Inside the kitchen of Charlie’s Burgers founder Franco Stalteri
Back in 2009, Franco Stalteri began hosting elaborate secret feasts with top chefs in unexpected locations—like an underground movie theatre in Chinatown. His Charlie’s Burger dinners have been headed by international culinary heavyweights (Fergus Henderson) and local heroes (Mark McEwan). When it comes to hosting at his own home, though, Stalteri doesn’t often put on Charlie’s Burger–level spreads, but he’s still a master of pomp. He’ll throw together a seafood tower or shuck a few dozen oysters to kick off a dinner party. “It makes a statement without that much work,” he says. In the summer months, dinner parties usually happen outside, under the grape arbor overlooking the vegetable garden.
When it comes to cooking for himself and his wife, Priya Shah, Stalteri tends to keep it pretty simple. They both have pretty hectic schedules: between Stalteri’s secret dinners and Shah’s work events (she’s the brand manager for Campari’s Italian portfolio), the couple seldom enjoys weeknight meals together. But when they do, Stalteri will make steak on the barbecue with greens from the garden, or a quick pasta.
He loves cooking in his renovated kitchen, with its firetruck-red Ikea cabinets (Shah’s idea). Eight years ago, when Stalteri bought this 1888-built Dufferin Grove home, the kitchen was particularly dysfunctional: it was tucked behind a wall making it claustrophobic, and the washing machine and dryer were housed under the counters. To accommodate the tall appliances, the counters were about five inches too high. Everything got nuked, including the offending wall.
“We don’t have kids, so we don’t stock more than we need. When my nephews come over and ask for juice I tell them they can have wine or water,” jokes Stalteri. When he does make time for shopping, he’ll hit up Fiesta Farms for veggies, and he trades CB wine for meat with The Butcher Shoppe’s Stacey Weisberg. For fish, he’ll trek out to Diana’s in Scarborough or pop over to Honest Weight in the Junction.
When it comes to specialty Italian items, Stalteri heads to Lady York—he says their vinegar selection is impressive. For cheese, Centro on St. Clair gets fabulous fresh-from-Italy burrata on Wednesdays, and it’s affordable. Speaking of cheese, Stalteri also visits his friend Afrim Pristine at the Cheese Boutique, but he always ends up leaving with far more than he intended to buy.
Here’s a look inside their pantry:
The oil in the decanter on the left comes from Siderno in Calabria, the town Stalteri’s dad hails from. They ship it in in five-gallon drums. Meanwhile, at the Charlie’s Burger offices they’re always tasting wines, and bottles often get left open. They’re now tossing extra wine into a wood barrel and turning it into vinegar (which is what fills the decanter on the right):
This 400-pound butcher’s block was a Craigslist score. It’s about 80 years old and was originally used for decades in a butcher shop at Yonge and Eglinton. It took Stalteri some serious elbow grease to sand and oil it back into shape:
This bread knife was once in an old French bakery. Stalteri bought it at a French market—he visits Normandy (where his mom is from) fairly often:
This wine rack is made from half of a riddling rack, used to ferment Champagne. Stalteri’s Champagne supplier (who makes his CB bubbly) sent it to him from France:
When people know you collect something, they tend to gift it to you. As a result, Stalteri has drawers of ugly cork screws, but he displays his prized bottle openers. Some of them have family history (there are a few from his Norman grandparents and great-grandparents), and others are flea market finds. There’s even one that’s 150 years old:
Stalteri fell in love with the story of this Hermes scarf, the design of which dates back to WWII. The CEO of Hermes at the time made it as a tongue-in-cheek insult to the Germans, then occupying Paris. All the fabulous French foodstuffs unavailable due to occupation are pictured on the scarf. Stalteri bought this 2010 re-issue for $500:
Stalteri has been collecting Michelin guides for almost 15 years; his oldest one dates back to 1932. Back when he used to work as a headhunter for restaurants, Stalteri would read them cover to cover to build up his restaurant knowledge:
And here are a few of his favourite cookbooks: