We stopped by for a sneak peek of Bestellen, the College Street work-in-progress of Top Chef Canada runner-up Rob Rossi

We stopped by for a sneak peek of Bestellen, the College Street work-in-progress of Top Chef Canada runner-up Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi and Ryan Sarfeld outside the convenience store they’re turning into Bestellen

When Top Chef Canada contestant Rob Rossi quit his job as Mercatto’s head chef for “new and exciting adventures,” many assumed he’d won the competition. He hadn’t—Vancouver’s Dale MacKay beat him out in a close finale. Now, the runner-up and his business partner Ryan Sarfeld are in the throes of preparing their new College Street restaurant, Bestellen (German for  “to order”), for a mid-November opening. We stopped by to check out their progress with the space, just a few blocks west of Rossi’s Top Chef Canada buddy Dustin Gallagher’s kitchen at Grace.

“We’re not going to be a German restaurant,” Sarfeld told us emphatically. “There are so many restaurants opening with names that force them cook a certain type of cuisine—we didn’t want that. The name just works, and it’s got ‘best’ right in it.” The two Mercatto alums (Sarfeld was the College Street location’s manager) are trying to cultivate a family-friendly European tavern vibe, with some mix of Italian, German and French cuisine. While Rossi was a little elusive about exact plans for the menu, one thing’s for sure: there’ll be plenty of meat. Rossi has built a custom meat hanger, the restaurant’s focal point, which will display aging beef to the glee of carnivores and the horror of vegetarians. (Top Chef Canada alum Connie DeSousa stopped by the other week and, of course, fell in love with the meat locker centrepiece.) One dish that will definitely be on the menu: a full roast suckling pig served family style. Rossi expects the mains to end up in the $22 to $26 range.

The space, a former convenience store, still needs a lot of love. They duo ripped out the drop ceiling to claim an extra few feet of height and ripped down the drywall to expose the brick. The floors—old terrazzo, like those you might find in an old school or mall—are, luckily, uncracked and only need a quick polish. Once the space is complete, it’ll be furnished with oak church pews from Smash, reupholstered red chairs that used to belong to U of T and vintage American bistro tables from the 1960s with oak tabletops and iron bases.

Following Rossi’s departure from Mercatto, his fellow cheftestants Steve Gonzales and Andrea Nicholson announced they’d be leaving their gigs at Origin and Great Cooks on Eight, respectively, too. We’re eager to see how all these Top Chef Canada class of 2011 ventures fare.

Bestellen, 972 College St.