eat the street awards

Parkdale Kids Ate Queen West

The results are in: after seven weeks and eleven restaurants, a group of young food critics from Parkdale Public School (aka the Parkdale Pumas) have eaten their way across Queen West and made their final judgments.

Last night at the Gladstone, the Pumas dished out awards like "Scariest Bathroom" and "Coolest Chef" at the Eat The Street Awards Ceremony.

In a mash-up of unusual social experiment meets live performance art, Eat The Street is the brainchild of Darren O'Donnell and his team at Mammalian Diving Reflex. Mammalian Diving Reflex (MDR) is a theatre company creating works that interact directly with the community.

Following last year's success of Parkdale Public School vs. Queen West Round 1 (which included the Pumas giving haircuts to willing adult participants, cooking up meals at Coca, and shooting a film), MDR rolled out round two in a "critical dinner series" called Eat The Street.

Completely open to the public, Eat The Street was a series of eleven dinners at eleven Queen West restaurants. After receiving a primer on the finer points of critiquing food from Coca's Nathan Isberg, the kids were unleashed on the neighbourhood.

According to MDR, Eat The Street was a chance for the public to "dine with the future of the neighbourhood and the future of Toronto." O'Donnell believes that kids should have the same rights as adults, and by giving them the ability to cut hair, make films, or critique restaurants we are giving them an empowered childhood. Opening these events to the public and weaving them into the day-to-day fabric of the community just adds to this empowerment and provides a real-time interactive performance.

At the award ceremony last night they dished out hand-made awards, some of which included:

"Coolest Chef" awarded to Matt Matheson at Oddfellows
(admittedly due to his impressive array of tattoos)
"Scariest Bathroom" awarded to Mizti's Sister
"Hottest Waiters" awarded to Tyler and Daniel at The Drake
"Best Ice Cream" Skyline Restaurant
"Nicest Waiter with Best Food Explanation" awarded to Jeff at Czehoski
"Hottest Waitress" awarded to Marina from Cadillac Lounge
"Best Momo" awarded to Shangrila
"Nicest Waitress" awarded to Liz from Beaver Cafe
"Least Graffiti in the Washroom" awarded to Saigon Flower
"Best Lassi" awarded to Mother India
"Best Food Presentation" awarded to Addis Ababa
"Best Overall Restaurants" were awarded to The Drake (1st Place), Czehoski (2nd Place), and Shangrila (3rd Place)

Regardless of the criticism of O'Donnell's work as art, it was certainy clear to me that the kids had a good time and got to experience something that they would not have otherwise been able to. In my opinion, opening up the stage for critical thinking about the food they eat (or anything for that matter) is a worthwhile exercise - and if it means good eats and good company in the process then let the streets be eaten.

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