Teach Me Tuesday: A Toronto Chef Who is Making a Difference

This week’s installment of Teach Me Tuesday is going to have a unique twist.

It’s not going to be about pulling a cookbook off the shelf and making a recipe.  It’s going to be about cooking…and teaching…and doing good.

I remember listening to Denzel Washington being interviewed once and he said “at the end of the day, it’s not about what you have, or even what you’ve accomplished.  It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments.  It’s about who you’ve lifted up and who you’ve made better.  It’s about what you’ve given back”.

There is so much truth in those words.  And, when someone uses their talents to give back to others whose lives could potentially see change because of it, then the world becomes a better place.

My very good friend Joanna Sable, a Cordon Bleu trained chef, recently began holding cooking classes with her cousin Benji who suffers from autism (see note below).  He is a 19 year old young man who seems to have found a niche in the kitchen.  With Joanna’s help, he has been able to, almost every Sunday for the past 2-3 months, fire up his creative juices by preparing meals and learning valuable tricks of the trade along the way.

I’ve never met Benji, but I have heard wonderful stories about him and his parents.  I would love to meet him one day…perhaps on a Sunday so I can see his face when Joanna arrives for their Sunday sessions. I am absolutely sure that he is over the moon to see her each and every week.  This connection that Joanna has made for Benji, using food as a conduit and creative outlet, has been nothing short of remarkable.  For anyone who sufferers from an illness that makes social interaction difficult – especially in this quick moving world of ours – having an outlet to spread your wings must be transformative.

Please follow Joanna on her journey with Benji (on Facebook and Instagram as Joanna Sable using the hashtag #benjcooksbenjspeakspleaselisten).  She is doing marvelous things for Benji and, hopefully, will inspire others to give back by helping others.

Below is a sampling, all in Joanna’s words taken straight from her instagram account, of the food that she and Benji have made…so far.

Look out world, Benji’s just getting started!!

(For those that may not know, autism is a complex disorder of brain development, characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors and can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances…for more info, please visit Autism Speaks).

download (2)

Wings that go on for days and if I was a betting girl I would put my money on Benj in a wing eating contest. He created these wings with just 3 simple ingredients; organic wings, hoisin and sesame seeds. Totally addictive.

download (4)

Thanks Benj for making my sunny morning even brighter. This is the best applesauce ever. Apples from the cottage are obviously organic with cane sugar and cinnamon

download (5)

A man and his bowl of whipping cream making Milk Chocolate Mousse.

download (3)

Escoffier would have clapped his hands at how wonderfully Benj whipped up a Milk Chocolate Mousse rich with flavour but light as air.

download (10)

Tonight we tried our hand at that funny YouTube video of Apple roses. I think we did a darn fine job. Apples, puff pastry, cinnamon sugar and of course roasted marshmallow ice cream. When we make dessert it is the sweetest!

FullSizeRender (3)

The two of us working hard to scoop!!

download (12)

Me and my pal made some serious sweet dreams with roasted marshmallow ice cream and brilliant brownies from the Sable and Rosenfeld cookbook!


We call this The Elvis!   Warm Peanut Butter Caramel poured over super moist Chocolate Chip Banana Cake.


And here with Peanut Butter and Jelly…oh my yummmmm!

download (13)

A little meatballs in sauce when it’s chilly sounds alright by me.  Benj rolled out some serious beef and chicken balls filled with fresh basil, milk soaked bread, eggs, loads of garlic, parmigiana and basil. Homemade passata with olive oil, more garlic and basil and BOOM. You have yourself some fine eating.

download (15)

Today’s main was home made Meatballs with Neapolitan bronze dye cut spaghetti.

download (9)

Don’t tell me you don’t want to eat your kale. Lemony Kale Salad with tons of Parmigiano, Currants and Toasted Pine Nuts. Killer eats

download (6)

Benj loves his bacon and sharp cheddar so our Wedge Salad has a thick, dollop on your lettuce kind of dressing. He hates tomatoes but I love em…I am still head chef so on they went. I ate his. 

download (16)

Here is a wonderful kid friendly salad that is pretty and fun to eat. Cucumber ribbons with slivers of red pepper and purple onion lightly dressed with evoo and red wine vinegar.

download (11)

Gorgeous hot out of the frying pan Sweet Potato Latkes. I thought 3 eggs in the mix would be right and Benj put in 4. He was right.

download (14)

Eat your greens cause this is what balance is all about.

download (17)

Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce with a cheesy crust.


And this is how we rock the Bolognese Lasagne with tons of layers, basil ricotta and CHEEZEEEEEEEE.


After all of our weekly cooking, we decided to try our hand at using a single ingredient (Kellogg’s All Bran) to make specific dishes….all created with Toronto’s National Post food feature “Gastropost” in mind. Here’s Benj showing off the goods.

download (7)

This is, I think, our best Gastropost All Bran recipe. These individual Bacon Wrapped Meatloaves were super moist with the addition of AllBran Buds. Place one cup of bran buds in a cup and cover with milk. In a large bowl add one pound each organic beef, pork and veal, 1/4 cup Dijon, 1/4 cup bbq sauce, 2 eggs and now the soaked bran. Mix well and form into individual loaves, top with bacon slices and bake at 375 for approx 45 minutes. Let rest for 5 and serve.

download (8)

Tonight Benj was on Gastropost mission. With Kellogg’s Bran Buds, we created roasted carrots in evoo and balsamic, sprinkled it with feta and tossed All Bran Cereal with curry and olive oil toasted it and used it as a salad topper. Great flavour and crunch.

FullSizeRender (4)

Caramel Apple Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (from Greg’s Ice Cream in Toronto) and All Bran Crunchy Cinnamon Sugar Toppers Parfait.  Just toss 3 cups of All bran with 1/2 cup of melted butter and toss with 3 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar. Bake at 375f for 10 minutes or until super crunchy.

download (1)

This is really not supposed to be a photo and recipe cred to me but my wonderful autistic cousin Benj…he was the chef!   We thank you, Gastropost for posting us…xo


Won!!!! He won!!!!! I couldn’t be happier or more proud. Wow wow wow. Thanks so very much for inspiring us to keep on cooking.


Here is Benji with the fabulous stash he received from the lovely people at Gastropost!  I’m so happy that he was recognized!


Such a great cooking duo these two are, right?  I couldn’t be happier for Benji who, in his auntie, has found a mentor, friend, teacher, supporter and the best cheerleader on the planet.

Thanks Joanna for doing what I truly believe we should all be doing…using what we do best to change the world, one cookie at a time.




  • Tara Maini
    November 10, 2015

    This so beautifully written Suzie. Joanna truely is a magnificant lady for all her good doings and more. I’m so happy for Benji and that he has a great support like Joanna in the kitchen.

    • Suzie Durigon
      November 11, 2015

      Thanks so much for reading Tara! I agree whole-heartedly…she is doing such a wonderful thing with Benji!
      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts…you are awesome!!

Leave a Reply

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons