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Claudio Aprile on his much-hyped preview dinner for Chicago’s Grace and doubling down on Colborne Lane

On July 25 and 26, Torontonians will get an exclusive first taste of the dishes from Chicago’s Grace, one of the most anticipated openings in America, when the restaurant’s chef Curtis Duffy joins Claudio Aprile for a nine-course collaborative dinner at the latter’s Colborne Lane. We caught up with Aprile to talk about the upcoming meal, and about the new direction he’ll be taking at Colborne Lane over the next few months.

Aprile tells us, “I enjoy working with Curtis; he makes me want to be a better chef. It’s an excuse to work together; an incredible opportunity to see someone who I would honestly believe is going to be a complete monster in the United States and to let Canada know what this amazing American chef is doing.” Duffy is something of a force of nature in the Chicago restaurant scene, having helped Avenues debut with a two Michelin star rating. The rest of his resumé is just as impressive, with stints at Charlie Trotter’s and Trio, and as the opening chef de cuisine for three years at Alinea, one of the most lauded restaurants in the world. The two chefs have been friends since they met at Charlie Trotter’s over a dozen years ago, and have cooked together at various events including the Winterlicious Chef Series four years back. Aprile says he approached Duffy about doing the preview dinner in Canada a few months ago, somewhat baffling Chicago restaurant watchers. The response to date has been so positive that the duo is considering adding a third date to the roster.

After the Grace dinner, Colborne Lane will shut down and undergo a substantial renovation by designer Bradley Denton (Czehoski). Although Aprile had toyed with making the cuisine more accessible or even giving up the space altogether, following the launch of Origin Liberty Village he’s decided to redouble his efforts to sustain Colborne Lane’s original vision: a forward-thinking institution whose food is intended to satisfy diners with discerning palates. “We need to have more innovation happening,” Aprile says. “I know this is a luxury to have. I’m doing something that I don’t think is done in Toronto: typically restaurateurs with a controlling company will end up closing high-end restaurants and focus on what makes money instead of what made them. Colborne Lane made me.” Aprile tells us that he hopes to keep using Colborne Lane as a testing ground for new ideas. “It’ll sound like a cliché, but Colbone Lane isn’t about making money.”

While Aprile points to Yours Truly, Chantecler and The Grove as pushing the envelope in Toronto’s culinary scene, he tells us, “it’s not like New York, Chicago or Sydney, that have a multitude of restaurants that are progressive.” While he’s still working out the details on Colborne 2.0, he’s considering getting rid of the à-la-carte menu; he has committed to making the space smaller, and wants to change his hands-on approach to one that is more collaborative. The new direction will still embrace culinary technology, but move away from chemical ingredients that many see as artificial. “It’s a very exciting time for me because I finally have some clarity. This is an innovative restaurant and this is what it needs to be. We all know it’s not easy; it’s a very difficult thing to do, but the pressure’s on.”

Grace and Colborne Lane’s nine-course collaborative dinner. $200. July 25 and 26, 45 Colborne St., RSVP at events@colbornelane.com or 416-368-9009.

 

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