We ask the top chefs at Toronto Taste what’s in store at George, Splendido, Scaramouche and the rest of the city’s hot restaurants

We ask the top chefs at Toronto Taste what’s in store at George, Splendido, Scaramouche and the rest of the city’s hot restaurants

This past Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of Toronto Taste, the annual event that unites Toronto’s food lovers and food makers for a day of innovative cooking, tasking and fundraising for Second Harvest. 60 of Toronto’s top chefs—including Jason Bangerter, Donna Dooher, Chris McDonald, Mark McEwan, Anthony Walsh and Anne Yarymowich—doled out top-notch cuisine to an estimated 1,600 guests at the ROM. We caught up with the chefs and asked them what’s in store for them and their restaurants this summer.

For each guest that stopped at their station, Albino Silva and his team from Chiado plated lobster- and shrimp-stuffed scabbard fish on caramelized bananas, then topped it off with passion fruit coulis and lobster-cognac sauce.  Between services, chef Dave Kemp filled us in with the latest details on their newest venture: Salt Wine Bar. Opening this month at 225 Ossington (almost at Dundas), expect to find Spanish-influenced plate sharing. Like so many Ossington spots, Salt will not be taking reservations.

Nota Bene’s chef de cuisine Geoff O’Connor and his cooks served up a beautiful medium rare wagyu beef brisket slider. Excited with the success of the restaurant, O’Connor also shares his excitement over the local produce which are expected to infiltrate its summer menu—including O’Connor’s favourite, tomatoes.

Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s crew were eager to remind us of George’s slow-food inspired Italian dinner series: seasonal and sustainable dishes that change with each event, held on the last Friday of each month until October.

Greg Argent of Forte Bistro and Hiro Yoshida of Hiro Sushi paired up to serve maki rolls filled with toasted tuna or creamy pâté. The long-time friends decided the collaboration would be fun, sparking us to question whether the joint venture would extend into something more serious in the future. The enthusiastic (but noncommittal) reaction of beaming smiles might be considered an unofficial yes.

While cherries were being celebrated in the form of quaint cherry pies at Wanda Beaver’s (Wanda’s Pie in the Sky) station, it was the store’s new homemade soft serve ice cream that had the chef gushing.  Don’t expect standard chocolate or vanilla; instead find cherry-vanilla, Niagara strawberries and blueberry-lavender. Available until the end of summer.

The cervello—lambs brains alla saltimbocca—from Buca were the most talked about item at this year’s festival. While tending to the crowds and to the dapper Franco Prevedello and Yannick Bigourdan (proprietors of Nota Bene), chef Rob Gentile tells us that he is looking forward to two things this summer: the goat prosciutto from Buca’s curing room and the restaurant’s new patio. Scheduled to open next week, the patio will be located in the alleyway leading up to the restaurant’s entrance. Gentile wasn’t at liberty to disclose the contents of the patio’s menu, but rumours are that it may contain a foccacia baked in the patio’s wood-burning oven that will be christened with an assortment of special toppings.

Chef Michael Smith told us that he’s looking forward to penning his fifth cookbook and launching his own Web-video production company. The celebrated FoodTV chef also revealed that his new series for the network will begin production next year with Smith tinkering around in his backyard kitchen laboratory.

Pangaea’s station served a vibrant Ocean Wise certified octopus salad with peppers, gaeta olives and watercress. Chef Derek Bendig revealed some exciting news coming from the Bay Street staple’s kitchen: house-made cheese. Pasteurizing milk from Fifth Town Dairy and another supplier, Bendig tells us the exclusive line will begin in about six months with goat brie and blue cheeses.

Celebrating the renewal of the lease at 1 Benvenuto Place, chef Keith Froggett informs us that a special thirtieth anniversary menu is in the works at Scaramouche.

At Splendido’s station, Carlo Catallo was keen to promote Call to the Bar, a free corkage program for diners at the bar on Mondays through Wednesdays starting July 5. Chef Victor Berry tells us to look forward to truffle season (in about a month) and the return of Splendido’s popular pappardelle truffle pasta.

When we catch up with Spice Route’s chef Winlai Wong, we’re reminded of Lundin: 15-course, all-you-can-eat Sunday menu for $24.

Inside the ROM, chefs Jason Bangerter of Auberge du Pommier and Anthony Walsh of Canoe previewed one of the new menu items from the soon to be open Oliver and Bonacini at the Bell Lightbox: mini canteen brisket butties using chef David Wilson’s Yukon pretzel dough and Spring Creek organic brisket.

Crispy chicken skin adorned this cool lemon basil chicken salad from Frank. In conjunction with a new “Drama and Desire: Artists and the Theatre” exhibit at the AGO, chef Anne Yarymowich has created a theatre-themed cocktail and tapas menu that will be available starting next week at Frank’s bar. The special bar menu will continue until the end of September.

Chef Mark McEwan (North 44, Bymark and One) poses with Andrew Ellerby, the executive chef of his newest venture, Fabbrica (Italian for factory). Scheduled for a late summer opening at the Shops at Don Mills, the restaurant will serve rustic Italian cuisine, including Neapolitan-style pizzas from its wood-burning oven and an array of salamis. McEwan will also be seeing his first cookbook, Great Food at Home, hit the bookshelves and will also be starring as the head judge of Top Chef Canada. The celeb chef was tight-lipped about the August-September filming, only telling us that the show promises to be very exciting and may star a couple of candidates whom he had personally recommended.

Xococava chef and owner Chris McDonald was not only proud of his chic station (featuring a ’40s cigarette girl and boy serving chocolate truffles) but was also glad tell us about his participation at Luminato’s 1000 Tastes of Toronto on June 19- 20th at Queen’s Park. He’s also one of the judges for Canadian Iron Chef Competition held from July 3-4 at Harbourfront Centre and is participating in the Six Barrels Charity for Camp Trillium on July 8 at Huff Estates in Prince Edward County.

Ed Ho tells us that his Rosedale spot, Globe Earth, will be opening a new patio and a new bar. Meanwhile, at Globe Bistro, he has recently introduced a half-price bottle initiative. The program is in effect every Sunday and allows diners to choose from almost 200 wines.

Chef Herbert Barnsteiner of Corner House and members of his family take a quick break to tell us how the restaurant is now featuring a relatively exclusive supply of Cornish and other game hens from a small scale farmer in Tottenham that they hope will tempt diners beyond Summerlicious.

All photos by Renée Suen