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, extended gut and all — we sipped coffee and enjoyed Drake Commissary's cherry pie as Ivy probed Patrick on his experiences and impressions of Toronto culinary trends.
We were entertained by ad-lib stories like a mid-service Eel salting extravaganza in a Montreal restaurant and 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.
We can expect to see a diverse selection of speakers in the coming months, 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 I don't hear from in daily life. So I have a human rights lawyer that specializes in cases of sexual harassment and assault coming in to speak at the session on Feb. 26th. I don't know any lawyers and when I was cooking, I had no idea what my rights were, so I think that will be an eye-opening talk for everyone who comes out. I also have a celebrated cookbook author coming in later in the spring to talk about the reality of the publishing world - the real dollars and cents one can expect to see in a cookbook deal and how much the whole thing costs. I've published two cookbooks but this particular author 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 this chick is ready to talk and it will be a real eye-opener 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?
Like I mentioned, I will have a human rights lawyer coming, a cookbook writer, I'm talking with a Food Network producer - lots more. I'd love to bring in some writers and creators from outside of Toronto as well - that's the plan for the fall and winter.
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, you know what to do.
If you’re interested in attending a Black Coffee + Pie event reach out to Ivy at email@example.com to RSVP—be sure to confirm your spot, as space is limited and so is the pie!