WEB IVY KNIGHT - 10.jpg
WEB IVY KNIGHT - 10.jpg

Ivy Knight


Ivy Knight

WORDS by SYDNEY LOWE

PHOTOGRAPHS by BEA HELMAN

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Ivy Knight


Ivy Knight

WORDS by SYDNEY LOWE

PHOTOGRAPHS by BEA HELMAN

 
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Ivy Knight does not mess around when it comes to her potatoes. It’s one of the first details I learn about the one-of-a-kind cook, food writer, VICE columnist, and proud Prince Edward Islander-turned-happy-Toronto resident when we speak by phone this summer. “[Prince Edward Island is] the Canadian equivalent to Idaho. You guys all worship Idaho for the potato? Well, the best potatoes in Canada come from PEI. So, if you’re from PEI—you’re a potato freak.” Knight adds, “Which I am.”

It just feels like, everybody eats. It doesn’t need to be the exclusive domain of these tattooed bros. Everybody eats.

Potatoes aside, Knight’s career path within the culinary world has been a bit of a circuitous one. She began her professional life in film. Yet after graduating from film school, she found her passion for the industry waning and began to search for a job beyond the silver screen. Says Knight, “I like swearing and I like drinking. So, cooking seemed like a good place.”

She fit right in.

Knight spent the next 10 years working as a line cook in professional restaurant kitchens across Canada and the United States. While she relished recipe creating and ingredient tasting, she admits that it was the slightly wild, behind-the-scenes culture she encountered in the food world that most intrigued her. “I also loved how fucking ‘spring break’ it was to work in a kitchen and to just get wrecked every night … and just go nuts. It was a lot of fun,” Knight says. “But it has a certain shelf life. You get tired after a while.” Ultimately, Knight found that her heart did not lie in moving through the more traditional trajectory many cooks take to someday earn the title of chef. One night, a chef she was working under observed, “You’re always writing. Why don’t you write about food?” It wasn’t until then that Knight had considered penning anything about cuisine. 

“Most food writers [at the time] were just rich people who got a food critic job as a perk of being rich and knowing the right people. So [there weren’t] any poor line cooks writing about food. I started, and I really loved doing it.” Knight also points out that when she began writing, there was no such thing as the now-ubiquitous ‘food blogging’ from professionals and food obsessives alike, so hers was a refreshing new voice. As she tells it, “My first pieces were published by a Toronto-based food site that no longer exists. It got me a lot of attention—I was one of the first Toronto food writers to swear! And I was the only one who actually worked in a kitchen.” Before long, national publications including The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star came courting and were eager to hear what Knight had to say—starting with musings from the perspective of a line cook, to the brunch column “The Morning After.” Soon after came her column for VICE’s Munchies, two cookbooks published by HarperCollins, a humor book (You Know You’re an Islander When…), and her gig hosting The Drake Hotel’s popular 86’d Mondays culinary events.

From profiling drag queen Gilda Wabbit at Fire Island brunches, to chronicling her meals across America as a Canadian, to candidly opening up about the sexual harassment that runs rampant in the restaurant world, Knight’s freelance career has provided her with the self-directed freedom to write about what interests her most. “My focus is not on feminism or women’s rights or anything like that,” she says. “That just happens to be what I write about because it’s something that comes up so fucking often in this crazy world of food.”

Knight thinks that the food industry is in a major transitional moment, wherein the contemporary culture of celebrity chefs and competitive cooking shows is giving way to something new: “The people that I talk to in the upper echelons of the food world agree that there’s a backlash against celebrity chefs. People are just getting sick of it,” she says. Knight praises Cherry Bombe—the biannual magazine co-founded by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, which celebrates and highlights women in the food industry—as one positive beacon of this change. “It just feels like, everybody eats,” she says. “It doesn’t need to be the exclusive domain of these tattooed bros. Everybody eats. Not everybody prepares food, but everyone enjoys it, so it should be a bit more democratically universal, and women need to be represented way more.”

We couldn’t agree more. ★