the vegan-curious will learn how to create, in their own kitchens, some of Ishii's favourite dishes and desserts. Japanese Canadians will relate to the comfort of ochazuke. And all readers will be nourished, replenished, and motivated to boldly seek out the true flavours of their lives. Chef Brad Long, Chef-Owner, Café Belong at Evergreen Brick Works, and co-host of the Food Network's Restaurant Makeover I love the way Caroline shares deep, personal stories with a quick flit of words and, boom, there's a lesson and a path. I will be trying Caroline's recipes for exactly the reasons she writes about them: to share with my family, to make and eat them together. Jeff Brown, author of Soulshaping and An Uncommon Bond A heartfelt, helpful and healing book. Highly recommended!