This is how Toronto is remembering John Bil, restaurateur and fishmonger extraordinaire
John Bil, the influential Toronto restaurateur who was as renowned for his skill with an oyster knife as the peripatetic lifestyle that saw him open restaurants here and in Montreal, New York and Prince Edward Island, died last night, according to friend and restaurateur Fred Morin. He had been diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.
During the course of last night we lost a monument of a friend, husband, shucker and all around great dude.
May you Rest In Peace my friend John Bil pic.twitter.com/TlX8s53SR2
— Fred morin (@fredmadeit) January 24, 2018
In addition to the restaurant Honest Weight in the Junction, Bil helped open Montreal’s Joe Beef, New York’s M. Wells Steakhouse and Ship to Shore on Malpeque Bay. Along with Morin, he also brought to life the Le Pavillon, an incredibly ambitious pop-up restaurant in the Hearn Generating Station’s control centre during the 2016 Luminato Festival.
Bil was also an advocate for sustainable seafood, and a self-taught oysterman who had farmed, exported, imported and shucked countless bivalves.
“I failed high school—I’ve never had any training in anything,” Bil told Toronto Life in 2015. “I just have to work hard. Some people aren’t into that, and that’s cool.”
Here’s how Bil’s friends, acquaintances, customers and food writers are remembering him:
So sorry to hear that John Bil @keeponshucking passed away last night. He was at home w loved ones. He lived his life w such joy and inspiration.
— Chris Nuttall-Smith (@cnutsmith) January 24, 2018
.@keeponshucking taught me so much about seafood and has done so much to improve the city’s culinary rep, from ingredients to plates to well-being of staff. Keep on shuckin’, man. https://t.co/tQdCuh3edo
— Karon Liu (@karonliu) January 24, 2018
We were so lucky to have him. The kindest, a diamond of a man. So sorry for your loss Fred, I know you were closer than brothers https://t.co/X2g6gxR5dq
— Jen Agg (@TheBlackHoof) January 24, 2018
John was a champion for better food in this city, single-handedly influencing many top chefs and restaurants. Humble. Incredibly Generous. Truly one of a kind. I will miss him dearly. https://t.co/c7MrTfEIA7
— Suresh Doss (@Suresh) January 24, 2018
— Sam Sifton (@SamSifton) January 24, 2018
I once saw John Bil whip a karaoke bar filled with Alabamans into a frenzy singing "Sweet Home Alabama," I'm pretty sure while seeing the lyrics for the first time.
That's one hell of a Canadian. https://t.co/hXCvMClgTG
— Brett Martin (@brettmartin) January 24, 2018
John Bil and I opened a great restaurant together in Canada no one thought it could work except him. He was stubborn and smart he never gave up He could drink like a fish and eat like a bear. He could care less what you thought of him. Rest easy Chef. Save me a spot at the bar. pic.twitter.com/VmQwToHaez
— Carl Ruiz (@carlruiz) January 24, 2018
We lost a great one last night. John Bil was a gracious, generous and honorable man. He lived a life of integrity and showed immense bravery in the face of a terrible illness. He was loved and will be missed.
— Chris Johns (@ChrisandVinegar) January 24, 2018
— Forno Cultura (@fornocultura) January 24, 2018
His delicious food was the centre of so many of our celebrations – babies coming safely into the world, anniversaries, random days that felt special. He will be missed. @honest_weight https://t.co/bIFhgHAcWi
— Lindsay Zier-Vogel (@lindsayzv) January 24, 2018
— adamhess (@adamhess) January 24, 2018
Fuck cancer forever. Thinking of everyone who loved him. John Bil lives in the memories of anyone who got to eat at HW when he was there. He touched us all with his uncompromising talent and vision. https://t.co/19DyNlbJYO
— Lauren Simmons #aquariusszn (@laurendorphin) January 24, 2018
John Bil was a solid dude and always greeted us with a smile and some knowledge whenever we went to Honest Weight. Keep on shucking, John.
— name cannot be blank (@momjeansmami) January 24, 2018
Very sad news. John Bil was easily one of the friendliest people I've met. https://t.co/qKraTC2zIE
— David Ort (@ortdavid) January 24, 2018
So so so sad to hear of John Bil's passing. He's done so much to advance the conversation on sustainable seafood in Canada (& beyond). @karonliu's wonderful piece, from July, is a tougher read today. https://t.co/Yv64iLTI7o
— Rebecca Tucker (@RebeccaTee) January 24, 2018
rip John Bil. Toronto is much less.
— YMX_A (@wkbdyb) January 24, 2018
extremely saddened and heartbroken to learn that the world has lost the remarkable John Bil, who forever changed the way we should look at seafood and our relationship to the ocean. Rest in peace.
— Helen Hollyman (@HHOLLYMAN) January 24, 2018
Heartbroken to hear that the legendary John Bil has passed. He will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/bsPkIPERiI
— MUNCHIES (@munchies) January 24, 2018
— Yvonne Tsui (@life_of_Y) January 24, 2018