Chef Scott – who doesn’t know this big, fun, over-the-top, teddy bear of a chef? This Maritime native has traveled the world from Italy to New Zealand, working as a private chef to the celebs. His talent of cooking anything (literally) has housed him at some of the world’s top 5-star hunting and fishing lodges and although the aroma of seafood always reels him in, he’s most passionate about wild game. If you thought cooking New Zealand Red Stag (type of deer) was an unusual request, how about 2,700 ft. up the side of a mountain cliff to boot?
Nicknamed “Cheffie”, this boisterous character came into my life about this time last year when he invited me to try out his new culinary tour company, The Culinary Adventure Company, inspired by his above life adventures. I was hesitant in going, but had one of the best nights I’ve ever had in Toronto. I tried the College Street Little Italy tour and was privy to indulging in some of Toronto’s best restaurants and dishes while also laughing, drinking and having one hell of a great time. To my surprise Cheffie is not just a chef! He’s a comedic tour guide that knows the ins and outs of Toronto and where to get a great meal and tasty cocktail. While I love the food tour trend, the Culinary Adventure Company is more than just that. Chef Scott’s fantastic personality turns every tour into a fun adventure that is both delicious and memorable.
Just recently, Cheffie and I partnered on a new kind of culinary tour – a bus format vs. walking format – whereby all the profits made are donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank. It’s something I have wanted to do for over one year now, and Cheffie is the one who called me and pushed our idea into a reality. Check out our upcoming one at https://www.facebook.com/RideFeast or purchase tickets at https://kiosk.eztix.co/kiosk/6191.
So wanna know more about Chef Scott? What are his favourite restaurants? I sent him these questions to get inside his culinary mind…
When and why did you start writing about food?
For five years I was a private chef in 5-star hunting and fishing lodges all over the world. This is not as glamorous as it sounds. I would be away for four months at a time, usually in very remote areas. I took to writing as a way to keep myself entertained…a journal of sort…documenting funny stories, the occasional spoiled guest, some new recipes and the daily goings on. Someday I hope to turn it all into a book called Lodge Life – part cookbook and part Bourdain-style memoir.
What do you love most about food?
Food has a unique way of bringing people together. One thing I learned in my travels was that even if we didn’t all speak the same language or have the same culture, once we shared a meal together it felt like we bonded.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
Plan the next great food tour, find a cool spot to host a pop-up dinner, seek out a great value for money restaurant, or find the next hidden gem. The Culinary Adventure Company is my passion. They say if you love what you do you never worked a day in your life! And believe you me I am loving every minute of it.
Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? If not, why?
Seafood and wild game is my specialty. I make a wicked Duck Breast with Blackberry Brandy Sauce and a fabulous Venison Ragu with Red Wine, Chocolate and Chili. Love those woodsy flavors.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
I love fish and seafood. When I get a craving I head to Hooked in Leslieville. As Toronto’s only sustainable fish monger they deal directly with small fisherman. This allows them to offer product that is no more than 48hrs from boat to showcase. I really like the fact that they not only know where the fish was caught but in most cases who caught it. The fact that everyone who works there has a culinary background doesn’t hurt either. They always have great menu suggestions. It really is a different kind of fish store.
What’s your favorite hidden gem?
We are always seeking out hidden gems for our food tours, so I have quite a few. One of my favourite places is Taverniti, a small little Italian restaurant on College near Clinton. It is owned by a an 83-year-old Nona and her son. Every day she goes to the restaurant at 6am to make the sauces. She also makes and hand rolls all the lasagna noodles and the gnocchi. Needless to say, the pizza is to die for. My latest find has been the Hogtown Pub and Oysters also on College St. They opened a couple of months back and do some of the best pub food in the city, not to mention some great oysters. We usually drop in on Thursday night and eat our face off with $1.50 oysters.
What’s your go-to restaurant?
My go to would have to be Table 17 on Queen St. East. Chef John and his partner Eric are great people, the staff are wonderful and the food is amazing. Love the cocktails and the fact that they have a seasonal menu using local ingredients. They do a great job with fish. I had a seared scallop there recently that curled my toes. I think the prix fixe menu on Sunday and Monday Night (BYOW) with no corkage is one of the best value for money deals in the city. When I want to just kick back and relax I go to Fuel House on Clinton for what I think is one of the best burgers in the city.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
The Grand Tasting menu with wine pairings at Charlie Trotters in Chicago. We had the table in the kitchen, the whole experience was unforgettable!
What’s the one restaurant you have to try before you die?
I really, really, really want to go to the French Laundry. Thomas Keller’s place in California.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (play nice)
My biggest pet peeve in a restaurant is when the small details are overlooked. As with most people who are in the industry, I look at my restaurant experience differently. We know how it works or how it should work. Don’t get me wrong. I am not picky but when I see things like burnt out light bulbs, no paper towel in the washroom, cobwebs, etc. it makes me think that as a restaurateur you don’t really care. I know we can’t do everything right all the time but to me your restaurant is like your child. You created it and you have to nourish it so it can grow and be successful. Would you forget to feed your child? I sure hope not! Thankfully Toronto has a lot of restaurateurs that do care.
Don’t forget to check out the Culinary Adventure Company’s food tours, and get your tickets for our joint Ride and Go Feast TIFF edition this Sunday, August 26th in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank.