BARRIE, ONTARIO — For Dario Tomaselli and Anita Heidema, cooking isn’t just about filling stomachs it’s about building relationships. Their company Passion is Cooking is about bringing couples, friends and family together through food and they are skilled at what they do.
We caught up with the couple at the first annual Medley Festival in Barrie, a wonderful three-day event that took place in July. Medley is dedicated to creating culinary experiences, automobile displays and live entertainment showcasing some of the delightful products in the region.
Heidema is a juice master and an avid proponent for health awareness. She is both a mentor and mental health advocate to others after having experienced and helping her family deal with her own mother’s dementia. Tomaselli is a world-renowned executive chef, culinary artist and professor. His 39-year career includes stops in Switzerland, France, Spain to Milan, Mexico and eventually to Toronto, where he became the rising star as head Executive Chef of the award-winning Oro.
Together this couple have teamed up to share their passion for delicious food, healthy home cooking & juicing, and the age-old practice of preparing and sharing meals together.
During a break at the festival Tomaselli and Heidema discussed the joy of making beer-based pizza, their passion for fantastic food and the beauty of Barrie.
Vacay.ca: Thanks for meeting me for this interview!
Dario Tomaselli: My pleasure, nice to meet you.
Anita Heidema: Our pleasure!
Heidema: We just recently moved to Barrie. Dario ran a successful restaurant called Oro (closed in 2017) in Toronto. We moved to Barrie three years ago.
Vacay.ca: What is it that drew you to Barrie?
Heidema: It’s the water, actually. We love the waterfront. We’re only a few houses up from the water. It’s a cottage lifestyle in the city and it’s just beautiful what Barrie has created. Also the culinary world has really expanded here.
Vacay.ca: You participated in the Medley Festival. Can you tell me a bit about that experience?
Tomaselli: Basically we were hired by Medley to be the main attention for food and lifestyle. Our business is Passion is Cooking, which ties directly into that concept. We used some of the ingredients from suppliers who were going to be at Medley. For example, one of our recipes was creating a pizza dough called passion pizza, created using the fermentation beer from Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, a local brewery. We also made a risotto using local ingredients from an outstanding vendor called Stonetown Area Cheese and infused it with other ingredients such as lavenders, strawberries, and wine that has no alcohol from the farmers’ market.
Heidema: Some of the best pizzas we have eaten during our travels has had beer as an ingredient so it was a lot of fun working with Flying Monkeys.
Vacay.ca: You guys are quite a team. It’s brilliant for two chefs to combine their skills the way you guys do.
Heidema: Dario is the chef, I call myself the non-chef but really I love to cook and there’s a huge difference between what a chef does and what someone who loves to cook does. So I never want to call myself a chef but we cook the meals together, he decides what we are going to create and then I create a juice to go with the meal. That’s what my mom used to do when I was a kid, with every meal there was a juice that was created just for us.
Vacay.ca: What are Barrie’s culinary strengths? What is the food that Barrie is best known for?
Tomaselli: In Barrie, you are in a farm belt. That’s one thing people need to be aware of. We are a huge promoter of Barrie Farmers’ Market. You know, if you go to Innisfil or drive to Orillia there are a lot of farmers’ markets to be found. To say there is a specific thing in Barrie would not do it justice but I think with so many farms and markets there are a lot of products available.
Heidema: If anything there is more versatility in this region because you have so many restaurants to choose from and dozens of farmers’ markets.
Vacay.ca: Dario, you are from Italy. Did you ever think of heading back there? Do you miss Italy?
Tomaselli: Let me tell you one thing, and you might be surprised to hear this. I have lived in Toronto and Newmarket. Wonderful experiences, but when I came to Barrie believe it or not it felt like I had discovered a part of Italy. I am from Milan, born and raised but we also have a home on the lake in Lake Maggiore (Italy). Sometimes when I walk along the boardwalk in Barrie it reminds me a lot of home. Barrie is a beautiful city, they’ve done a really good job.
Vacay.ca: Well, there isn’t much you can do about that. Let’s just say with the exception of not having Swiss mountains, Barrie is best.
Heidema: No argument there.
Vacay.ca: Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed your pizza presentation at Medley Fest and I look forward to seeing what great things you have in store for us with Passion is Cooking!
Tomaselli: Awesome. Thank you.
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