Six things we learned from the Globe’s feature on Grant van Gameren, Enoteca Sociale’s new executive chef

Six things we learned from the Globe’s feature on Grant van Gameren, Enoteca Sociale’s new executive chef

Last month we reported that Grant van Gameren, formerly of The Black Hoof, was working the stoves at Lucien (although the arrangement turned out to be more of a consulting gig). In a feature in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Chris Nuttall-Smith reveals van Gameren’s found a permanent home: Enoteca Sociale, the west-end Italian restaurant where he’s been named executive chef (Matthew DeMille was hired as the chef de cuisine there in July). He’s also working on a “Grant restaurant” (i.e. his own place) with Max Rimaldi, co-owner of Enoteca and sister restaurant Pizzeria Libretto; that project is probably a year away from opening. After the jump, six things we learned about Grant van Gameren, The Black Hoof and the chef’s new plans.

1. He isn’t all about the meat
While van Gameren made his name serving up sweetbreads and tongue, it seems he often felt tied down by carnivore cuisine. His seasonal veggie dishes sold poorly at the Hoof, but he feels confident about his future ventures. “We’ve seen enough meat,” he told the Globe. “It will always be around, but working in a restaurant that’s not all offal, it’s great to see the balance of what you can do.”

2. Gameren and Agg weren’t bosom buddies
Although they were often portrayed as besties, the Globe explains that van Gameren and his business partner Jen Agg “weren’t friends.” Tensions arose when Agg allegedly pushed for a faster launch of The Hoof Café. While she (probably wisely) declined to discuss her view of the relationship, van Gameren had plenty to say: “She had always been the person who was communicating and I was always the person with the shut mouth… I would kind of lock down and not open up.”

3. He’s planning his grand tour
While van Gameren has apparently only been on a plane four times in his life, that’s about to change. Soon he’ll expand his culinary repertoire with trips to New York and Rome as research for his new restaurant. “This guy is ridiculously talented,” said Rimaldi. “But what’s going to happen if he spends a week or two in Rome? He’s going to come back and be a creative monster.”

4. He’s really shy—yet assertive
The article probes into van Gameren’s sometimes-retiring personality: apparently, he rarely makes eye contact with customers, “terrified of seeing someone react badly to his food,” and likes to stay out of the public eye. Still, he’s not afraid to speak his mind with fellow chefs: “He’ll say to me, ‘This dish here, you know, it sucks,’” Rimaldi told The Globe. “‘What are you thinking, allowing your guys to put that on the menu?’ And okay, whoa, it hurt my feelings, but he’s really woken me up to where I want to take this company.”

5. Like every chef ever, he has his eyes on New York
While Gameren says he loves Toronto and doesn’t plan to leave, he admitted there’s something alluring about opening a restaurant in NYC. “Maybe New York’s like how I opened The Black Hoof… No one knows you and, you know, nobody’s got any expectations there about me.”

6. He’s a closet minimalist
Speaking about his ideas for his own restaurant, he said, “I almost feel like the restaurant shouldn’t have a name. I want to essentially strip the restaurant of all things that lock it into what it’s going to be, or what style of food it serves or what its focus is going to be on.”

Chef Grant Van Gameren is losing his reservations—and it feels great [The Globe and Mail]

(Image: Renée Suen from the Flickr pool)