Q&A: Chef Antonio Park of Pick 6ix, the new Drake-affiliated restaurant
Last Monday, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James hosted a birthday party for his teammate Dwyane Wade at Pick 6ix, the new Drake-affiliated, not-yet-open restaurant, at Yonge and Wellington. While details (including an official opening date) remain scarce, we can tell you that Pick 6ix will be an upscale sports bar and that the chef is Montreal’s Antonio Park, who tells Toronto Life about working with Drizzy, the VVIP room (that second V is not a typo) and why there will be no chicken wings on his menu.
According to a press release, the co-founders of Pick 6ix are yourself and Nessell “Chubbs” Beezer, Drake’s head of security. So how is Drake involved?
I am a partner—the chef partner—and the other partners are part of OVO, Drake’s group. They all have one brand in common, and that brand is Drake, so no matter what happens, they all have to work together to protect him. The way that Drake works is similar to how I work—not alone, but as a team.
How did you all come together?
Chubbs and I have mutual friends. We’ve been having a conversation about this idea for a very long time, so I was involved from the beginning.
What can you tell us about Pick 6ix?
It’s a high-end restaurant that’s also a sports bar. The only difference is that we won’t be serving chicken wings, pizza—all the food that’s usually affiliated with sports bars. I’ve always thought it isn’t right that sports bars serve fast food. People go to sports bars because they want to watch sports, not kill themselves by eating junk food. Healthy food makes a huge difference in life—you are what you eat, after all. If you eat stuff like McDonald’s every day, you’ll feel like shit.
So if not chicken wings, what kind of nosh are we talking?
There’s a lot of variety. We have sushi, but not just sushi. It’s combined with some South American flavours, so maybe some ceviche sashimi. But I’m not here to make fusion dishes—no, no, no.
What’s the distinction between fusion and what you are doing?
The distinction is that with fusion, you don’t have to understand the culture. These are the cultures that I grew up in—I grew up in South America, my background is Korean, I trained in Japan and Canada. If I know how to make a perfect South American chimichurri, that’s because I grew up with those flavours. And being able to combine those flavours with my 25 years of experience with Japanese cuisine, well, that’s not fusion any more, that’s very personalized food.
What sort of input did Drake have on the menu?
The first thing I did when I started this process was give him a list of questions: what he likes to eat, what cities he likes to eat in, what is favourite meal is. I wanted him to be more than just an affiliated name. Drake’s influence is more about how the restaurant feels. He wants to have a place that feels like home. He is a big fan of Sotto Sotto, and the reason why is because he feels at home there. It doesn’t matter what time it is. He can go in at midnight and the kitchen is closed, but they’ll still cook something for him. It’s like when you go home and your mom is resting, maybe watching TV, but when she sees you come in, she cooks for you. What do you do as mom? You cook for your son.
In this analogy, you are the mom. So will you be there to cook for Drake at all hours?
Ha! I might not be there, but my team will certainly be there and ready. I used to do that for PK Subban back when I first opened Park in Montreal. Park was more than a restaurant for him—it was his kitchen, his dining room. He ate there every day when he was in Montreal.
Rumour has it Pick 6ix has a secret entrance and a VIP room
We have three private rooms that will be great for private parties. Two of them can be combined to make one large room, and then there is one room in the back that is called the VVIP Room. That’s where Drake will probably be, and any time his friends come to town he’ll be able to invite them.
How hard will it be to get in that room?
Well, you won’t be able to get a reservation when Drake is there—when they boys are there, the boys are there. Otherwise anybody can reserve it.
What are the odds of spotting Drake at Pick 6ix?
He’s not going to come every day, but you never know! Drake is very consistent. He doesn’t like change too much.
Last week, there was a big party at Pick 6ix—a birthday party for Dwyane Wade hosted by LeBron James, and of course Drake was there. What can you tell us?
Haha! Ha! Oh my…
So, it was fun?
It was the boys getting together and enjoying the night. They hadn’t seen each other for a long time—Drake was coming from Australia where he was on tour. It was a very special time and a lot of fun. At the end of the day, a party is a party, right?
Well, not all parties have Drake on the guest list! How late did things go?
Not too late. I think everybody was gone by 3 a.m.
Were you a Drake fan before you went into business with him?
I love music, but I work so much I don’t usually have time to listen to it. What I like about Drake is that he’s a Canadian who is putting the Canadian brand out there. That’s very important. In terms of music, I love old school stuff. I can’t say exactly that I’m a big fan of Drake, but I’m a big fan of the R&B scene.
I think maybe it’s time to brush up on your Drizzy lyrics.
Yes. I’m probably going to start listening to his music more.