It’s evident to the culinary curious and expert eaters: Toronto’s food scene is so hot right now… Hansel. In fact it’s really been that way for quite some time. With a little time and a lot of love, the culinary innovators (of which there is a growing number) are starting to put Toronto on the map as one of the most tantalizing destinations for international epicureans.
“Toronto is the most budding and inventive culinary scene in North America,” says Chef Massimo Capra as participants of the first Shalit Foods Toronto Culinary Safari joined him at his famed Mistura Restaurant.
Top chefs and food suppliers from across the United States joined Shalit Foods to discover some of the industry gems that exist around town. Over three days (September 24th to 26th), these industry leaders roamed and rolled across the city, through a schedule of stops that should appeal to visitors and locals alike.
I caught up with them for their first session, starting off at Pizzeria Libretto’s Danforth location. Alongside what many consider to be the best pizza in Toronto (he did win 3rd best in the world at the 2013 International Pizza Challenge, and 2012 Pizza Chef of the Year), we chatted with Chef Rocco Agostino about their commitment to quality and authenticity. Rocco’s Pizzeria Libretto was the first member of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) in Toronto, an international non-profit organization founded in the mid-1980s by a group of Neapolitan pizzaiolis (pizza makers) seeking to cultivate the culinary art of making Neapolitan pizza. Their nearly 900-degree wood burning pizza oven cooks your pie in 90 seconds flat and delivers that charred, blistered crust that’s unmatched in any other preparation.
From there we moseyed along the Danforth strip, soaking up the sun and learning about some of the rich heritage of the neighbourhood before heading to Leslieville to visit Chef Laura Gallivan over at Ruby Eats. A hotbed for local take-home treats, Ruby Eats is one of the outcrops of celebrity chef Lynn Crawford’s teeming culinary empire.
A chat with Oliver Lee and John Higgins of George Brown Culinary gave us a glimpse into the future chefs of the city, and the top notch facilities where they’re able to develop their skills.
From there I finished up session one at Mistura. I’m not sure what was more inspiring, talking with Chef Massimo Capra or eating his food. During the vibrant dialogue between him and our twelve participants, one thing that Chef Massimo said truly defined Toronto’s culinary scene for me…
“I’ve been here for 32 years and every day it’s a new surprise – it’s just wonderful,” he said. “I can eat a different countrey’s cuisine every meal of the day. From the traditional to the avant-garde there’s always something exciting.”
The diversity of our population and the accessibility of great food make Toronto a unique culinary destination. Seeing a group like Shalit Foods take such pride in that niche, seeking to showcase our savoury strengths to others in the industry is something that all self-professed Toronto foodies should do. So, whether you’ve got some friends in town, or you’ve got a hankering to discover some of your own city, hash out a culinary safari of your own and take a bite out of TO.