As a complement to this week’s Grid cover story on Keith Froggett, meet Toronto’s current crop of under-30 culinary phenoms.
Carl Heinrich (pictured above)
Title: Chef/co-owner of Richmond Station*
Years of experience: 13
Bio: Having made a name for himself while cooking at the re-launched Marben, the recent Top Chef Canada season-two winner has opened his first restaurant. Focusing on the farm-to-table mantra, his cooking is known for its simplicity, but tweaked just enough to get critical accolades.
On raw talent vs. experience: “Kitchens are generally full of young cooks. Even Jamie Kennedy and Susur Lee were young chefs once. Most of these young chefs have worked in other cities around the globe and are trying to get an experience that they cannot offer working for someone else. For the most part, Toronto has been incredibly receptive. It’s never been easier as a young entrepreneur to find a lease, find financing, find staff, and open the doors to a busy, small, fun, independent restaurant.”
Title: Executive sous chef of Momofuku Daishō
Years of experience: 10
Bio: In 2011, the outspoken chef introduced a new kind of cuisine to the city with the opening of Acadia, where he served refined and modern takes on low-country cuisine like scallops garnished with watermelon rind and arugula gel. His attention to detail caught the attention of New York chef David Chang, who hired Blondin to help open Daishō in September.
On raw talent vs. experience: “When you train under a seasoned chef, you not only learn from all their years of experience, but also from their years of failures and mistakes. This is the advantage to working for a veteran in the business. If a young chef is able to learn quickly from mistakes and not make the same ones twice, that becomes the difference between early success and failure. Natural talent can only take you so far.”
Title: Chef/co-owner of Chantecler
Twitter @ChanteclerTO (shared with co-owner Jacob Wharton-Shukster)
Years of experience: 10
Bio: Combining his Chinese background with fine-dining training, Poon has been known to update grandmotherly classics like XO sauce by pairing it with delicately seared pork neck.
On raw talent vs. experience: “Experience cannot be counted by number of years but instead by where and how you’ve been working. I started out as a dishwasher 10 years ago. Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard. I’m sure 30 years ago, the older chefs were also considered to be the hot young chefs. I mean, Jamie Kennedy was in his 20s when he was a chef at Scaramouche.”
Title: Former chef de cuisine of The Black Hoof
Years of experience: 11
Bio: From horse tartare to blood custard, Olsen, who took over from Grant van Gameren, helped The Black Hoof remain one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Before running the kitchen at the Hoof in 2011 (he left on Oct. 29), the chef cooked at esteemed restaurants like French Laundry and Ad Hoc in California.
On raw talent vs. experience: “I find that some of the younger generation just want to quickly learn and open up and learn off their mistakes…. I don’t consider myself naturally talented so I want to keep progressing and learning as much as I can because I don’t want to make mistakes when I open my own place. People are always rushing, but take your time. Nothing’s worse than taking on a five-year lease and then not even making your two-year mark. I’d rather wait till I’m 45 to open my restaurant to make sure everything I want to do is perfect.”
Title: Chef/co-owner of Emma’s Country Kitchen
Twitter N/A (restaurant handle: @EmmasCountryKitc)
Years of experience: 9
Bio: Pellett’s simple dishes, like sweet potato and bacon salad and her mouthwatering buttermilk biscuits, pack in the customers. Before opening the lunch spot/bakery, she served up comfort food at nearby barbecue house The Stockyards.
On raw talent vs. experience: “There were always young chefs, but because of things like Twitter, they’re now more outspoken and seen more by others. There are also more resources now like government programs and help from business communities to encourage young people like us to open our own businesses. I’ve been working in the industry long enough to see how people can burn out by 40, so I knew I had to do it young if I wanted to put all my energy into a place.”
CORRECTIONS, NOVEMBER 1, 2012: The original version of this article, as it appeared here and in the Nov. 1, 2012 edition of The Grid, stated that Richmond Station would be “opening soon,” when it in fact has already opened. Also, Rachel Pellett’s name was initially spelled incorrectly and has since been updated.