January 29th marked the debut segment of Ivy Knight’s Black Coffee + Pie, a series of industry-related talks for those working in or near the industry. Ivy has carefully curated a list of speakers to explore the abstract traits of the business with the people that relate to it. In this week’s edition, I joined media and PR professionals to hear from VICE’s Patrick McGuire.
After being assured we were in an environment which welcomes our visible comfort—resting bitch face and all — we sipped coffee and enjoyed Drake Commissary's cherry pie as Ivy talked with Patrick about his experiences and impressions of Toronto's culinary scene.
We were entertained with behind the scenes stories from the early days of shooting Munchies - a mid-service eel salting fiasco in a Montreal restaurant - and heard from Patrick his ideas on how to garner ‘trending media love’ or create SEO (search engine optimization) hacks. What eventually transpired was a collaborative, information-sharing discussion between industry professionals and media about the relationship between them — what works and what doesn’t. Needless-to-say, everyone left with a fresh perspective, some new contacts, and a couple risqué Patrick McGuire stories in their back pockets.
Since then we’ve seen a diverse selection of speakers, from Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi to human rights lawyer Gillian Hnatiw, each with different expertise that connects to the hospitality industry in a unique way. I spoke with Ivy to learn more about Black Coffee + Pie and find out what the future holds for the series:
What do you want guests to be able to take away from Black Coffee + Pie talks?
I want people to hear new ideas, get inspired and walk away with a bit of an edge to their thinking, a bit of a fire under their ass. We already have a crazy wonderful food scene in this city and I hope that this speaker series can make it even more so. That's a pretty lofty ambition I know but, if nothing else, I hope that everyone who comes can take something away from it.
What are you looking for in the speakers you chose?
I'm looking for people most of us don't hear from in daily life. So, for instance, when the human rights lawyer spoke about what individuals can do in situations of sexual assault and harassment, and what restaurant and bar owners can do in the same instance – that was a really eye-opening talk for everyone who came out.
On March 26th I have a doctor coming in who specializes in addiction. Not necessarily a comfortable subject in an industry where we work with alcohol daily, and one that we maybe don’t have a lot of information on. She’s the doctor in residence at Canada’s largest rehab facility and she’s going to give a lecture on how alcohol affects the body and brain over time. I think that would be of great interest to bartenders and anyone who works with spirits, wine and beer long term.
I also have a James Beard Award winning cookbook author coming in on April 23rd to talk about the reality of the publishing world – Naomi Duguid, who is nominated for another JBA for her latest book Taste of Persia, is not afraid to talk real dollars and cents. She’s going to tell us what one can expect to see in a cookbook deal and how much the whole thing costs. Duguid has some really fascinating info and insights, being as she's been putting out bestsellers for years. No one talks about how much they get paid, but she is ready to talk and it will be a really cool session for anyone who wants to publish a cookbook.
What are your feelings about Black Coffee + Pie's debut?
I have known Patrick for a long time and he is a very articulate and kind-hearted person. So to have him speak and be so engaging and funny and warm made for a really great experience and I think it gave the audience a lot of insight into how VICE finds food stories and what excites them and what doesn't. If he was too cool for school the message might not have come across but he's just the right amount of cool and at the end of the day he, like everyone really, just wants good content. So I was really happy with the debut and I'd love to have him come and talk again.
What can people expect to see over the next few months from this series?
I'm talking with a Food Network producer and I’m in talks with a writer from New York who I hope will be coming in to talk about diversity and cultural appropriation - lots more.
While this is geared towards people in the hospitality industry, I feel like it won't stay that way. 86'd Mondays were supposed to be an industry night when I first started programming/hosting them seven years ago, and the crowd grew into a mix of food professionals - cooks, bakers, servers, etc. to include anyone and everyone that has an interest in food as more than just fuel. I think that will happen with Black Coffee + Pie as well, so anyone who's intrigued and wants in, keep an eye on my socials for upcoming events and just show up.