A beloved chef takes on institutional food and sparks a revolution with this manifesto, memoir from the trenches, and blueprint for reclaiming control from corporations and brutal bottom lines.
“With hard-won insights and deep commitment, Joshna Maharaj takes us on a mouthwatering tour of what our collective food future might be.” — Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
Good food generally doesn’t arrive on a tray, but Chef Joshna Maharaj knows that institutional kitchens have the ability to produce good, nourishing food, because she’s been making it happen over the past 14 years. She’s served meals to people who’d otherwise go hungry, baked fresh scones for maternity ward mothers, and dished out wholesome, scratch-made soups to stressed-out undergrads. She’s determined to bring health, humanity, and hospitality back to institutional food while also building sustainability, supporting the local economy, and reinvigorating the work of frontline staff.
Maharaj reconnects food with health, wellness, education, and rehabilitation in a way that serves people, not just budgets, and proves change is possible with honest, sustained commitment on all levels, from government right down to the person sorting the trash. The need is clear, the time is now, and this revolution is delicious.
Joshna Maharaj is a chef, two-time TEDx speaker, and activist. She believes strongly in the power of chefs and social gastronomy to bring hospitality, sustainability, and social justice to the table. Joshna is a regular guest on CBC Radio, a passionate public speaker, and co-hosts The Hot Plate, a food and drink podcast. She was the recipient of Restaurants Canada’s Culinary Excellence Award in 2018.
“The author is an engaging and dedicated advocate for those she's feeding. This is tremendous food for thought for a new decade.” — Quill & Quire
“Take Back the Tray is an impassioned call for mutual respect to govern the intimate act of care when provided at scale. Maharaj takes us into institutional kitchens and walk-in freezers; she shares tested strategies for incorporating more ‘scratch cooking,’ more local restaurants and caterers, and more area farmers into food service. She offers an account of the delicate, plodding, and poignant work of healing institutional roles and relationships strained by the violence of scarcity and profit-based logic.” — Literary Review of Canada
“Many of us have been appalled by the loveless fare being offered at institutions here in Canada. We all know better. Thank you, Joshna Maharaj for stepping into the fray and challenging this sad state of affairs. In Take Back the Tray we savour a passionate and insightful analysis born of many years on the ground working in the institutional food service reality. The writing is an inspiring call to action to restore dignity and deliciousness coupled with a large dose of hospitality to our institutional dining experience. I'll be doing my bit.” — Jamie Kennedy, chef
“Why is institutional food so bad when it could, and should, be so good? With hard-won insights and deep commitment, Joshna Maharaj takes us on a mouthwatering tour of what our collective food future might be. Her vision points the way to how we can put the hospitality back in hospital food and the generosity into a new generation of socially produced acts of care.” — Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
“As we are learning, group health depends upon individual health, and in this well-researched, passionate testimonial Maharaj offers wisdom to guide us in the crucial work of improving our collective well-being.” — Winnipeg Free Press