Enjoying R&D's pina colada bubble tea

Checking out MasterChef Canada’s Eric Chong and Alvin Leung’s new restaurant R&D

Enjoying R&D's pina colada bubble tea

Enjoying R&D’s pina colada bubble tea

Hip and modern, R&D Spadina, elevates Chinese cuisine and had me giddy with excitement. I was an avid MasterChef Canada fan, since first stumbling upon the show in my friend’s basement. The four of us picked our favourite home cooks from the first episode. I called it from the first episode: Eric Chong (no relation), the 22-year-old engineer grad, will win. My friends laughed at my confidence. Truthfully, I just wanted a 20-something-year-old to beat the older home cooks. When the finale announced Eric’s victory, I loved that I could follow a series – episode by episode – and actually visit the restaurant in Toronto (versus Hell’s Kitchen).

R&D is a collaboration between three Michelin-starred chef Alvin Leung and Eric Chong. This 85-seat, open-space restaurant can best be described as a non-pretentious version of Susur Lee’s Lee Restaurant on King. A graffiti mural of General Mao, throwback hip hop music and the staff wearing orange Home Depot-like aprons all created a laid-back vibe. After a long day of work my friend, Augusta, and I started off with drinks: The Piña Colada Bubble Tea and the Lychee Cactus Pear Juice. Both drinks had standout textures – especially the Piña Colada’s toasted coconut and tapioca pearls – which contrasted nicely and added a chewy and crunchy texture.

Shiitake Polenta Fries with Mushroom Ketchup

Shiitake Polenta Fries with Mushroom Ketchup

For appetizers, we tried the Little Dragon Buns with Spicy Sichuan Lamb and the Shiitake Polenta Fries with Mushroom Ketchup. Both arrived piping hot – the Little Dragon Buns freshly steamed. We could really taste the freshness of the lamb. We then split the Lobster Chow Mein with Wok-Fried Lobster and Shanghai Noodles  and the Salmon Belly with 5-Grain Healthy Rice and Bok Choy. While rice is often an overlooked side dish, the 5-grain rice stood out as really savoury. I loved the little details that really complement the dishes. The Lobster Chow Mein had chunks of lime that added a citrus flavour and the lobster itself was succulent and tender.

Lobster Chow Mein with wok-fried lobster and chiterra noodles

Lobster Chow Mein with wok-fried lobster and Shanghai noodles

Salmon Belly

Salmon Belly with five-grain healthy rice and bok choy

The only hiccup during the meal was when a server delivered our Lobster Chow Mein to the table beside us and we had to wait a while. (We overheard the server apologizing to that table, as they had ordered Eric’s Curry and unknowingly already eaten the Lobster Chow Mein.) With no passing mention to us, I’m pretty sure our server thought we were oblivious about the mix up. For dessert we indulged in the Banana Split with sour cherry, peanut butter and bitter chocolate and tamarind ice creams. Augusta enjoyed the sour cherry for its refreshing tartness. I enjoyed the peanut butter which, worked well with the macerated strawberries and coconut cream. The Crispy Smoked Milk with malted milk ice cream was also delicately soft and crispy. The highlight of the desserts were definitely the in-house made ice creams, a tribute to Eric’s MasterChef Canada finale winning dessert.

Banana Split

Banana Split with sour cherry, bitter chocolate and peanut butter ice creams; coconut whipped cream; and macerated strawberries (iPhone photo)

The food exceeded my expectations and was definitely an elevated take on Asian cuisine. Special shout-out to the Chef de Cuisine, Nelson Tsai (Auberge du Pommier, Trump Toronto), who is a fellow Queen’s University alumni. We will definitely be back to try other items on the menu. On our way out, one of the staff boldly said, “See you tomorrow!” It may not be just that soon, but I’m excited for our next visit. — For more information on R&D please visit: R&D  241 Spadina Avenue Toronto, ON (416) 586-1241 Twitter: @RDSpadina Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RDspadina Website: RDSpadina.com

CPRS Students 360 Degrees: All Things Connected networking event

One-on-one informational interviews aren’t for everyone – sometimes, the answer is speed networking.

On Wednesday, we sat experienced public relations professionals down for a 30-minute chat with six students. The results? Anecdotes, actionable advice and new connections. This past Wednesday, April 8th was the last CPRS student event of the year, 360 Degrees: All Things Connected. It’s been a fun year of helping to plan events for PR students and learning from my peers at school.

This year’s 360 Degrees networking event included tables with PR professionals from a variety of sectors: publicity; crisis communications and issues management; agency; not-for-profit; government; consumer and retail.


Table host: Robin Smith, Consultant, Hill+Knowlton Strategies 

Robin Smith, past CPRS Student of the Year Award recipient, provided a refreshing perspective on working at two agencies with different work cultures. At National, Robin suited up in corporate attire most days and worked in the technology practice. He explained his volunteering and networking within CPRS helped him land his account co-ordinator job right out of his postgraduate program.

Now at Hill+Knowlton, Robin consults on a handful of accounts – as many as seven. He paints the picture of the fast-paced agency world by saying he anticipates working 60 hours next week. Only three years into working, Robin was the youngest professional leading a table discussion, but provided a wealth of knowledge from his relatable and humble advice on starting off our careers.

Crisis communications and issues management

Table hosts: Blair Peberdy, Corporate Practice Associate, Weber Shandwick

James MacDonald, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, ORNGE 

These two individuals, Blair Peberdy and James MacDonald, probably faced the most heat of anyone when it comes to Toronto crises.

While ORNGE underwent major structural changes, including the firing and hiring of a new board, CEO and exec team, James MacDonald in his early career at ORNGE dealt with internal communications, change management and two major crises.

Blair Peberdy spoke on his 40 years of experience with Hydro, specifically how his team handled the 2013 Toronto ice storm. Handing us a printed deck of his PowerPoint slides afterwards, Blair impressed me with his preparedness. The report gave me a look at the resulting media coverage and change in public opinion of Toronto Hydro’s CEO, Anthony Haines.

Being in constant daily contact with then Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s teams were part and parcel of his duties. The municipal and provincial figureheads requested separate news conferences, and to that Blair explained, as a communications professional, you’re there to facilitate and arrange those requests.


Table host: Sandra Gregory, Communications Specialist, The Children’s Wish Foundation 

Sandra could be described as one with true perseverance and passion. Those are definitely qualities you need when you’re working with children and wearing many, many hats in not-for-profit communications. Her many responsibilities will make your head swim, especially when she explains all communications are written by herself from news releases to speeches to media training. My very first job when I was 16 was as a camp counsellor for four summers, so Sandra’s work impacting the lives of terminally-ill kids definitely spoke volumes to me.

Our table hosts generated great insightful from their experiences and hurdles. It was humbling to know the issues and challenges they’ve faced, and as junior practitioners we’re likely to experience.

Transforming public spaces: Ryerson Student Learning Centre (Photo essay)

There’s a first time for everything, and I’m excited the time has come for my first condo buy.

Everywhere we went this weekend, my realtor cautioned against buying a view that would later be obstructed by another condo. Weariness ensued when I thought about the growing number of condos that will define our skyline and public spaces.

Here’s a photo essay I submitted for my visual communications course last week that focuses on the positive transformation of public space with the innovative Ryerson Student Learning Centre:

The sight of Ryerson’s new student learning centre is beautifully arresting. The $112-million building shows how public spaces in our city can be transformed to accomodate our growing population. Constructed at Yonge and Gould Streets, the glass-lined building provides panoramic views of the city and a collaborative space for students and the general public to meet.

This modern architecture – an art piece in itself – replaces the iconic Sam the Record Man store. With multiple floors for group work and brainstorming, students from all across the GTA – the next generation – feel more inclined to stay on campus and in this creative space.


Facing Yonge Street, city builders saw this building as an opportunity to make Ryerson part of Toronto’s most famous street and elevate the look of the retail strip.

ryerson close up

Built by world-renowned architect teams, Zeidler Partnership Architects of Toronto and Snohetta of Oslo, the structure evokes a cutting-edge and global feel to our multi-cultural city.


The architecture celebrates natural light and open space. The glass walls on each level of the building invites the city in – instead of shutting it out.


Neither eyesore or energy waster, the glass building lets in the day’s sunshine. At least 50 per cent of the roof is a dedicated green roof.

The building exudes environmental sustainability, and transforms the former retail space into a centre with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification.


Our city is undergoing massive changes, but some are definitely for the better.

In the next two weeks, expect a video on transforming public spaces in the winter. I’m currently pulling together the interviews and the footage, but I’m excited for it to come together.

Ushering in the end of Reading Week with PodCamp Toronto 2015 #PRIntern

It’s official: My last Reading Week passed. That’s a pretty big milestone, considering I’ve had five Reading Weeks.

I had a phone interview with a PR agency over the break, and the HR specialist asked me how I was enjoying the week off, “Relaxing. Really relaxing,” I said, and quickly added, “With a few assignments caught up on and a great IABC event I’m volunteering at tonight.”

It’s definitely been a whirlwind of a journey completing my post-graduate PR diploma. I ran into half a dozen of my peers at the subway station this morning, and we were all equally reluctant to trudge in the frigid -30 weather. The end is near though.

Making the most out of Reading Week, I closed the week with PodCamp Toronto: Canada’s largest “un-conference”.

Networking, great conversations and genuine connections were the best part of this weekend. It was fun to meet other PR students from different programs like Seneca and Humber and recent grads – picking their brains on their experiences breaking into the industry. PodCamp Toronto’s volunteer co-ordinator, Samuel Dunsiger, was especially welcoming throughout the weekend!

What I like best about PodCamp is the diversity in sessions they offer from PR gurus like Martin Waxman to government officials talking about policy data.

You could definitely feel a sense of community. Some people knew each other by first names from past conferences.

As a PR student, the sessions I found most useful were those with unfamiliar subject matters like SEO marketing. To make the most of my time, I avoided the beginner social media and media relations sessions, in the hopes of immersing myself in completely new territory.

Packed into 50 minute sessions, these buzz words sparked my interest in possibly taking a SEO marketing course from George Brown. I’m also hoping to take the University of Toronto Certificate in Digital Strategy and Communications Management.

I’ll definitely look out for future PR or communications-related conferences in Toronto – definitely a weekend well spent!

The long road to finding a PR internship 2.0

Finding a PR internship in Toronto – a city laden with hundreds of PR students and grads – is challenging. This will be my third internship, but my first (and only) internship required for school credit.

Last summer, I tested out the waters with a PR internship at a Toronto-based lifestyle agency. The summer prior to that, I wore pencil skirts and dress pants in the grey-cubicle corporate world of marketing communications. I quickly realized the demanding, fast-paced agency world was for me.

At The Body Shop annul media event, August 2014.

At The Body Shop annual media event, August 2014.

Here’s a few tips to get started:

1. Volunteer: Volunteer with professional organizations like IABC and CPRS. Seek out other opportunities, not just those promoted by your school. I recently volunteered at the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards and the CPRS CEO Award of Excellence in PR luncheon, which was fun and a small time commitment. It’s also a great networking opportunity. (Side note: Networking means forming genuine connections with people and being interested in their work. It’s not about finding out asap whether they’re hiring… I’ve witnessed some fairly poor etiquette to not clarify that.)

2. Prepare your writing portfolio: Stand out from your peers by including professional work samples, if possible. For me that included social media and brand photography for clients like Garnier and Maybelline from my last PR internship. I also used articles from my days as a student journalist at the Queen’s Journal. Don’t forget to prepare a leave behind, which is a sample of your best works (read: not extensive, not everything) that you’ll leave with your interviewers.

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Queen's Journal feature on social media marketing for small businesses with infographic, article and photo by Jessica Chong.

Queen’s Journal feature on social media marketing for small businesses with infographic, article and photo by Jessica Chong.

3. Know what you want and don’t spread yourself too thin. Do you want corporate or agency? Arguably, getting a coveted agency internship is more difficult. If you’re applying to an agency, prepare yourself for a long wait because agencies can be last minute. They might lose a client (e.g. Target Canada) and have to rearrange their budgets. This time last year, I had agencies replying to my email applications in March or telling me to contact them back in March. (Side note: I secured my last PR internship in February – this time last year.)

4. Polish your LinkedIn profile: Take the time to pour over every word of your LinkedIn profile. Cut out the passive language. Shave off extraneous verbiage. Tailor your job descriptions to what prospective employers want to hear. I recently sat down for coffee with the PR manager of Ten Thousand Coffees, Jessica Dell’Aquila,  who told me I could better phrase my portfolio pieces in ways that articulated key audiences, strategies, tactics and results – rather than fulfilled or exceeded job responsibilities.

Now’s also the time to reach out to past employers and ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation. LinkedIn profiles with recommendations tend to receive more views.

5. Stay social on Twitter. Boost your social activity on Twitter. If you’re not the type to be too active on Twitter, try dedicating some time once a week to crafting some tweets and scheduling them using TweetDeck. However, still remain active everyday during this crucial hiring period and engage with prospective employers. You’ll learn about current trends and conversations you can later use as part of your industry arsenal.

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An open invitation to “More Than Just a Brew”, a coffee tasting charity event #CCPR #Toronto

Final logo

Seven courses, a ton of additional group work and a part-time job can keep you busy.

What I’m most excited for is a charity event I’m planning for my events management course. Teamed with five other public relations students, I’m hosting a coffee & tea tasting charity event at Aroma Espresso Bar downtown Toronto on Nov. 17 from 7:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m.

All proceeds will go towards national not-for-profit Evergreen and help the local community address urban environmental issues.

I encourage you to save the date! It’s going to be a fun time and space is limited. The entrance fee will be $10 and will include samples of drip coffee, espresso, etc. as well as a selection of organic pluck tea. The night will feature coffee and tea samples, live entertainment, raffles, ‘green’ artwork and activities that highlight sustainable uses for coffee (such as beauty and gardening purposes). You’ll also have the opportunity to purchase full-sized artisanal coffee drinks like Aroma’s signature Affogato – basically a caffeinated ice-cream sundae.

We’re eager fundraise for Evergreen and to raise awareness on local projects that can have a significant community impact such as revitalizing green spaces for schools and daycares.

Invites will be sent out soon, but all are most definitely welcome! If you’re a young professional looking to meet aspiring communicators or are just looking for a fun time to learn about sustainability and the environment, I recommend checking out this event.

Please feel free to contact me at MoreThanJustABrew@gmail.com if you’d like to be added to our invitation list or have any questions or concerns.

Three differences between PR school and a PR internship

I’ve been getting used to the long, tiring hours in my public relations program and observed several similarities and slight differences between the two.

I’ve also just started a new job at Kate Spade and am now part of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) executive steering committee – it’s going to be a busy year!

Here are a few things that I’ve noticed are different from being a public relations intern versus being a public relations student:

1) Both PR school and an internship are stressful and involve strict deadlines and timeliness. When you’re working at an agency, the client’s needs always need to be met. Similarly, in my program my instructors stress classes need to be treated like business meetings. Some of my instructors say that they won’t let students in late to a classroom because you simply wouldn’t be late to a client’s meeting.

Instilling the importance of being prompt and punctual are essential qualities in this industry. I’ve started arriving to class 15-20 minutes early now.

2) Group work is inevitable and challenging at times. Coming from an agency where brainstorm sessions were common and working in teams definitely helped me assess group dynamics and personalities. My program consists of 35 students. After only 6 weeks, we’ve had about 5 group projects and while it may be frustrating at times when your peers have different ideas, these resolution skills will be invaluable later on in the workplace.

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At the end of the day, the instructor or our supervisor at the agency would see the group result so it doesn’t matter what the individual ideas are, but the end vision.

3) Get ready for the reality of long working days. In my PR program, we’re enrolled in seven courses. On Wednesdays we’re on campus from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (add an extra three hours for commute time). Similarly, this summer I realized my supervisors often had 9 a.m. to 7 p.m days. When special events required more attention, their days were even longer. At the Maybelline annual trends event, interns were there from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. It was gruelling, but our first exposure interacting and liaising with top-tier media.

Long working hours aren’t for everyone, but it’s a reality of this industry. In corporate communications, stable 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours are more common.

I had the chance to meet the owner of Toronto-based boutique agency Overcat Communications the other month ago, and she provided some solid advice about the realities of her job demands:

“It’s not a nine to five job at all. I think it’s not even a nine to seven job. You have to be prepared if you’re entering this industry to sort of always be available,” Audrey Hyams Romoff, founder of Overcat Communications.


I’ll definitely be looking out for more similarities and differences as this program progresses. I’m super excited to start working at Kate Spade and building a clientele base there as well.

Keep styling,


Review: The Body Shop Body Sorbets


This review is dedicated to one of the most refreshing ways to moisturize this summer: The Body Shop Body Sorbets. These scented moisturizers come in five delicious scents (Strawberry, Moringa, Mango, Pink Grapefruit and Satsuma).

Like most The Body Shop products, the formula contains 100% organic Community Fair Trade aloe vera from Guatemala, which is quick absorbing for any girl on the go. For extra-intense refreshment and an added “cooling” effect, I’d recommend storing your body sorbet in the fridge.

body sorbet2 closeup2 close up

The Body Shop Satsuma Body Sorbet and The Body Shop Moringa Body Sorbet, $15 CAD, is definitely a much needed hydration boost. The gel-like texture is light and suitable for the summer months. And, it looks almost like frosting.

While The Body Shop claims their body sorbets will “melt” in your skin, I definitely agree these are easy to apply. Best of all, they don’t leave a sticky residue feeling.

body butter

The Body Shop Body Sorbets are a lot lighter and different in texture than their body butter, which is a personal favourite of mine. Apples and oranges really. They both deliver amazing, appetizing scents and moisture. I’d likely use a body butter for the harsher winter months, but the body sorbets are perfect for summer.

Have you tried The Body Shop’s Body Sorbets?  Did you find The Body Shop Body Sorbets provide up to 24 hours of hydration? 

Note: Views are completely my own. I did not purchase these products. 

© 2014 ToStyleWithGrace (tostylewithgrace.com) 

Summerlicious Review: EPIC Restaurant at the Fairmont Royal York

It’s been only one day and I’m already back at another Summerlicious restaurant. This time I found myself at EPIC restaurant at the Fairmont Royal York.

While this is my fourth Summerlicious outing this summer, I’m still enjoying that thrill of trying a new restaurant in the city. I had doubts that another Summerlicious experience could top last night’s Nota Bene however.

In all honesty, there have been mixed reviews online, which surfaced some doubt about my restaurant of choice. However, my friend, who dined with me last night at Nota Bene, added that she’s been to EPIC restaurant 7-8 times since January. Trusting my friend’s judgment, I found myself ready to take on EPIC.

exterior2 fairmont exterior Menu

With a gorgeous and lavish exterior and interior, the aesthetics of the hotel sets up any restaurant goer for an opulent experience.

We started our meals off by ordering the Ontario “Farm Fresh” Composition with Sleger Greens, Pickled Red Huckleberries, Seabuckthorn Berries, Monforte Chevre, Candied Walnuts, Roast Shallot & White Balsamic Vinaigrette and the Royal York Seafood Chowder with Maritime Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp and Fine Herbs.

The chowder was a serious contender for best appetizer this Summerlicious with very pronounced and crafted flavours that blended well in a rich broth.

seafood chowder



Our server offered us a sampling of the chilled watermelon soup, which was both refreshing and cleansing for our palettes.

While waiting for our entrees, we noticed that the restaurant manager seemed very attentive to tables, approaching guests and inquiring personally about their experience. Such attentiveness definitely does not go unappreciated.


Chilled watermelon



honey beer steak

I paired their award-winning Fairmont Royal York Honey Beer – infused with honey from their rooftop garden – with a succulent Pan- Seared Certified Angus Top Sirloin with Smoked Pomme Puree, Seasonal Vegetables, Marrow and Sherry Jus.

The sirloin was tender and cooked to perfection. Both the plating and vibrant colours of the crisp vegetables should also be commended. This was a really satisfying sirloin, competing against last night’s Nota Bene peppercorn-crusted sirloin.


To tide ourselves over, we ordered some much-needed caffeine. The presentation of the latte, however, was underwhelming. I was expecting EPIC to serve their latte in a standard tall glass.

The dessert – which followed soon after – made up for this shortcoming.

tart2 tart1 chocolate cake cheesecake2 cheesecake

In order, we have a Canadian Sugar Tarts with Maple Anglaise, Chocolate Flourless Cake with Raspberry Sauce and Blueberry Cheesecake with Seasonal Berries.

Cheesecake has always won my heart over and this time was no exception. The tart flavour of the blueberry complimented the creamy texture of the cheesecake.

One small misgiving though is that the  menu states tarts – plural – but one tart was served. The tart, however, was a generously large one and laden with guilt-ridden sweetness. I especially loved all the minute details that added to this dish: the mini-pot holding the Maple Anglaise was made of chocolate and so was the straw. The plating was delicate and beautiful.

The chocolate cake was very smooth and the tart raspberries add a sweet tanginess to this mousse-like dessert. Together this classic duo was decadent and delightful.

This trio of desserts were the perfect sweet end to a night of great dishes. We left incredibly satisfied with the quality and presentation of the food. I’d frequent EPIC restaurant at the Fairmont Royal York in a heartbeat.

Summerlicious Review: Nota Bene on Queen West

Summerlicious is easily one of my favourite times of the year.

Done correctly, Summerlicious showcases an enticing glimpse of a restaurant’s offerings and teases those to come back to experience more culinary tastes. This has been my third (and not last) time participating in Summerlicious this summer. I know, right?

Nota Bene has always been on my list of restaurants to try, mostly because of its sleek and clean design and for the reputation of its executive chef David Lee.

For appetizers I ordered the Oceanwise Abacore Tuna Sashimi with citrus soya, ginger, coriander, and bonito flake. My friend had the pulled braised goat with black beans, pico de gallo, and goat cheese espuma.

The flavours and freshness of the tuna sashimi really came through. The plating also needs to be commended. Those bright hints of colours really epitomize Summerlicious.

Braised Goat app

Tuna Sashimi

tuna sashimi3

For entrées, we both ordered the peppercorn-crusted New York Striploin with Parmigiano and Rosemary Frites. Both main and side were cooked to perfection.


Dessert was definitely a much anticipated event. The pièce de résistance was definitely the Hot Sugared Doughnut with vanilla ice cream and wild blueberries. My friend ordered the Black Cherry Sundae with chocolate chip cookie ice cream.

If stuck between the options, the doughnut will prove to be a heartier sweet finish. I could really taste the freshness of the blueberries in the sauce and the doughnut was heavenly, being airy and light. The presentation of the sundae paled in comparison, and I opted to omit the photo for that reason.


Nota Bene definitely met my expectations when it came to fresh, seasonal Canadian cuisine. Nothing gets more Canadian than a doughnut! Nota Bene is a contender for an elevated take on contemporary Canadian dishes.

Summerlicious is all about trying new restaurants and sampling their menus. I’d recommend Nota Bene in a heart beat.

PS. This post is dedicated to my lovely friend Kate who was gracious enough to pay for my meal. You are ah-mazing!