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Bro-y chef culture, and four more things The Black Hoof’s Jen Agg dislikes about Toronto’s dining scene

The Critic: Jen Agg strikes again with the city's first haute Caribbean restaurant, Rhum Corner

Jen Agg and husband Roland Jean at Rhum Corner, Agg’s most recent restaurant venture

Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg, the woman behind Dundas West restaurants The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner, was interviewed by tech expert Jesse Brown on his latest Canadaland podcast. The talk basically devolved into a mutual rant about all the things that aren’t great about Toronto’s food scene. Here, five things Jen Agg can’t stand.

1. Kitchen Machismo
Some might hold Jen Agg indirectly responsible for the swaggering, thugged-out boys’ club that currently characterizes much of Toronto chef culture—it was the Hoof’s novel mix of grungy irreverence and great food that heralded in the era of too-cool-for-school dining, with all its gritty, tat-sleeved, testosterone-soaked insouciance. Like Frankenstein, Agg seems to have grown to loathe her inadvertent creation. “It’s mega-bro-y, man. It’s crazy,” she told Brown. “It’s crazy, crazy, crazy. And it’s, like, all bros before hos, 100 per cent.”

2. Food Fashion
The title of the podcast, “Food Trends are for Idiots,” is telling. Agg had harsh words for anyone who spends time tracking the relative popularity of salad greens. (“I hate it. It’s like, ‘Hey, Brussels sprouts are so hot this year,’ and now it’s kale, and now it’s cauliflower, and it’s like—they’re fucking vegetables.”) The culprits? Food bloggers: “It’s so dumb. And I know this is all being fed by people looking to put words on the internet.” Agg does admit that food trends exist (and that charcuterie—the Hoof’s signature mainstay—was a big one), but she concludes that quality transcends fashion: “If you continue to create good food, you don’t have to worry so much.”

3. Truffle Oil
“It’s gross. I’m going to write an essay about it. Who likes truffle oil, people in California? I don’t know.” Another dislike: “super-jammy shiraz.”

4. Chowhound
Social-media sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon get a pass from Agg, who sees the value in democratic food forums. She isn’t as easy on Chowhound, the notoriously finicky online food community, agreeing with chefs who say the site is “just a bunch of fucking jackals and haters.”

5. Bros Supporting Bros
For Agg, Toronto’s dining scene is a bit like a puppy dog: full of youthful exuberance, but lacking the substance and training to back it up. “It’s a really young culture,” she says. “Nobody knows what good is, so they think okay is great.” Ultimately, according to Agg, it all comes back to bros. “There’s like a bro support network where everybody goes to each other’s restaurants and everybody’s like, ‘You’re killing it, you’re killing it, you’re killing it.’ And there’s so much of this kind of inner-circle cock sucking.”

You can listen to the whole podcast here.

 

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