Bob Blumer, whose latest cookbook Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better was up for two food writing awards this year, is one of Canada’s first celebrity chefs who launched his career from a trailer dubbed the “Toastermobile.”
The other Canadian Jewish authors nominated in the latter included:
- Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day by Eden Grinshpan
- The Primal Gourmet Cookbook: 120 Easy and Delicious Recipes for a Paleo Lifestyle by Ronny Joseph Lvovski
- The Bite Me Balance Cookbook: Wholesome Daily Eats & Delectable Occasional Treats by Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat
The focus of Flavorbomb is to help home cooks improve their dishes, Blumer said in an interview from his home in Los Angeles. “The whole idea is how you can make anything taste better by coaxing more flavour out of what you’re making.”
Blumer said this book provides methods and hacks to create layers of flavour with an emphasis on using fresh produce. “It’s Mediterranean meets Californian.”
Flavorbomb‘s recipe photos actually resemble the ingredients used, which is somewhat of a departure from Blumer’s earlier “Surreal Gourmet” cookbooks, which often featured recipes prepared from one set of ingredients that were styled to look like a completely different dish. For instance, salmon cakes were topped with whipped potatoes to resemble cupcakes.
Blumer grew up taking a variety of art classes, which inspired the creativity of his recipes and food styling. “I was accustomed to working in multimedia,” he says. “Food is another art media.”
A Montreal native, he entered the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in 1976, and that’s where he began to cook.
After graduating, Blumer became the business manager for Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry. In 1989, he and Siberry left Toronto for Los Angeles—and he ended up staying.
When she went to a recording session in London, England, it afforded him the time to focus on writing a cookbook, a project that evolved from a small collection of recipes he had put together for his sister.
Lacking the money to hire a photographer, Blumer created the whimsical images that accompanied the recipes.
That first book, The Surreal Gourmet: Real Food for Pretend Chefs, was published in 1992. A sequel followed three years later: The Surreal Gourmet Entertains: High-Fun, Low-Stress Dinner Parties for 6 to 12.
In 2000, the promotional tour for his third book, Off the Eaten Path: Inspired Recipes for Adventurous Cooks helped launch his first television series.
Essentially, he travelled to cities staging events from an Airstream trailer with two eight-foot (simulated) pieces of toast attached to the roof.
This three-month tour became the precursor of his first cooking series, The Surreal Gourmet, which was set in and around the Toastermobile.
It lasted five seasons as the first original offerings from Food Network Canada.
Glutton for Punishment, Blumer’s second series, ran from 2007–2011. In this show, he travelled around the world participating in all kinds of food-related contests ranging from corn-shucking and noodle pulling to hot peppers eating and watermelon-seed spitting.
One of the most challenging events was the raw-nettle eating contest held in England: “I had to eat raw stinging nettles for a week to prepare.”
Now with three television series and seven cookbooks to his credit, Blumer continues to maintain his ties with Canada. He’s an ambassador for Second Harvest, a Toronto-based charity that rescues and distributes fresh food that might otherwise be discarded.
In the preface of Flavorbomb, he writes that his goal in publishing it was to channel everything he has learned throughout his career into recipes and practical tips.
“This book is the distillation of my life’s journey.”
BOB BLUMER’S RECIPE FOR BLUEBERRY CORNMEAL PANCAKES WITH ROSEMARY BALSAMIC MAPLE SYRUP
½ cup (125 ml) coarse ground cornmeal
¾ cup (185 ml) flour
1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar
¾ tsp (12 ml) baking soda
¾ tsp (12 ml) baking powder
½ tsp (2 ml) salt
4 tbsp (60 ml) butter, divided
1¼ cups (310 ml) buttermilk
1 cup (250 ml) blueberries, divided
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup (125 ml) maple syrup
1 tsp (5 ml) best available aged balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
10 black peppercorns
In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In the large sauté pan you plan to make the pancakes in, melt 1½ tbsp (23 ml) of butter.
Add the melted butter to a second bowl along with the buttermilk and egg. Reserve the pan. Use a whisk to mix. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl, using a rubber spatula to incorporate. Do not over mix. The batter should be thick and airy at the same time, but not too thick.
The proportions of the flour and cornmeal to buttermilk in this recipe should get the batter very close to the desired thickness, but it may be necessary to add 1 or 2 additional tablespoons of flour or buttermilk. Use your instincts.
Gently fold in 2/3 of the blueberries, and the zest. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes. Bubbles should form in the batter.
Just before you start making the pancakes, in a small pot over medium heat, add the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, remaining blueberries, and peppercorns. Bring to a high simmer, then reduce to a low simmer for about 5 minutes. Reserve.
In the pan you used to melt the butter, over medium/medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp (15 ml) butter. If you have a second pan, set it up in the same way so that you can work both pans at the same time to cook all the pancakes at once.
When the butter is sizzling, drop in ¼-cup (60 ml) dollops of batter. Cook until bubbles form on top (after 2 minutes, sneak a peek under the pancakes and toggle the heat if the pancakes are blackening before bubbles start to form. Flip and continue cooking for about 90 seconds, or until browned on the bottom and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter if necessary.
Top the pancakes with the warm syrup (leaving the peppercorns behind in the pot.) Makes 2 servings of about 8, 3-inch (7.6-cm) pancakes.