Celebrity is the mystery ingredient in Toronto’s
BY CHRIS METLER
Bar Isabel • 799 College Street
As chef de cuisine of Grant van Gameren’s venerable Spanish tavern Bar Isabel, Alyssa Figueira runs one of the top kitchens in town. She’s also one of the food architects behind Toronto’s most Instagrammable dishes—a whole #octopus grilled to perfection. Though what stands out most about Figueira is her quiet profile, especially since she’s such a key figure at one of Canada’s most bustling eateries. This is one chef who’d rather her spotlight shine on the food. We’ll cheers to that.
Alo • 163 Spadina Avenue
Alo’s Patrick Kriss has revived the lost art of the tasting menu. The elegant dining space tucked above street level on the corner of Queen and Spadina requires a well-in-advance booking to secure a table. While Kriss recognizes the rising popularity of chefs as pop culture icons, both in Toronto and worldwide, his efforts will always be focused on pleasing his number one fans: the patrons. “I enjoy what I do, but I always retain the belief that Alo is a business,” says Kriss. “My responsibility is to keep improving on everything it stands for.”
BUCA • 604 King Street West
BUCA YORKVILLE • 53 Scollard Street
BAR BUCA • 75 Portland Street
Chef Rob Gentile’s ever-growing Italian dynasty is an ode to his commitment to serving meals with substance. Perfect pastas and pizzas reign on his menu. “People are more interested in what they put in their bodies, these days than ever before, and as chefs, we are at the forefront of this,” says Gentile. All three of Buca’s locations are always abuzz. And the celebrity that’s accompanied Gentile’s climb to the top is really no surprise. “Chefs have become revered, which is a very important step in our ability to influence not only each other, but the masses,” says Gentile.
DaiLo • 503 College Street
Some chefs crack under the weight of expectation, but not Nick Liu. Using predominantly Chinese cuisine from the country’s Hakka region and reimagining it with French techniques, chef Lui was touted as the next Susur Lee when he first landed on the scene. “In the last five years, diners have become more food educated—they’ve become cooks themselves. I think they’ve realized how amazing some of the creations are that are coming out of this city’s restaurant scene,” says Liu. But with original Asian brasserie fare like the Jellyfish Slaw and Big Mac Bao to his credit, the DaiLo boss is more content to be ‘the first Nick Liu.’