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Cooking up a new direction in life

Ken Armstrong, aka Unkle Teddybear, has taken his culinary skills to an online platform, in keeping with the situation. [Damon Maclean]

After 20 years in IT, Ken Armstrong decided he needed a change in his life. Along with moving back to Elmira three years ago, he switched from digital to a decidedly analog career: cooking.

Not, of course, that there isn’t some technology involved, as he’s taken his passion online, too, something that’s in keeping with the times just now.

The big change stemmed from something of a feeling of dread in his life.

“The last job I had spent nine years at the company, and it was getting to that point where it got very monotonous – it was going nowhere, fast. A lot of things started changing, and it got to the point where I knew it was time for a change. I decided to resign from the job, and that’s when I got back into cooking,” he explained.

Armstrong began to build a small following around YouTube videos he made even before returning to culinary school. Most of his fan base and family know him by the name Unkle Teddybear a name that Armstrong has had for the past 15 years.

“I actually got the name from my nieces and nephews. I really embraced it even though I am the guy, and you’d look at me and think that I’m a biker – I have a shaved head, long goatee, piercing, tattoos and things like that – if you didn’t know me.”

One of Armstrong’s friends also embraced the name and made him a shirt that says Unkle Teddybear on it: a Care Bear with a punisher skull on it.

The name carried on through his time at Liaison College in Kitchener, a culinary course he wrapped up last December.

Following the completion of his program, Armstong describes the new journey as a funny story. “I was trying to get into the Petro-Canada here in town where there used to be a shawarma place.”

Armstrong’s goal was to open an East Coast donair takeout spot.

“My family is from the East Coast, so we know quite a bit about that type of food,” Armstrong said, noting he wanted to go back to his roots and run a traditional  fast food operation. “In this area … there is a big East Coast population. With the summer coming, we have the campgrounds around town – they were going to be open, and then all of a sudden the world went to hell.”

Since the novel coronavirus interrupted Armstrong’s plan, he’s become more active online, making even more YouTube videos.

“I’ve been basically trying to build up my base on YouTube. Instagram has been blowing up like fireworks. As we speak, I am presently editing five videos.”

Armstrong usually makes one video each week, but he’s doubled that output.

In addition to his YouTube videos, Armstrong intends to create a podcast that focuses on the culinary world. His group will examine food trends, such as the recent popularity of food trucks and diets. The other two hosts are classmates from Armstrong’s college, though they’ve yet to work out the details.

At the heart of his activities is cooking, a passion he says means the world to him.

“Cooking makes me feel great, especially when I make something and I take it to people, whether it be my wife or the people she works with, and they take a bite of it, and they have that look on their face where it’s ‘Oh my God, what did I just eat?’ But it’s a good look. I love that look on people’s faces.”

Among his favourite recipes are  meals or treats that his friends haven’t had since childhood. His favourite dish to make is cheesecake.

To discover Unkle Teddy Bears tutorial-style cooking and baking videos, as well as links to his blogs and other social media accounts, visit his website.

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