Summerlicious is an annual summer tradition in Toronto that we look forward to every year since its inception in 2003. This year we were pleased to see Fabbrica picked by BlogTO‘s as one of 20 restaurants to eat at.
Many little piggys rolled all the way home from #GroundHogChallenge at Richmond Station on Monday night. In the 5th year of the competition, guests were treated to a total of 9…yes 9 courses of pork, from 7 chefs vying for the glory and the trophy from this year’s event plus a charcuterie plate and a bacon, pumpkin seed tart prepared by Carl Heinrich and his team.
The chefs battling for pork supremacy included Ted Corrado from The Drake 150, Nicholas Marragau from Bar Boulud, Alex Molitz (Farmhouse tavern), Tara Besignano (Skin and Bones), Jesse Vallins from The Saint, Albert Ponzo from Le Select and Teo Paul of Union. They all faced an esteemed panel of judges, from Chris McDonald, the founder of the event, to Nial McCotter (Auberge du Pommier), Suresh Doss of Zagat, Karon Liu from The Grid and Liora Ipsum from BlogTO, Michael di Caro (Spotlight), David Ort (Food with Legs) as well as Chef and Owner of The McEwan Group and Head Judge of Top Chef Canada, Mark McEwan.
At 6:00pm the dishes started to come out of the kitchen, in the spirit of competition, all the chefs helped plate each other’s meals… this also made it difficult to discern which plate came from which chef in the open concept kitchen.
All the tasting was done blind, with Ryan Donovan of Richmond Station giving the explanations of the plates as they arrived in front of the diners and the judges were sequestered to maintain the anonymity of the plate’s creator.
A who’s who of the restaurant industry devoured course after course. Judging each menu item on taste, presentation and “ham factor” (each dish was required to contain 50% pork).
By the end of the evening the judges crowned chef Nicholas Marragau from Bar Boulud as the 2014 champion! His “Black and White”, an artfully plated pork boudon blanc and blood sausage, was also voted as the crowd’s favourite.
There’s a lot of movement in the restaurant business. We’re really fortunate that our best people tend to stick around, but we lose our fair share of gems.
Making Your Mark catches up with the ones that got away.
Today we’re talking to Matt Basile, otherwise known as Fidel Gastro. All he’s done since leaving the McEwan family is kickstart the Cuban food revolution with a wildly popular food truck; star in his own reality show; and hire Chef Kris Topping away from Fabbrica to open a new restaurant. As we suspected, the food at Lisa Marie is too good to hold a grudge.
What’s the best part about being in the food business? And what’s the hardest part?
I love that I get to create something different every day. I’m not a trained chef so when I come up with something that makes chefs say, “how did you think of that” I get pumped up.
The worst part is every little thing you touch has a dollar value . The napkin the ice the fork. In the end you always get a bill for something.
How do you know when a recipe’s right?
I test a lot if my recipes online via Twitter and Instagram. If something gets a lot of chatter I’ll at least try it out as a special.
What was the worst food review you ever got and how did you handle it?
The worst review ever was a customer comment on urban spoon. It was just so inaccurate. I know because I watched the whole situation go down. I wrote a 2 page response. And then deleted it because I realized it wasn’t worth it. (ed note: Good for you, Matt.)
Why do you think foodie culture has exploded the way it has?
It’s very similar to how I was raised to appreciate food. Food always brought people together in the best kind of ways. The same goes for foodie culture now. If you’re good, people will come back and bring friends.
How do you think your stint at McEwan has helped you in your career?
Mark was the first time I had ever been in awe of someone. The dude has a massive staff and everyone works their asses off for him because They respect him. It was the first time I had ever seen a food brand. It made think about food in very different ways. It helped me realize that I had to find a way to mesh my advertising brain with my food heart.
You mentioned in this BlogTO article that Mark McEwan is a chef who inspires you. Why’s that?
Because I think he’s set an incredible precedent for chefs also being good business people. I think making good food is one thing. Making a successful business out if it is entirely different. Mark is that standard. I respect that.