East coast food aficionado Gabby Peyton has a ravenous appetite for Canadian food. As the restaurant critic for St John’s The Telegram, Gabby tracks trends and tastes for not only Newfoundland, but the maritime provinces too.

With bylines in WestJet Magazine, enRoute, CBC, and Chatelaine, not to mention her own blog, Gabby’s definitely cooking with gas. With a passion for all things food and a voice to carry it, Gabby’s rise to Canadian culinary stardom is on the rise like a loaf of sourdough bread. But churning out content during a “normal” calendar year is one thing. A globally spirit-crushing pandemic is another. So naturally, we were boiling over with excitement for her huge announcement.

gabby peyton east coast

THE ONE WHERE GABBY WRITES A BOOK

Titled Where We Ate: A Field Guide to Canada’s Restaurants, Past and Present is launching in 2023. A culimnation of food features for FBC has transformed into a masterclass on Canadian dining from the origins of our nation’s first restaurant. So while restaurants were conforming to local lockdown restrictions, Gabby was buckling down to write her first book.

“I then self-sabotaged and thought I didn’t have the chops to do it. For a year or two Appetite Random House would email me and say hey….are you going to send me something? I sent a loose proposal and they loved it. But I just had this crushing imposter syndrome. I was fresh out of journalism school, that I didn’t have the qualifications, why me, why should I write this book?”

Gabby Peyton
gabby peyton east coast

POUTINE’S ORIGINS AND PAGE EDITS

During our lives, haven’t we all faced that imposter monster once or twice? But it’s with breathtaking honesty that Gabby breaks it down. “It was everything. In the dream scenario I was going across Canada and interviewing restaurants and meeting people and trying everyone’s foods,” says Gabby. Instead, she was hanging out in Zoom rooms with over 60 different Chefs, restaurant owners and food writers to figure out how to encapsulate a history as big as the country itself.

Originally, the book was to feature over 400 restaurants. It’s now hovering around 150 in the safe hands of her copy editor. While waiting for the birth of her book-baby (she was so excited reviewing page layouts that her husband said ‘this is like the ultrasound of your book’) Gabby has been working back at it, promoting St. John’s, and beyond, restaurants.

“Writing food, especially as a critic, since we’re so few and far between now in Canada, I very much revere that position and take it heavily, and ensuring I’m promoting the city, I think St. John’s is phenomenal for a food scene.”

Gabby Peyton
Gabby Peyton
Photo c/o Alex Stead

Never one to sensationalize a sandwich, Gabby thrives on telling authentic stories and acknowledges the importance of ensuring her voice is at the forefront. “If someone who has never been to St. John’s versus someone like me who is from here, and the complexity of the dishes, and how the dish came together is a lot more to the story to have that context included. I want people to read and understand the restaurant instead of just ‘what’s good or bad’,” offers Gabby.

Giving that context so people can go beyond basic good-or-bad deepens our appreciation of food, particularly in this hard-to-grow part of the country. As Gabby wisely puts it, “we’re here to provide that context so Yelpers aren’t just dumping all over these restaurants.” We got work to do kittens.

Track Gabby’s summer food adventures over @gabbypeytoneats

Interview may be edited for length/clarity. Lead image by Libby Roach.