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what new chefs to watch and try (not old, tried, tested and true, but NEW)

I just joined chowhound but have been reading it for awhile. It seems people talk about the same chefs lately. I would like some reviews on new up and coming chefs in Toronto.
One interest for me is Scott Woods. I do have somewhat of a budget, so I need to spend my culinary funds wisely. I heard he is definately worth it. Has anyone been lately?

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  1. I don't know about any NEW chefs, as by the time someone is trusted to run a kitchen and ends up as head chef somewhere, they are likely to have worked under a number of other people.

    Scot Woods, for example, has cooked at a number of Toronto's finer dining spots, including Canoe, JOV, Chiado, Avalon and Senses.

    I happen to think that The Rosebud on Queen W. is one of the best NEW restaurants in the City (see previous posts), but the chef/part owner was the saucier at Lolita's Lust almost 10 years ago!


    11 Replies
    1. re: Cereal Killer

      I haven't tried that restaurant. Sounds great! I will put it on my list.
      As for "new", I know that the head chefs of good restaurants have vast amounts of previous experience. I realize the sous chef is probably the hardest working kitchen position out there. But once you are annointed "Chef", the pressures and challenges must be different? I have been to restaurants where the sous chef was promoted to Chef and it was vastly different and great. It has also been disappointing. At other times, it was still the exact same style and menu long after the old chef was gone.
      Are there any recent changes in the popular restaurants that I should try again?

      1. re: biteme

        If the "head chef" is actually cooking, then past experience may be an important guidepost of what to expect. A chef who has (for your palate) been continually improving is probably more likely than not to make you happy.

        If said chef has been promoted to "executive chef" or "corporate chef", past experience may prove to be meaningless. The job requirements are completely different and past experience may be meaningless or even a hindrance. This person may be responsible for developing recipes, but that isn't the day-to-day job. This chef must hire & fire, manage staff effectively, control costs, and deal with the egos of those coming up behind. Perhaps the most important skill is being able to communicate both a vision and a set of standards and motivate staff to reproduce the vision, to the standards, unerringly, time after time. I'm a damn good cook, but there is no way I could do that job. It's much like the great salesman who is promoted to sales manager, and is hopeless at that job. There is no logical progression.

        I used to follow favourite chefs around. I once made an effort to eat wherever Michael Stadtlander was cooking, but nobody would employ him for very long. Ditto for Greg Couillard, but by my 2nd - 3rd visit, he had usually been fired. One was a purist; the other had problems. Both could cook brilliantly, but I could never count on there being a next time.

        But whether the chef is a manager or a cook; an owner or an employee; other factors (often unavoidable) come into play. A great chef has culinary, philosophical, or financial differences with the ultimate boss(es) and poof, a great chef is gone. Sometimes skill means nothing. Some owners with no culinary skill of their own won't leave their chefs alone to do their jobs.

        A chef/owner can become preoccupied with financial problems and can't focus on the food. Or a chef, as artiste, becomes bored, or simply loses creativity or skills. (I won't even touch on the job-affecting human frailties to which everyone is subject.)

        One explanation for your past experiences is simply that some chefs are creative and others are not. A creative new chef may start off reproducing a winning formula, but will ultimately want to put a personal stamp on the food. Others may be happy to keep things as they were indefinitely.

        So I don't follow chefs around any more. I look for good reports from people I trust and try to get there before things change. But the restaurant business has this talent for chewing people up and spitting them out.

        BTW, Sometimes the "famous" chef was simply a headline grabber and the sous, or some line cook, was producing the yummy food all along.

        1. re: embee

          embee - great post. Despite your resolution to not follow great chefs around anymore, from a trivia standpoint, did you hear Greg Coulliard is opening a restaurant called Spice Box in Hazelton Lanes?

          1. re: AmandaEd

            It is "Spice Box and Chutney Bar"! interesting..

            1. re: OnDaGo

              You are absolutely right. That's the full name. Can't wait to check it out! Apparently, it's ready to open in March.

            2. re: AmandaEd

              that's GREAT news about Couillard -- I loved Sarkis

              1. re: AmandaEd

                Now we'll have to see if Greg Coullard will leave "Spice Box" before it opens. :-)

                1. re: foodyDudey

                  Any word on who is the masochist is "managing" him or the front of the house on this particular venture? That's going to be equally important as to who is in the kitchen (and how long he will stay!!)


                  1. re: Cereal Killer

                    One of the folks on the venture is an entrepreneur with an equally free spirit, so perhaps he has the tools to manage him.

                    I'm excited!

                    If I hear more, I'll post..

            3. re: biteme

              I think Toronto Life is fairly good at informing the masses of the musical chairs in the kitchens of Toronto, but I no longer subscribe so I'm not up to date. You might also want to try www.chefdb.com, as they track the same thing, albeit very meticulously.


            4. re: Cereal Killer

              We are going to Rosebud next week!! I pushed for this one so I hope it's as good as you say Killer, because it's an anniversary dinner!

            5. Trevor Kitchen on Wellington is interesting in that now that Trevor (former chef from Lobby) has opened his own place he has come out of the kitchen and is in the "front" of the house. So really his first restaurant and he is not cooking! His "chef" is Josh Wolfe from the fifth, lobby & thuet..

              1. Re. Scott Woods - I was at Habitat a couple weeks back and everything I ate was interesting, fresh, well-presented, and delicious. I had the roasted cauli soup as an opener and then the 5 taste kaiseki plate. Really great and more than worth it.

                1. Also a Scott Woods report:

                  Had cocktails and dinner at the bar about 2 months ago. Bartender was testing new cocktail menu and we had some sort of mango martini that was lovely and tropical. French 75 was waay too gin-y , but bartender happily smoothed it over with champagne top up. Had red with dinner, by the glass, don't recall, totally acceptable but unremarkable.

                  Food-wise, went with the kaiseki, which are very, very small, but elegant - sometimes esquisite. My favourite was a foie gras with white chocolate (sounds bizarre but totally "worked"), my partner like something curry-based (can't quite recall all half dozen or so dishes... sorry for being poor reporter).

                  For dinner, we split the venison pot au feu which was very flavourful, lovely to look at, with delightful dumplings. We weren't in for a heavy meal that night so that's all we sampled - even skipped dessert.

                  We definitely intend to go back.

                  1. I had the 24 hour pork belly, 7 plate Kaiseki, Atlantic Cod and then dessert at Habitat in early December. Pork belly is similar to the one I had in a chinese restaurant, good but not the great, I prefer to have it at a good chinese restaurant instead. The Kaiseki looks very good, taste is ok, beautiful, but not as good as it's look. Atlantic Cod is excellent, the sauce matches with the fish perfectly. Service is excellent. But the decor gives me a cold feeling. It is a moderate price restaurant.

                    1. From Toronto Life (James Chatto):
                      "What the future now holds for Woods is something of a mystery. Queen West gossipmongers say Habitat might be for sale, though Steve Jaukovic denies it. The last time I spoke to the chef, he was trying to decide whether to stay at the restaurant until after Christmas or start spreading the word that he was available. I’d like to think some savvy restaurateur will snap him up in a heartbeat and give him carte blanche in the kitchen, but I’ve never been terribly good at making predictions."

                      Can anyone confirm that Scot Woods is still at Habitat??

                      Rosebud is on my list as one of the 10 worst meals of 2006 (In Oct/Nov if I recall - is the above recommendation since then?).
                      Greg Couillard does one amazing dish (Jump-Up Soup). Everything else has been recycled for 20 years and to me virtually all his dishes taste the same (i.e. use the same spices).
                      Haven't been to Trevor - because I did eat once at Lobby (also in my top 10 worst of last year). Also hate the room he's moved to - but will probably check it out sometime.

                      Boy, do I sound negative! But I do have a recommendation too. For me the most exciting 'new' chef is Nathan Isberg of Czehoski (and exec chef at Coca). If you can get past the service issues at Czehoski, then go on a slow night and ask Nathan to cook whatever he thinks is good (I've had less success ordering off the menu).

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: estufarian

                        Woods is leaving Habitat mid-Feb, he's announced. No idea of where he's going. I second the Isberg reco, though they've been spotty lately at Czehoski.

                        1. re: pimentdespelette

                          i wonder if it's due to coca... i constantly see him running across queen st west to check on things at both places. stretched too far perhaps?

                          1. re: pimentdespelette

                            I've been to czehoski on 2 occasions......both very disappointing from both the food and service stand point. I really don't see the chef doing anything that exciting plus it seems they have some unsanitary practices. I don't understand the hype.

                            As for Scot Woods, James Chatto said he's no longer at Habitat.

                        2. I liked the Chef Jay Scaife at the Taboo Resort up north. He's been around but not that long. I don't think he's been given enough recognition. I think he worked under Michael Pataran. I know it's a long drive but it's a great weekend trip for golf and food in the summer. The golf course is pretty good.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: intheweedss

                            I like your style, but gas + golf + dinner (for two) at Taboo is going to be well over $600.


                          2. Josh Wolfe-Trevor Kitchen and Bar

                            1. jason bangerter--auberge du pommier
                              john butler--biffs
                              lino callevecchio (not necessarily new) --Via Allegro
                              scott baechler --not sure now but i had a meal at the Metropolitan in Vancouver and it was amazing
                              tom brodi --canoe

                              1 Reply
                              1. The chef at Biffs has not been John Butler for over 1 year now! I believe its Basil Pesce.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: The Macallan 18

                                  Sorry but that is who I recalled, when I ate there. Where is he now.

                                  1. re: imasleep

                                    Not sure any of these qualify as 'new', so for accuracy:

                                    jason bangerter--auberge du pommier - has been chef since 2002
                                    john butler--biffs - was at Biff's in 2000 and head chef until 2006. Executive Chef is now Basilio Pesce
                                    lino callevecchio (not necessarily new) --Via Allegro - chef since 2001
                                    scott baechler --not sure now but i had a meal at the Metropolitan in Vancouver and it was amazing - now at Four Seasons in Whistler after a stint in Dubai
                                    tom brodi --canoe - at canoe since 2001 and chef since 2004

                                    1. re: Cereal Killer

                                      I haven't seen many of these chefs in print. Apparently not all hard working chefs get their name in the papers. Good. I'm glad to see some people I didn't recognize. Nice to know.

                                2. Pascal Ribreau of Celestin.