Interview by Meghan Sheffield
On October 18, 90+ restaurants in 19 cities are donating proceeds from dinner service to support community food programs across Canada, part of an event called Restaurants for Change. Participating restaurants will donate 50-100% of that evening’s dinner service sales to Community Food Centres across Canada.
Toronto’s Chef Anthony Rose, the head honcho of a whole suite of new-wave diners and retro bistros in the city’s downtown is joining the cause, donating sales from Bar Begonia, Big Crow, Rose and Sons, Fat Pasha, and Madame Boeuf. We jumped at the chance to chat with the hippest chef in the city about what he loves about food and why he cares about the work of Community Food Centres Canada.
What made you fall in love with food?
It was my mother for sure. She was and is a fantastic cook and baker, but I had the best of both worlds: not only did she cook a lot at home, and we ate at home a lot, but we went out to a lot of restaurants, both around the world and at home in Toronto.
Right now I’m in love with her blueberry pie which is kind of like a crumble. She makes chocolate chip cookies which as soon as they come out of the oven, she slams the sheet pan so they get really flat. She also makes a brisket to die for. And now she actually uses my recipe for matzah ball soup — which was originally based on hers.
What is your most memorable restaurant experience as a diner?
As a kid, I loved Swiss Chalet. Do you remember when all the waitresses were old and had so much attitude and were wearing those ridiculous costumes or outfits, and it was so good? It was my favourite meal, getting like half a chicken and extra Chalet sauce, which as a little kid was a lot. They don’t have that experience any more, but that was a restaurant we used to go to and I loved it.
Why do you think it’s still exciting to go out to eat?
I feel that number one, it’s easy. Number two, we try to offer not only wicked, simple food at all the restaurants, but an experience. We hope that people are coming for more than the food. They are coming for the atmosphere and the attitude and the music and the design. Although we try to under-design, actually. We just base everything in our restaurant on my personal art collection or hoarding from the flea market. I like to go somewhere that feels familiar to me and I like to think that that’s what my restaurants offer.
What made you want to get onboard with Restaurants for Change?
I love what they do. I love how they do it, especially bringing so many restaurants together, 90 plus restaurants across the country together. It’s such a massive endeavour, trying to crack something that’s so important. Trying to help people eat. What’s better than that?
Why do you care about the work of Community Food Centres?
Nick is such mensch and it comes from the heart. And it’s easy too. It’s hard as a restaurateur, as a business to kind of pick a cause that’s important. And this one for us is close to our hearts, and it’s very local in Toronto. So many good people are a part of it. What they do and how they do it is important.
What can people look for at your restaurants on Wednesday?
Good, simple food with attitude and awesome music. I think when people come to the restaurants, especially for this, it’s beautiful. It’s so important to be able to look around the restaurant and know that most of the money on that night from table to table to table is going to something great.