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Despite some reservations, Toronto will appear on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations

Anthony Bourdain at his book signing at Massey Hall (Image: Renée Suen)

Toronto chefs and foodies, take note: Anthony Bourdain, the reformed bad boy of the culinary world, beloved potty mouth and host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations, will be featuring Toronto on his show. Bourdain made that announcement on his book tour this week when he stopped in at Massey Hall to promote his follow up to Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. The globetrotting professional eater and drinker entertained and dazzled admirers during his 90-minute performance, downing bottles of Steam Whistle pilsner and drawing upon material from his memoir. Bourdain graciously entertained banal questions during the event’s short Q&A and took time to applaud Beast’s Scott Vivian, who catered the post-show VIP book signing. However, it was his announcement of bringing No Reservations to the city that drew the most hoots and hollers from the packed house.

The former chef noted that it was Vivian and a group of the city’s chefs—including Anthony Rose (Drake Hotel), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Nick Liu (Niagara Street Café) and Zane Caplansky (Caplansky’s Delicatessen)—he met at an event organized by Toronto Life contributor Ivy Knight (host of 86 Mondays) the evening prior that helped tip the scales in favour of Toronto. Bourdain informed us in a follow-up meeting that while season seven’s roster was already spoken for, Toronto will be in the lineup for season eight.

Catching up with Vivian after the show, we were told that Bourdain never truly considered bringing No Reservations to Toronto due to a lack of recommendations from chefs he met in Vancouver and Montreal, the only Canadian cities featured on the show to date. In response, Vivian noted the city’s interest in nose-to-tail dining, collection of small mom-and-pop restaurants, and ethnic neighbourhoods. “I wanted to let him know the food scene in Toronto is real. I told him I would be honoured—would love—to take him around and show him some cool places. Before he left, he shook my hand and said, ‘I look forward to making television with you.’”

  • CAWEST

    That’s an ugly photograph of Tony.

  • mel

    Hope they don’t take him to Caplansky’s… the food is horrible. That’s not how I would like my city to be represented.

  • Lucas

    Caplansky’s over the Hoof? What? Shame whoever was his toronto handler. Have they ever eaten in this city?

  • andrew

    Lucas: I believe he was in town on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, when the Hoof is closed.

  • Wall Streeter

    He’ll just be bored out of his mind regardless of Caplanksy’s, Hoof, or whatever bodunk place the experts take him to. Have you seen his show? What can Toronto really offer to impress him?

    Prediction: in the end, Toronto will bemoan that he went to XYZ, instead of ABC, because of his incompetent tour guide Mr. Doe, but the reality is that it wouldn’t matter. The man has had the best that Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, etc. has had to offer.

    Prepare for another “Iceland” experience for Tony in Toronto. A nice place to visit…once.

  • Streets

    Anthony in Toronto would be fantastic, People who live in the city seem more and more to hate it. Theres tons of food for a show in Toronto.
    Maybe those choices aren’t the best in the city to promote it, but come on ppl. Kum Jug Yeun yeah bring on that $4 BBQ pork. Utopia on college for their home named burger for $10.95, Burrito Boys, Dangerous dans, tonnes of diners on Danforth. Pork bone soup.
    Go highend Soma for their chocolate, Lucien/Tervor….People stop hating your city. Love what we have. Donkeys for hate. Move somewhere else. LEts promote the diversity of food and the peoplw.
    Here is the question how many Major cities in N.america have farms 15km from the centre of the city???

  • Rick

    How can this be a bad thing? At the very least it will bring notariety to the restaurants, markets, diners, stands and areas that he goes to. I would love to see Tony tour Toronto and hear what he has to say about our ethnic city.

    What do we have to impress him? How about breakfast at St. Lawrence market, lunch in Chinatown followed by dinner at one of the high-end establishments in mid-town. Day two visit Greek town (he’ll pan this), little Portugal, little Italy, Queen west (Cowbell and other places that serve face) and one of a hundred pho places for a light snack.

    He’ll eat it up. I could write the script.

  • RB

    Bring it on! T.O. has a vibrant food scene/culture that will fit well the AB’s show

  • i2

    Our food scene is way more vibrant than Vancouver and Montreal. The only reason the chefs from the other two cities spoke ill of Toronto is bexcause of pure ignorance and jealousy mixed with some good ol’ classic Toronto bashing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let's_All_Hate_Toronto
    Fine, Montreal does French cuisine better, but it’s obvious why. We do just about every other cuisine better than Montreal. Vancouver is a land where Cactus Club or Moxies is considered fine dining. They have good but not innovative Chinese food. Other than Vij’s it hard to even find good Indian food there. Try finding a decent roti in either of those cities.
    The Toronto episode will shine if they focus on the plethora of cultural delicacies that can b found in Toronto. I have been to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, New York… and lived in Montreal and Vancouver. What Toronto has that no other city does is a full gamut of choice between all cultures. Not only do we have one great roti place, we have many. Being in those other cities I always found myself missing some type of food. In Toronto at most I just have to make a 30 minute drive.

  • Downtown Guy

    Toronto’s chinese food truly sucks. Really, really sucks. I’m speaking for Spadina and Gerrard Street. Ew. There are barely any Chinese proprietors – it’s other Asians catering to all the tourists (aka people from Orangeville and Whitby) and local “adventurous” types who say things like “Toronto is the most multi-cultural place in the world”.

    It’s much better in the ‘burbs, not that great, but at least there’s an attempt at making things taste good.

    We have lots of food choices, world class breadth, but it’s overall mediocre in quality. It’s the ‘Mandarin’ all-you-can eat approach to city food choices – you can have anything you want, it just happens to be made with no regard for taste or authenticity.

    Anyone who thinks dim sum in Toronto is anything above ‘barely acceptable’ at its best, needs to try Hong Kong or even Flushing, NY!

    The Korean food is also a waste of time. Sushi all along Bloor Street isn’t even sushi – made by Chinese posing as Japanese! Enjoy your tilapia – oops we mean red snapper! The fact that these places wind up on ‘Best of Toronto’ lists should scare us real bad. Tony is going to think, “these people are so provincial.”

    Basically, Montreal has Toronto beat in food (Schwartz’s, the best bagels in the world, an actual outdoor culture even in the dead of winter).

    One exception: if AB goes to Kaji Sushi first and then leaves Toronto immediately, he just might say that Toronto has first class offerings. All of what I’m saying should have been abundantly clear to any objective observor after Susur Lee saw the writing on the wall and bolted for the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

  • James

    I am glad Anthony Bourdain is coming to Toronto. It’s about time, although I do worry about what we have to offer. We’re not a real food destination.

    I disagree on many points with “Downtown Guy”. I think Toronto has some of the best Chinese cuisine outside of China, especially Cantonese. I am part Chinese if that makes me more qualified to judge. Dim sum, as for any other cuisine, depends where you go. Sure if you go to Tremendous in Missisauga, you’ll think Toronto’s dim sum is barely passable. Have dim sum at Lai Wah Heen, and then tell me that your place in Flushings is better!

    I won’t deny that Montreal does better French, or Vancouver better Japanese; but give Toronto it’s credit when it’s due. Instead of sushi places on Bloor, go to Kaji. For French, Le Select, or if an upscale place is a must, then Auberge. I am sure Tony would find it interesting to talk with Michael Bonacini, Mark McEwan, Lynn Crawford, etc.

    As for Susur, he opened a resto in NY and DC…doesnt’ mean he left. Last I heard he came back to Toronto to remake this his base of operations, and flies to NY and DC occasionally to check on things. He still has Lee and Madeline’s (I hope they don’t rename is Lee Lounge)

    It’s not Toronto, but if all else fails. he could always go to Eigensinn Farm.

  • Urs

    As a culinary tourism destination, the GTA is a great place to start from. Eating local has never been so easy and the nose to tail scene, while still in its infancy is a delight and really very much in keeping with being a conservationist.

    We have Cowbell and Hoof – jumping off points for excellent charcuterie. We have solid suppliers of grass fed beef,Tamworth pig, meat shares available at places like Culinarium, and as the miles get shorter on our supply lines for regionally grown food the prices will stabilize we’ll see alot more of local product in the stores.

    When you eat really good meat,chicken veg, grown close by (maybe even your own garden!) you’ll know the difference when you go out to eat – its called ‘taste education’ – so good if Bourdain gets here to sample the bounty of our region.We have so much to offer.

    Bourdain would be delighted ( I bet) when he finally gets here and experiences the quality of our local suppliers of foods and how well its prepared.

    Really, though, as any chef would tell you, the fresher the food, the easier their job is.

    Urs

  • dave

    Wall Streeter you dont know what the hell you are talking about.Name five places in Toronto that you have eaten at-lets see how much you know ” wall Streeter” bring it on….

  • Wall Streeter

    In no particular order, I’ve been to:

    1. Susur
    2. North 44
    3. Bymark
    4. Lee
    5. Thuet (when it was upscale)
    6. Splendido
    7. Centro
    etc., etc.

    I’ve been to many of the best restaurants in Toronto. I’ve been to many of the mid-scale/”funky” establishments as well, in all the various ethnic enclaves.

    With respect to the more upscale places, I would say that the food culture is good – I just don’t think Tony will be blown away by anything he hasn’t seen before. Dave, I’m just being objective here – no Toronto restaurant cracks the top 50 or even top 100 globally (see this link: http://www.theworlds50best.com/).

    Maybe Tony will pay lip service to the breadth of choice, but don’t get your hopes up that he is going to glowing in his assessment, that’s all. My point is this: we can give him a random sampling of upscale, midscale, downscale, or we can agonize over the “right” places for him to go to, and it won’t matter one iota.

    His episodes in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore always make me so, so hungry with the food choices which have so much authenticity, and in many cases are good cheap eats right off the street. Toronto can’t even serve up more than a hotdog on the street, so how is he going to be impressed by the food culture here?

    It’s hard to act like we are a cool food culture when ducks hanging in chinatown windows are considered unsanitary by the masses.

    This isn’t a personal attack, it’s a rallying cry.

  • Mart

    Doesn’t every city have like a Hoof or a Cowbell anyways. Aren’t they just french bistros? The man ran a bistro named after les Halles for christ’s sake – How would those restaurants stand out to him in any way?

    Toronto has good food, just nothing terribly unique to it.

  • Don Mitchell

    Wow…it never ceases to amaze me how many people in this City are so filled with hate about it…have you considered moving people?!?!? I personally find Tony Bourdain a bit of an ass…and truly don’t think his “opinion” is going to make or break Toronto as a culinary destination. But honestly, where does all this vitriol come from??? There are many, many great places to dine in this city from low end to the culinary stratosphere and I’m sure ole’ Tony will find at least something to please his palate. Unless of course he read some of these comments first…he then may re-consider based on all the negativity evident here. Again, why?!?! Hogtown gets bashed enough from the rest of the country…it’s own citizens don’t need to pile on as well. Perhaps when Mayor McCheese gets elected…oops…I mean Mayor Ford…can you tell I don’t like him?!…he’ll embarrass us sufficiently so that it won’t matter whether we have fine dining establishments or not…his redneck buffoonery will drive people away anyway. But seriously folks…enough with the T.O. bashing already…it’s getting really tiresome and it’s just so not necessary.

  • squirt

    NY chinese food is among THE worst! I can’t even say VAN chinese is good; TO & MTL win in that category hands down.

  • Downtown Guy

    TO Chinese food is seriously bad. I’ve found long strands of hair in sweet and sour pork, filthy dim sum places, a maggot in my Pho (not Chinese, I know, but it was in Chinatown). The problem is people are too complacent and don’t take these restauranteurs to task. Really not good folks – we deserve a lot better.

    Lai Wah Heen is mighty fine, but certainly not an everyday place that AB typically goes to to see how locals dine. It’s upscale dim sum, and it’s not even great upscale compared to HK!

    Here’s the script outline:

    “I came to Toronto enticed by the food diversity, afraid of the cold weather, and found solace in the warm people. That these same warm people could be so passionate about their mediocre offerings of Greek, Italian, and Indian food, well who could blame them? Self belief is a key ingredient to achievement, and when Toronto looks in the mirror, it primps and preens like The Situation on Jersey Shore. Like proud kindergardeners showing off a messy finger painting of mommy, daddy, and box with triangle wheels representing the family minivan, Toronto’s pride in its food culture is similarly both easy to objectively discredit, but also hard not to subjectively admire. Unlike a five-year old however, there’s no guarantee that Toronto will grow up.”

  • Mart

    I think there is a lot of negativity towards the idea of uniqueness and character in Toronto as a city because…

    Most people come here for work (or did – that is changing with the rise of Calgary and Van as head-office cities) and then they make enough money to travel the world and visit fascinating cities and then come back and see how provincial, uncreative and aggressively derivative (compare this magazine/website to New York magazine for one small example) this city is.

    This doesn’t mean it does trends poorly sometimes – the small creative bistro thing is great here (Delux, Harbord Room, Hoof all rock) as it also is in most every other major city.

  • mattagascar

    Downtown Guy…well said.

  • Big Slick

    As a foodie and resident of both Hong Kong and Torotno, I feel I can comment on the quality of the Chinese food in Toronto. With the exception of LWH, those of us who are knowledgeable about this area know that the best Chinese restaurants in the GTA (dim sum or otherwise) aren’t found in the downtown core. You have to look to Marham or Richmond Hill for the good places…and even there, they’re so so. As for the other food offerings here, I think “so so” is a pretty good generalization. Sure, you can bring Tony to Hashimoto, but fer cryin’ out loud the man has dined in an actual ryokan in Japan. How about Colborne Lane for their molecular stuff? Not good enough, because he’s actually eaten at El Bulli in Spain (and if memory serves, he’s been to Alinea in Chicago and WD50 in NYC). To sum up, Toronto is like the Toyota Camry of food destinations – alright and mostly dependable, but nothing that will blow a person away.

  • GEORGE

    toronto is boring honestly come to montreal and you peeps
    will understand what im saying

  • Kristen

    Toronto has nothing to offer?! Untrue.

    Besides, this is not a competition – Tony has undoubtedly had some of the world’s greatest food – it is a television show meant to share and introduce us to the delights and surprises that each city has to offer. HE may have visited Tokyo and Paris, but not all of us can. And if it were just about seeing the best, season one would have been the first and last.

  • Griffen Spence

    Ex. Hasimoto East in Don Mills is one of the best Japanese restaurants in the world. Masaki Hashimoto is one of the most well respected Japapnese masters of his time.

    This episode should focus on the diverse backgrounds and how a select few still try to hold on to their tradition and share it with a new adopted culture.

  • Mike

    Toronto is the NY City of Canada, with an excellent food culture and diverse food scene. Vancouver and Montreal…gimme a break Toronto dwarfs both!

 

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