Why Toronto’s top chefs will be serving comfort food well into summer
Comfort food staples usually disappear from menus around this time of year, but the city’s top toques are finding reason to serve the rich, wintry fare as temperatures rise. We spoke to three to find out what’s up.
Brendan Gooderham, one of the head chefs at Czehoski, said that his summer menu will include more raw produce and such warm-weather dishes as lavender and honey brûlée and a pig cooked on the restaurant’s rooftop, he’s likely to continue serving poutine and mac-and-cheese.
“They’re relatively cheap to produce, so we don’t have to charge a lot for them, which is what people want with the economy right now,” said Gooderham. “Perhaps when it gets warmer people are willing to spend a bit more on other dishes.”
The Chicago Tribune reported earlier this year that such familiar brands as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese are seeing higher profits not just because of lower prices but also because of the happy childhood memories they conjure. So it’s of little surprise that Corinna Mozo, owner-chef of Delux, told us that she has no plans to take the restaurant’s cheesy Cubano sandwich off the menu. “I think comfort foods are here to stay. In fact, they’re going to be even more popular,” she said. “Right now you still want to go out with your friends, but you don’t want to break the bank. You want something that’s satisfying and reminds you of better times.”
The Gladstone’s chef, Marc Breton, has created a menu that allows diners to customize their fries with more than a dozen fatty toppings, like bacon and five types of cheeses and, of course, the grilled cheese sandwich. “People aren’t interested in cooking at home, but their budget is reduced so places are serving more generous portions at reasonable prices. It’s more about value and comfort,” said Breton, whose favourite childhood meal is headcheese on toast. “People want better value and less of an esoteric return on their admission.”
But Breton believes that like all trends, something will inevitably replace the comfort food craze. “I think we’ll always go back to the small plates and the big productions. Like in fashion, it’s always come and go,” he said. “We’ll see better times in the future, when people will be more interested in dining out and more into the experience of going to the restaurant.”
But while no chef (or economist) knows exactly when that time will come, what’s certain is that greasy grub is here to stay for a while. “I love comfort food. It makes me happy and excited,” says Mozo. “You can still be creative, but I like the basics, and keeping it simple and homey. That’s what people will always want.”