Lucky Dip – Friday, February 24th, 2012

In Toronto:

The Queen and Beaver (35 Elm Street) is expanding northward with a new location in Yorkville called The Oxley, set to open in mid-April.

The College Street location of Mitzi’s (890 College Street) will be serving its last brunch this weekend, shutting down after service on Sunday, February 26th. The Sorauren Avenue location as well as The Sister on Queen Street West will remain open.

Chef Tawfik Shehata announced earlier today via Twitter that he is no longer associated with The Bowery (55 Colborne Street). No word on what he’ll be doing next.

Chef Nick Liu is planning to host a pair of preview dinners for his new Asian fusion restaurant GwaiLo. Dinners will take place on March 6th and 13th, location TBA. Follow GwaiLo on Twitter to find out more details.

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Smörgåsbord – The Bowery

We got to check out The Bowery (55 Colborne Street) a few weeks ago. Chef Tawfik Shehata is doing the exec gig both here and over at The Ballroom, with Chef Jason Maw running the day to day. Both chefs were on hand the night we dropped by with a couple of friends, and we tried a number of dishes that were very impressive. Above, the grilled octopus with tomato confit, nicoise olives, baby arugula, polenta and squid ink aioli. Nice tender bits of squid and the aioli was really interesting – it looks a little odd on the plate, but it has a great flavour of garlic and squid.

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Life Beyond the Kitchen – Chefs Build Their Brands with Chef Network Inc.

The food scene in Toronto is abuzz this week with distress over UK chef Marco Pierre White’s decision to become the face of Knorr bouillon cubes. Disregarding the fact that White has been the face of Knorr in the UK for a few years, food writers and chefs seem genuinely distressed that White has “sold out” for the corporate big bucks.

Known as one of the best chefs in the world, White’s decision to become the face of Knorr (and his insistence that all of his restaurants use the product in place of real stock) is confusing, amusing, and to his fans, especially other chefs, understandably upsetting.

The world may never know White’s real reasons for taking the endorsement, but in an era when even successful chefs don’t make a lot of money from cooking, branding yourself has taken on a much greater importance, especially for chefs coming to a point in their careers when it’s no longer enjoyable to work the line every night.

Chefs everywhere are in big demand – for cookbooks, personal appearances, television shows, and yes, endorsement deals. But it’s not as easy as one might think to hook up with the big players, and it’s not always a good idea for chefs to try and broker deals on their own.

That’s where Carmen Correia and Chef Network Inc. (CNI) come into play.

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Stirring the Pot with Chef Tawfik Shehata

Tawfik Shehata was born in Cairo, Egypt, and grew up in Scarborough. He did his apprenticeship at Scaramouche (1 Benvenuto Place), and attended George Brown College and The Cordon Bleu cooking school in Ottawa. He has worked in a variety of Toronto restaurants including Auberge du Pommier (4150 Yonge Street), The Rosewater Supperclub (19 Toronto Street), Winston’s, Truffles at the Four Seasons, and Boba. He also lived in Bermuda for two years and worked as Sous Chef at Cambridge Beaches, which was voted one of the top 5 spa hotels in the world during his time there, and later (after a return to Toronto) went to Jamaica where he worked at award-winning restaurants including Grand Lido Negril. In late 2005 he took over as Chef at Vertical Restaurant (100 King Street West) where he has been cooking food that is inspired by Italy and the Mediterranean, using local and sustainable ingredients.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I have always loved food. When I was quite young I used to love going grocery shopping with my mom and she was always very in tune with the seasons. When it was time for Seville oranges she would make marmalade and chocolate dipped orange peels for two weeks straight. Same for when other fruits and berries were in season. She made the best strawberry jam in the world!

What is your favourite dish at the restaurant where you cook and why?

I love the grilled or braised whole fish. For two reasons, first, the fish itself is fantastic, but more importantly, the accompaniments change nightly so it is always paired with the most seasonal vegetables. When I go to the farmers market and can only find a small quantity of something it will invariably find its way on one of those dishes.

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Market Mondays – Pears

Pears are the less glamorous cousin of the apple. In the same family as the apple, along with roses and quince, pears have been cultivated for thousands of years in Asia, are referenced in Roman and Celtic texts and are thought to possibly date back to the Stone Age. Popular in Britain and France where they were beloved for their use in perry (pear cider), the first pears were cultivated in North America in 1620. Pears were originally eaten cooked, not raw (they were probably closer to a quince), until the 18th century when they were cultivated to have the soft, juicy and buttery flesh that we know today.

There are over 130 varieties of pears grown in Canada, but here in Ontario, there are five major varieties that are grown for sale; Bartlett, Clapp’s Favourite, Anjou, Bosc and Flemish Beauty. Growers hope that a new variety, Harovin Sundown, will eventually be added to that list, although it will be 2015 before the pears will be widely available in stores.

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