Jay Walker crosses the language barrier with TV show Resto Mundo on Zeste

This isn’t Jay Walker’s dream job. Nor are his other broadcasting gigs, hosting the weekly Montreal Rocks show on CHOM, or contributing to Global Montreal’s Morning News, or contributing music picks this summer to the Radio-Canada radio show Tandem. Nor is his actual day job, working as a real estate broker. Or his unpaid job of being a parent to three-year-old Emma Rose.

No, Jay Walker’s dream job is to be the next George Stroumboulopoulos. (Cool MuchMusic VJ George, not fired-from-Hockey-Night-in-Canada George.)

“I wanted to be on MuchMusic so bad,” he told me this week in an interview. He built a career designed to slowly move him toward that goal. He interned with CHOM when Andrew Carter and Steve Anthony were the morning men. He produced Expos games for The Team 990. He worked as a researcher on the TQS entertainment show Flash. And for the past six years he’s been hosting a show in one of the most ratings-unfriendly time slots (10pm to midnight on Sundays) in which he features Montreal artists on the radio.

But like the Expos and TQS, MuchMusic doesn’t exist anymore. The channel that replaced it, Much, has all but abandoned its focus on music, just as its French-language counterpart MusiquePlus has.

But Walker’s not complaining. He enjoys everything he does right now, including selling real estate, and he’s thrilled about his latest gig, hosting a new culinary lifestyle show on the TV channel Zeste.

Resto Mundo, which debuts Wednesday on the food channel owned by Groupe Serdy, could best be described as the reverse of a food travel show. Instead of heading to different countries and sampling their cuisine, he heads to local restaurants that feature people who have brought culinary culture from all over the world and promise an authentic experience.

Some of the nationalities are more common, like Brazilian, Portuguese and Japanese. Some are less so, like Tibetan, Senegalese and Afghan.

But while the food is all different, Walker says there are a lot more commonalities than differences.

“What I learned personally is that we are all truly the same. Every recipe starts with butter or oil, onion, garlic or ginger, and fresh ingredients.”

Each half-hour episode starts with an interview with the guest, talking about the food and the culture, and the particular dish being showcased. It’s about the food, but also about the person making it and the culture of where both come from.

“I’m not a chef, I’m in no way shape or form a culinary expert,” Walker warns. “For me it’s always about meeting and talking to the people.”

Talking might seem to be an issue for this anglophone who speaks quite well in French but with a slight anglo accent (sounding a little like Sugar Sammy in the process). Walker didn’t quite understand himself at first why he was picked. He said Olivier Tétreault, who directed the Guide Restos Voir show starring Walker’s wife, Anne-Marie Withenshaw, thought of Walker for this new project and proposed that he audition for it. He did, and was offered the job.

He still didn’t quite believe it. “I said ‘you know I’m an anglo right?’ He said ‘you’re the guy, I want you’.”

Walker happened to not have any real estate brokerage contracts, so he took advantage of the opportunity and shot 13 half-hour episodes.

Now he has to get people to watch. Which might be difficult for a show hosted by someone unfamiliar to francophone audiences on a channel not many people get.

Which is probably why even a post on some crappy media blog might help.

Resto Mundo airs Wednesdays at 6pm on Zeste starting Aug. 31.

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