Ali Schwabe | Fulcrum Staff
Photo by Gilda Furgiuele
EVA BEE ISN’T necessarily used to being on the interviewee end of the microphone. When she’s not busy making sandwiches at the Red Apron (564 Gladstone Ave.) or recording albums with local bands like Zebrassieres, she’s hosting a YouTube show—Eva Bee’s Jamboree—that features Ottawa musicians cooking with local ingredients. The show is a little quirky and a lot funny—just like its host. I had the chance to sit down with Bee over a pot of vanilla green tea at The Tea Party, the very place where she got her start, to talk about the show, the unexpected path she took after university, the music scene in Ottawa, and her favourite way to eat kale.
The Fulcrum: What did you study in university?
Eva Bee: I took environmental science, and I have a minor in chemistry. As I was studying, I really got into farmers’ rights and the social aspect of distribution of food. It just kind of came to me that I wanted to do something about the current state of the industrial food system. I did a soil science thesis on what can happen to the soil, if we’re taking away corn to make ethanol, for example … it’s ridiculous how easily the soil structure can degrade. Long story short, I didn’t want to be a scientist and I kind of fell into cooking. [The show] is my way to get the message out to contribute something positive to sustainable food systems.
You don’t have any professional training as a chef, right? Tell me a bit more about your journey to become a cook.
I definitely think cooking is intuitive; anyone can cook. That’s a point I love to drive home, and I experienced that working here [at The Tea Party].
So, I was still looking for environmental science fieldwork, and a lot of the jobs I wanted required wilderness experience. There was no way I could lie about that, so I saw an advertisement for Algonquin Eco-Lodge. They were looking for a chef. So, I went to the wilderness and I guess that was my crash course in cooking. There was no electricity there and I had to cook for up to 40 people: breakfast, lunch, and dinner… it was pretty interesting.
I finished that after five months, came back to Ottawa, and continued to look for environmental science jobs, but I loved cooking. There’s just something about it. On Kijiji I found this, literally two-line advertisement saying something like: “Looking for a chef in the ByWard Market, local seasonal foods, booyeah.” It said booyeah! I said alright, these are things that I’m into.
I was this guy’s sous-chef for a while at the Mercury Lounge, and eventually he wanted to leave and do his own thing, so he put me in charge. That was a fun six-month stint of developing new menus and trying out new local menus. But I found without business training that having to do it all myself was a little bit much, so I had to quit. But it was amazing that Jonathan Korecki, the guy who hired me, was actually a finalist on Top Chef Canada last year, so I was so grateful that he took me under his wing.
You started with Eva Bee’s Jamboree to get a message across about eating local food. What made you decide to incorporate musicians into the show?
Throughout university, I played shows around town, so I developed a lot of connections with Ottawa musicians. I don’t feel that Ottawa gets enough credit for how creative we can be, and I really wanted to show people that cooking is fun but also that there’s some pretty awesome musicians around here.
I’m learning more and more how music and food are both very artistic for the same reason. They’re very intuitive; there’s a huge part about improvising. With food, you don’t necessarily have to always follow the recipe: you can just see what’s in the fridge and come up with something. Same with music.
I find I’m most creative when I’m put in a box. So if there’s a musician and their family isn’t from Ottawa, I ask them what traditional foods they have that we can incorporate on the show. If it’s not necessarily something that incorporates local food that’s in season, I put a twist on it by throwing that in—just showing people that you can make any food somewhat local. I believe that eating locally can definitely minimize how much fossil fuel goes into bringing foods over and processing and what not, so the seasonal, local aspect plays a huge role in recipes.
Tell me more about the show. What’s been your favourite thing to make?
The pizza house we made was pretty cool, on the episode we did with The Love Machine. That was a really fun Christmas episode. One member of the band always makes pizza over the holidays and one always makes a gingerbread house, so we combined those and actually came up with a pizza house.
Besides delivering your message about eating locally, what else do you aim to do with Eva Bee’s Jamboree?
I try to appeal to youth, to people who want to get into cooking. I try not to make anything too complicated; I want to inspire people to get back into the kitchen.
As for the comedy aspect of the show—I’ve always been into acting, I love to make people laugh, and I find that’s another avenue too alongside the music to get people into cooking or to get people interested in cooking.
Lightning round. What are your faves?
Food: Tea. No! I’ve been on a coffee kick lately. Put down coffee.
Band: LCD Soundsystem.
Interview: The Acorn.
Class: A political economy globalization class—we had extensive readings on the food industry.
Way to eat said vegetable: Mashed up raw with avocado, lime, and salt. It just marinates in the salt and breaks down. It’s super tasty and super healthy for you!