Back to Toronto just in time to catch the damp end of summer. Now I can put away my Ernie Whitt bat and T-shirt and look for my Dougie Gilmour pyjamas—the two sporting seasons fit together nicely with neither team making the playoffs. Sigh.
Shoving the bills off my desk, I had barely plugged in the laptop before the venticelli began crowding around my ears whispering news and gossip of all that had happened while I was away. David Chrystian left Joy Bistro to become chef at Chez Victor in Hotel Le Germain. Anthony Rose is cooking up a storm at The Drake. Jason Rosso has apparently worked wonders with the restaurants at the Distillery District. David Adjey is chef at Maro, a new nightspot on Liberty Street, and will also cook at a super-exclusive private club for visiting movie stars and millionaires, a place so super and so exclusive that no one knows its name or location. What was Bouchon is now Trevor’s Kitchen. David Lee’s fabulous breads are now available at Pusateri’s… And so on. Sheesh. You turn your back for a second.
While wondering what lead to follow first, I had a call from my old friend Goran Amnegard in Sweden. Many chefs will remember him as the guy who pioneered the idea of using First Nations foragers in Canada’s far north to gather wild mushrooms and berries for restaurant tables. He also set up a whitefish caviar plant in northern Manitoba. A few years ago he went back to Sweden and planted a vineyard called Blaxsta Vineyard (I believe it’s the third most northerly vineyard in the world). His wines have done brilliantly, the 2003 Vidal Icewine scoring a silver recently in Bordeaux, and he has also opened a small restaurant on his property where he cooks for private functions. A self-taught chef, his recipes are hugely inventive and now he’s about to cook a private dinner for the King of Sweden and the Canadian ambassador in Stockholm. I had hoped Goran might come back to Canada some day—I miss his energy and enterprise—but I guess he’s doing so well now that that will be unlikely. The rhubarb plant he gave me (brought to Canada from Scotland in 1865, he once told me) continues to thrive in my garden and I think of him whenever I harvest those firm pink stalks.
How does a chef or restaurateur know when he or she has acquired a certain status in the community? The phone starts to ring with people asking them to donate time and treasure, recipes and especially free dinners for eight to innumerable charitable causes. The requests come in daily and it goes on for years and years. I am continually amazed by the generosity of the restaurant industry and how readily people respond, jeopardizing what for many are fairly precarious profit margins. Almost all the causes are good ones, of course—none more than Bloorview Kids Rehab, the centre for children with disabilities. This month sees the launch of a fundraising calendar for Bloorview. It’s called Recipes for Possibility and is the brainchild of Yannick Bigourdan, co-owner of Splendido. Each page features a recipe from a top Toronto chef (all the usual suspects) tested by Lucy Waverman and with gorgeous photography by Per Kristiansen. The calendar is on sale at Loblaws stores and you can find out more about it and about Bloorview Kids Rehab at the project’s web site. Kudos to all 13 contributing chefs and especially to Bigourdan for making it happen.