David Adjey, the beaming and bronzed saviour-chef of Restaurant Makeover, goes back to basics on his new Food Network series Restaurant 101. The seasoned entrepreneur (formerly of Nectar, now head of his own consulting firm) will play guidance counsellor to troubled upstarts that can’t get their doors open for business. The chosen spots are located throughout Canada and the U.S., with about three in the GTA. One episode has already been shot at a Thornhill Italian–Middle Eastern fusion eatery called Mideastro, where a partner pulled out at the last minute. When we ask what’s in his bag of tricks this time, he responds, “I have been making mistakes in the industry for 27 years.” Enough said.
The guru admits that he has spouted his fair share of Ramsay-esque outbursts—“I have been known to be a bit of a yeller and screamer”—but 101 is all about imparting wisdom. Says the self-proclaimed restaurant-life coach, “Anyone who is crazy enough to open a restaurant, I’m your biggest fan. It’s like jumping into a pool with a stone tied around your neck, and I want to help.” With restaurant mortality rates higher than ever (a fact Toronto knows all too well), there could be no better time for an intervention. But viewers can expect a firm line for the truly disillusioned novices; Adjey promises to showcase some real zingers who think that opening a restaurant is as simple as throwing a dinner party.
We remember when Adjey’s meddling on Restaurant Makeover resulted in some fallout: several revamped venues went belly up. Unsurprisingly, he isn’t worried about history repeating itself. Unlike on Makeover, he’s “coming in before it’s broken,” which makes for much better odds of survival. We hope for Mideastro’s sake that he’s right.
Adjey has worked in New York, cooking up room service specials for celebrities at the lavish Rihga Royal Hotel (now Gordon Ramsay’s London), and Santa Barbara (hence the sun kiss), but he always comes home to Hogtown. Not even work as Dan Aykroyd’s personal chef—who once tipped him a car—could keep him away. “I’m a Toronto boy,” he says. East enders might spy the foodie zipping between Regent Park and his second home, St. Lawrence Market, on his Vespa. When he’s out on the town, it’s “Canoe or Rain, if someone else is paying,” he says. Running into old friends at Nota Bene isn’t bad, either; the last time he was there, he stumbled on Aykroyd and Martin Short. The golden boy is also happy to go more low key in Little India, or to the burgeoning Ossington strip, where Foxley is a new favourite.