Eden Grinshpan doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her charming wisecracks add a dose of comic relief to the oft–tense Top Chef Canada competition (she’s been the host since 2017), and she’s just as unfiltered on social media, posting no–makeup selfies and shots of croissants balancing on her pregnant belly on Instagram. Last September, the Cordon Bleu–trained chef released her first cookbook, Eating Out Loud, inspired by her Israeli roots and the childhood trips she took to the country every summer. “It’s approachable, everyday food that makes you feel good but also packs a lot of flavour,” she says of her recipes, which include lamb shakshuka with lemony yogurt and salted halvah chocolate–chip cookies. We caught up with Grinshpan in Toronto, where she recently relocated from Brooklyn with her husband Ido and daughter Ayv, to chat about the best meals she’s eaten abroad, how she uses food as a sensory form of travel and where she’s most excited to head next.
enRoute What’s been keeping you busy lately?
Eden Grinshpan I’m about to become a mother (round two), I’m renovating my new house and in between all that I’m constantly working on projects. The new season of Top Chef Canada is out now and I’m doing some recipe development. The fact that I get to host Top Chef Canada is still a pinch–me experience. It’s incredible to meet all these chefs who are at the top of their game and hear the stories behind the food they make.
ER How does being a food expert inform your approach to travel – do you pick destinations based on your palate?
EG Absolutely! And in a lot of the places I’ve travelled, I’ve taken cooking classes. I took some in Thailand, and I learned how to make Tibetan momos in Dharamsala, India. What’s amazing about food is that it’s universal – you don’t need to speak the same language to be able to cook with someone from a different culture. After travelling to India for the first time in 2006 I completely fell in love, so much so that I ended up going back and spending seven months backpacking there. I started in Delhi and went all the way down to Kerala and ate everything from creamy masalas to dosas, idlis and uttapams. I spent time volunteering at an orphanage in Rishikesh and I remember shopping at the local market, where there was fresh turmeric and ginger, and beans piled four feet high. It was so beautiful and bountiful, and it inspired me every time I went.
ER If you had to pick one favourite food–related travel memory, what would it be?
EG My husband and I went to Thailand for our honeymoon, and it was the first time he had ever been to Southeast Asia. When we got off the ferry in Koh Phangan we were starving, so we ordered from a roadside stand where the only dish they served was this gorgeous, aromatic green curry with noodles. After a few bites we both started pouring sweat and bursting into tears. It was the hottest curry I’ve ever had, but we were so hungry that we just kept eating it. The entire drive up to the hotel we were crying and sweating and laughing because it was so painful, but so good.
ER Eating Out Loud is filled with recipes based on your Israeli heritage. What’s your top Israeli food experience?
EG My favourite restaurant of all time is North Abraxas in Tel Aviv. Chef Eyal Shani, who also runs HaSalon in New York, and Miznon, has this ability to take regular ingredients and spin them into gold. My husband and I like to sit at the bar, where they have a wood–burning oven, and smell the hot focaccia that’s constantly coming out of it and drink a bottle of Israeli red wine. They serve sweet potatoes with the creamiest, most decadent sour cream and chunky sea salt. I’ll be eating a sweet potato thinking, “How does he make this taste so good?” If you go on the right night, every hour they serve chasers, which are little shots. The music will be loud, and they’ll take out a chaser for everyone at the bar. Everyone cheers and starts dancing – it’s a party.
ER What dishes have you gone back to again and again over the last year?
EG I’ve upped my pasta game hardcore. I’ve made a lot of pasta with lemon juice and butter, cacio e pepe, rigatoni alla vodka and spaghetti alle vongole, which is my all–time favourite. To sit down and have a big bowl of pasta and a glass of wine with my husband is such a wonderful way to end the day. When things are up in the air constantly, some comfort food is always welcome.
ER Have you used food as a way to travel from home over the last year?
EG When Ido is missing Israel, his home, I will put together a spread with hummus, baba ghanouj, salatim, fresh pita and a pan full of shakshuka. We’ll put on some Israeli music, and it transports us there.
ER Where’s the first place you’ll go once the world returns to “normal”?
EG Ido and I were supposed to go to Japan in April 2020, and we were devastated because it was the third time we’ve cancelled that trip – the first two times, life and work got in the way. So, Japan is top of our list. Morocco is up there, too. Italy is one of my favourite countries of all time – everything there is delicious and sexy and gorgeous. I’ve also been missing Mexico. After I give birth to my second child, I’m excited to just sit on the beach and have a margarita.
Carry–on essentials Weleda Skin Food moisturizer, wet wipes (I’m constantly snacking) and a good book – right now, I’m reading Cribsheet: A Data–Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster.
Favourite souvenir Spices, so I can recreate the flavours of my travels from the comfort of my kitchen.
Dream seatmate My husband. He’s the only one who can deal with me on long flights.
First travel memory Playing on the beach in Herzliya, Israel. Afterwards, my parents took me out to eat and ordered me couscous with vegetables. The couscous was crunchy because I got sand in it, but I didn’t care because it tasted so good.
Bucket–list destination So many! Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Ethiopia, South Africa – I want to go everywhere. I told my husband that once we get to a certain age, we’re going to leave everything behind and go travelling.