I’m not sure how I failed to attend a dinner by the Group of 7 Chefs up until now. Timing, finances, their predilection for odd bits of the insides of animals… all may play a role. But when they announced they would be doing a fish and beer dinner, teaming up with Bellwoods Brewery and serving sustainable fish, Greg and I knew we had to go.
The Group of 7 Chefs is actually comprised of more than seven local chefs. Scott Vivian (Beast), Rob Gentile (Buca), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Kevin McKenna (Globe and Earth), Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour), Chris Brown (The Stop), Bertrand Alepee (The Tempered Chef), and Marc Dufour (Globe and Earth) are the main crew, but they have been joined occasionally by local chefs Nick Liu (GwaiLo), Guy Rawlings and others, depending on the specific dinner and individual availability.
The premise is that the chefs get together once a month, on a Monday, when they’re all off from their regular gigs, and work together to create a multi-course dinner. There are a few sous chefs helping out, but most of the work is done by the chefs themselves, with everyone helping to cook and plate each others’ dishes, and a grand sense of fun and camaraderie, despite the stress and hard work.
Kensington Market icon European Quality Meats and Sausages (176 Baldwin Avenue) will be closing down on April 7th. Full story at the Toronto Star.
Also in Kensington, Thirsty and Miserable has opened at 197 Baldwin Street. With a “culinary team” listed as Swansen and Deep Freeze, maybe don’t go expecting anything more than booze and great local craft beer.
Chef Greg Couillard is back in town, serving up Nonya cuisine tonight at The Depanneur (1033 College Street). There were still tickets left as of this morning. Couillard revealed to guests at last night’s dinner (which was fantastic!) that he plans to open a restaurant in Toronto’s west end, to be called Pink Slip. He’s also doing a guest stint from March 4- 6th at the Fox and Fiddle at Cityplace (25-17 Fort York Boulevard). (Yeah, I know, but that’s what the man said.)
While I truly have no objection to street food, it’s still almost always my preference to eat while sitting down, with a knife and fork, and preferably a nice glass of beer or wine to go with it. So while I’ve avoided pretty much all of the recent street food events in Toronto because I’m annoyed by the trendiness of the whole thing, the opportunity to enjoy some traditional street food dishes, all while sitting comfortably, was not to be passed up.
Put together by Scott and Rachelle Vivian of Beast Restaurant, last night they gathered a number of chefs for a dinner in which they each created a course based on a street food dish. Yes, there were forks and knives (along with tasty wine pairings from Fielding Estate Winery), but the only china we were given was a side plate. Everything else came in the traditional wrapping/carrier, or else on paper plates, just as you would get the items from a food cart or truck.
96 Tecumseth Street
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $57
I’m breaking our ethical policy here. We normally prefer not to “review” places where we know the chef or owners. Just so that if it’s a bad review, nobody is hurt when their pal Sheryl disses their grub. And so that if it’s a good review, we can’t be accused of writing something positive only because we know the chef. But we really wanted to review Beast because Chef Scott Vivian is doing really unique brunch stuff, and in a land of never ending eggs Benedict, unique stuff deserves to be covered. And while I’m not going to be able to use the ideal situation of “anonymous and impartial reviewer”, know that I’m going to be as fair as I can in my assessment.
Like much of the regular menu, brunch at Beast is heavy on the meat. Burgers ($12 – $14) and the signature pig’s head pasta ($12) top the card before the traditional Sunday morning fare appears. Vegetarians have the option of French toast ($10) or yogurt and granola ($6), but if you’re not up for some form of beast, then Beast likely won’t appeal.
Born in Montreal to an Italian father and an Indian mother, Chef Scott Vivian has always loved food. Chef Vivian has earned praise from Georgia to Colorado to Oregon before coming back to Canada. In 2006, he took on Toronto via Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. A year later he was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner (111 Queen’s Park). In October of 2009, he had the amazing opportunity of becoming co-owner and executive chef of Wine Bar(9 Church Street). Chef Vivian will continue his support of local food procurement as he and his wife Rachelle open their first restaurant Beast(96 Tecumseth Street) in June 2010.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My deep passion and understanding of food and culture. I knew it the moment I stepped foot in my first professional kitchen.
Sourcing all beer, wine and the majority of ingredients from local growers or producers (there’s a chocolate dessert, but no stewed greens until they come back in season locally), the pair are offering up a pretty decent assortment of southern dishes, done really well.
It seems clichéd to start a piece about a new restaurant and roll out the “food = love” metaphors. But in the case of the Wine Bar, it seems apt, given that the principals involved are two couples who have saved what has become known as a landmark dining spot from what might have potentially been a corporate overhaul.
When word came out in the summer of ’09 that Jamie Kennedy was selling his Church Street Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar restaurant due to financial troubles, nobody knew for sure what might happen to the place. Kennedy offered the place to staff members first, and Chef Scott Vivian (who had run Kennedy’s Gardiner museum restaurant) along with his wife, pastry chef Rachelle Cadwell (who had been head of pastry for all of Kennedy’s operations) decided to take over the place and make it their own. Along with Vivian and Cadwell, Ted and Mary Koutsogiannopoulos (who had previously run Joy Bistro) came on board to remake the restaurant, now simply called the Wine Bar.
Last Wednesday evening, the line-up outside the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art stretched as far north as Bloor Street. People had come prepared; many had snacks, drinks and umbrellas to shield them from the warm May sunshine, because to be first in line meant having the dedication to wait for hours to get in. But being first in line also meant having first choice when selecting a bowl, as well as getting to the variety of soups from the participating local chefs before they all ran out. And they would run out.