A Q&A with Dr. Malak Abu Shakra, a TL Insider, on living her best life as a self-proclaimed food nerd
Toronto Life Insider is a membership club that gives you front-of-the-line access to the best experiences and offers in the city. With your membership, you get an upgraded subscription to Toronto Life that includes access to signature events (like a taco party with La Carnita), hands-on workshops (hello, cocktail-making classes from top bartenders), hard-to-get tables at some of city’s best restaurants (we’re looking at you, Momofuku Kōjin) and candid conversations between TL’s editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford and some of the city’s most interesting characters.
We chatted with TL Insider Dr. Malak Abu Shakra, a clinical psychologist, about her experience with the membership so far.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m of Palestinian origin but I’m Israeli born and raised. I came to Canada for graduate school and I got my PhD in Clinical Psychology from McGill. I came to Toronto for work and have been living here for a little over a year now. I work at a clinic in Oakville and at another in Yorkville. My expertise is treating adults and adolescents for their anger management and addiction issues, but I also work with clients experiencing anxiety, depression and other kinds of psychological difficulties.
How have you enjoyed living in Toronto?
I feel that I arrived here at the right time: I was here for the Raptors to win an NBA championship and the food scene is becoming incredible—it’s expanding in a really impressive way. I understand that five years ago or so, that was not necessarily the case.
Which neighbourhood do you live in?
I live in the King West area in the Entertainment District, so I’m right in the middle of everything. I’m close to great spots like Alo, Aloette and Buca. I also love Kiin—actually, Kiin’s co-owner and executive chef Nuit Regular is also a TL Insider member!
Besides those restaurants, what are some of your other favourite places to eat?
I like a lot of restaurants on Ossington and in Yorkville. I love Tanto—Tanto is easily one of my favourite spots in the city. I also love Bar Isabel, Bar Raval, Brothers Food and Wine and Alobar Yorkville.
For only being here just over a year, you’ve managed to cover a lot of ground!
I’m passionate about my work and food, in that order. Whenever I’m not working, I’m usually eating or cooking or baking or talking about food.
Why did you become a TL Insider?
Coming to Toronto, I didn’t know anybody and I pretty much knew nothing about the city. I wanted to learn about the city through a really great platform, and for me that was Toronto Life. As soon as I learned about TL Insider, I signed up.
I hear you’ve been to 17 events so far.
Oh, it’s so hard to say. I loved the TL Masterclass at Tanto. They taught us how to butcher and cook a duck, and then we got to eat it. And chef Julian is one of my favourite chefs in Toronto—he was incredibly tolerant of me, and let me go in the kitchen and help him with service. It was so great. I also loved the R&D Nights at Actinolite and Maison Selby. The kitchen party at Donna’s was great, too. Tanto’s R&D Night was one of my favourites, too. They had half a cow and used all of its parts over the course of the dinner. You have to stop me–I could go on.
You’re basically living your best life.
So, no regrets?
Not at all, it’s been great. I’m a self-described culinary geek, so I’m very curious about what goes on behind the scenes in kitchens: how a dish came to be created, what inspired it, the techniques involved in cooking it, the sourcing of the ingredients. For someone like me, TL Insider has offered exactly what I wanted—and perhaps even more than I expected.
Any upcoming events you’re looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to the R&D Night at Canoe. It’s such an iconic restaurant, and I think that the value for what’s offered is unbelievable.
Be like Malak and become a TL Insider today.