Jovanni Sy will cook a traditional Filipino dish as a metaphor for colonialism and imperialism in Asia in A Taste of Empire. Photo by Keith Barker.
Jovanni Sy will cook a traditional Filipino dish as a metaphor for colonialism and imperialism in Asia in A Taste of Empire. Photo by Keith Barker.

Writer, performer and Artistic Director for Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, Jovanni Sy will take to the kitchens of Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market to cook a traditional Filipino dish in A Taste of Empire, the latest in the Boca del Lupo Micro Performance Series.

While the ethnically Chinese Sy was born in Manila and left the country when he was a baby, he still maintains an affinity for the island nation.

“I have lots of relatives in the Philippines and the history of the country has already been fascinating to me,” he says. “I’m a bit of a history buff too and am fascinated by colonialism and imperialism.”

That fascination plays well into the dish that Sy will cook live before an audience each night.

“Rellenong Bangus is a signature Filipino dish, but none of the tastes are particularly Asian,” explains Sy.  “It has a very heavy Spanish influence and is a perfect metaphor for the colonization of Asia where you scoop out the insides, use European seasonings and then you stuff it all back in.”

A time-consuming dish because of the intricacies required in preparing it, the fish dish is one that is traditionally served for special occasions in the Philippines. It is also one that Sy only tackles when doing this particular show, which he originally performed at Toronto’s Cahoots Theatre in 2010.

A self-described “very enthusiastic amateur” chef, Sy says he has always thought the preparation of food a very theatrical undertaking. “Watching a sushi chef at work or a chef at work in a Teppanyaki restaurant is like performance art. Food can also tell a story with its history, the political ramification of what we are going to eat and what we choose to consume.”

And while Sy admits that things do indeed get a little political with his exploration of Asian colonialism and imperialism in A Taste of Empire, he is quick to point out there is a playfulness that runs through the performance as well.

“It’s not the world’s easiest dish to prepare and it has lots of show biz value,” he says, “It is definitely not like anything you might have seen before.”

Of course judgement of Sy’s ultimate dinner theatre won’t come solely from theatre critics, as audiences will also get to sample his food at the end of each night.  Allez Cuisine!

A Taste of Empire plays at the Courtyard of the Granville Island Public Market (1689 Johnson St) May 22-25. Visit http://bocadellupo.com for tickets and information.