Rumour has it Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world. What springs from this colourful mélange is a vibrant arts scene, unparalleled in its diversity.

Actor Jovanni Sy (whose family hails originally from the Philippines), workshopped a new piece that combines the modern TV cooking show concept with a lesson in European colonial history.

Actor Jovanni Sy

Sy is the artistic director of Cahoots Theatre Projects, a company dedicated to the production of new material that reflects Toronto and Canada's cultural mix.

In A Taste of Empire, Sy prepares a Filipino fish dish, Rellenong Bangus, for the audience. The performance took place in an actual demonstration kitchen.

While performing the act of gutting a fish and putting together the stuffing, sy provides anecdotes about the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. He also peppers the 1-hour play with side notes about the globalization of jobs and food production.

Jovanni Sy Pulls Off One Man Show (and Dinner!)

The entire creation is a sly conceit that largely works on several levels: it's entertaining as a new concept, Sy is particularly talented in having to prepare a dish in real time while also spouting a monologue and by the end of it, the play has touched upon real-life issues which are pressing in the world today.

Did you know 75% of our garlic comes from China? In fact, the same percentage of our onions also comes from that country.

Also, this so-called food crisis has been fueled by speculators and protective measures imposed by countries and not just a supposed shortage of oil.

A Taste of Empire is Playful and Illuminating

The play is saved by Sy's energetic performance. It's no mean feat to be the only person on a "stage" and having your audience stare you down.

There's also a bit of humour when Sy takes what's left of the fish, after it's been gutted, and makes it into a puppet to tell you where its been, what things its been eating and why it doesn't feel good.

Also, as the chef, Sy does tell us the origin of Rellenong Bangus – a stuffed fish which tells the story of the Filipines with its unusual European ingredients of potatoes, peas, carrots and raisins.

It is a rather fanciful story – made up for the purpose of the play – and makes you smile. I'd prefer not to give it away as Sy is hoping to mount an official version of the play in 2009.

All I can say is to tip my chef's hat to Sy, playwright Tara Beagan and director Guillermo Verdecchia for an illuminating and entertaining piece. I hope it returns in full form next year.

Up next week - a recipe for Rellenong Bangus. Other Filipino recipes include: Chow Mein Filipino Style, Filipino Christmas Rice Cakes and Cassava Cake.