I wouldn’t eat there: Toronto launches Underground Market

There are reasons public health rules and regulations exist: people get sick from the food they eat, and inspection, along with training, provides some minimal assurance that whoever’s doing the cooking has paid attention – a little.

The Globe and Mail (that’s in Toronto, in Canada) reports that Hassel Aviles says an 11,000 square feet of unfinished industrial space is the perfect place for fine dining. And soon it will be home to the city’s newest food experiment she’s been planning since the spring, the Toronto Underground Market. Savoury smells will fill the gigantic room – those of grilled sausage with mustard seed, maybe, or pork tacos – along with 30 to 40 vendors and one long, communal dinner table set between two kilns.

The evening of Saturday, Sept. 24 will see the debut of the Toronto version of the San Francisco Underground Market, the massively popular, not-quite-legal gathering of amateur chefs begun by wild-food co-operative ForageSF and its founder, Iso Rabins. Run out of private homes and warehouses, it was a covert food happening where home cooks and local foragers could offer their wares even if they couldn’t afford licenses or commercial kitchens. It was the talk of food lovers everywhere – until it was unceremoniously shut down by authorities last month.

“It’s really important for me to ensure that this is a legal event,” says Ms. Aviles.
The idea of the market, of course, is to allow aspiring chefs to sell their creations without the barrier of having to rent a costly commercial kitchen – a must for anyone who sells food to the public, such as at a farmers’ market. Ms. Aviles also hopes it will be a forum for street food that reflects the city’s multicultural makeup.

So how is that legal?

There will be strict rules. Almost all the food preparation will take place in Evergreen’s commercial, fully inspected events kitchen – a key condition of keeping the market within municipal and provincial public-health regulations. Vendors with access to an offsite commercial kitchen may use it, but most won’t have that luxury. Either Ms. Aviles or another organizer with a city food handler’s certificate must be present in the Evergreen kitchen while every dish is being prepared. All ingredients must come from approved distributors, says Suzanne Lychowyd, healthy environments manager at Toronto Public Health.

Like sprout seeds?