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Interview: TIFF’s Food on Film Programme Curator Theresa Scandiffio

March 8, 2013 | By More

Theresa Scandiffio - Food on Film Programme Curator, Photo Credit: George Pimentel, WireImage/Getty for TIFF

Food on Film, the TIFF Bell Lightbox subscription series returns, offering food-lovers an interactive platform to connect their culinary love with great cinema. The second season of Food on Film series brings together chefs, food experts and film lovers to enjoy the best of culinary cinema and conversation. Each month series host Annabelle Waugh, Food Director of Canadian Living magazine, will welcome a celebrated guest from the culinary world to discuss the intersections of cinema, culture and gastronomy. Food on Film screenings take place Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

We recently spoke with Theresa Scandiffio, Senior Manager of Adult Learning, TIFF Bell Lightbox, and TIFF’s Food on Film programme curator.

What goes into selecting the films?

Every stage of programming this series — from selecting the host to choosing the films and expert guests — focuses on creating a fun opportunity for our audience to explore the intersection of cinema, culture and gastronomy. Whether you are a fan of exposè-style documentaries, hit comedies, or Academy Award®-nominated dramas, this Food on Film lineup offers food lovers an exceptional and diverse group of films suitable for both mainstream audiences and cinephiles.

What is the importance of matching the speaker with the film?

The lineup offers audience members dynamic ways to understand how food is represented onscreen and, more broadly, in arts and culture. The interactive platform gives audiences the opportunity to be part of a conversation which explores how food intersects with cinema. Each film and guest pairing centres on a different culinary perspective which will drive the onstage discussion. For example, many people know James Oseland as the acclaimed Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine or as an expert judge for Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters. But before James became an internationally-renowned food expert, he also worked in the film industry for over a decade. When he takes the TIFF Bell Lightbox stage on March 13, James will incorporate his diverse experience as a travel writer and expert judge to examine Michael Winterbottom’s characterization of foodies in his hit comedy The Trip. Additional upcoming guests include high-profile chef David Chang, renowned food activist Anita Stewart, award-winning sommelier Aldo Sohm, and leading food scientist Kent Kirshenbaum.

What do you want people to take away, or learn, from the movies?

We strive for our audience members to discover new and engaging ways to connect their culinary love with great cinema. We love the idea of bringing foodies and cinephiles together in one cinema, watching films and joining the conversation with our expert guests and Food on Film host, Annabelle Waugh. Throughout the series, we are excited to present the audience with what we like to call the six phases of the food experience, taking them through topics such as the aesthetics of food styling and presentation, the process of choosing a restaurant to dine in, what goes on in a restaurant kitchen, the inspiration behind pairing the perfect wine with a dish, the politics of food, and the science behind creating extraordinary dishes.

What made you want to get into the film industry?

While in school, students tend to have access to all kinds of highly-skilled lecturers, professors and experts in any given field. I always wondered why the opportunity to access to these types of speakers seemed to diminish once students leave a certain programme or school. I wanted to work in an environment that, through onstage events (lectures, interviews, panel discussions) provides Torontonians with ongoing access to leading experts in all things related to cinema.

What was your first experience in the industry?

My first experience in the industry was as a teenager when I became aware of James Quandt’s programming for TIFF Cinematheque at Jackman Hall. His programming at TIFF Bell Lightbox continues to open my eyes to the complex history, as well as current trends, in filmmaking practices from around the world.

Do you find the industry rewarding?

Absolutely. I am so grateful to be a part of the arts community in Toronto and to be able to interact with, and learn from, so many Canadian and international experts in both the film industry and academia.

Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?

I have been fortunate to have a number of mentors over the years — advisors from school, as well as inspiring individuals who provide guidance for the programming and initiatives we do year-round at TIFF. They have all taught me the importance of trying to be a good colleague and community member — one who focuses on both paying it forward to emerging practitioners and students just starting out in the field, as well as paying respect and building on the work of those before us who work to foster film culture and community outreach.

Where did the idea to do this subscription series come from?

TIFF has always been dedicated to providing high-quality programming to its audience. With the creation of TIFF Bell Lightbox, we were able to expand our year-round offerings to include a number of subscription series (Science on Film, Books on Film, Food on Film) that provide audiences the opportunity to experience the arts with an engaging educational spin. TIFF’s subscription series are reflective of our commitment to foster an inclusive environment for anyone curious about ways film connects with literature, scientific discoveries and the culinary arts.

Where do you want to see this subscription series go in the future?

We are now in our second season and feel like we are just getting started in finding ways to provide the audience a premium cinematic experience. In the first season of our series, award-winning pastry chef, Jacquy Pfeiffer, brought the audience his macarons, jellies and caramels from his pastry school in Chicago. For this year’s final Food on Film event on June 19th, food scientist Kent Kirshenbaum will conduct an onstage demonstration on the principles of molecular gastronomy. There are so many incredible food films and local/global culinary experts doing really fascinating stuff with all things edible! Whether it is by giving away curated recipe cards, offering food samples or featuring live demonstrations, we are committed to delivering engaging and entertaining experiences to everyone who attends.

April 3, 2013 - Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), Photo Credit: PHOTOFEST

Upcoming guests and films include:

Chef Jason Bangerter will be carrying on the Luma tradition of a food & wine pairing for the TIFF Food on Film series. Chef Bangerter will be creating his own culinary interpretations inspired by the films in the series, and offering these creations for purchase exclusively at Luma.

Food on Film. Wednesdays (see dates above) at 6:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Follow TIFF Food on Film on Facebook and Twitter (#FoodOnFilm).

Single tickets are now available. $35 for adults, and $28 for students and seniors. To purchase, visit

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