Shining the spotlight on individuals who shaped the foodservice landscape
Umberto Menghi: After training in London and Paris, Menghi moved to Vancouver in 1969, where he is credited with starting a restaurant revolution with his fresh, authoritative food. He now owns three popular restaurants in Vancouver and Whistler — Il Giardino and Trattoria di Umberto — has authored five best-selling cookbooks and hosted The Elegant Appetite cooking show.
Nick Di Donato: For more than two decades, the Liberty Entertainment Group, led by Di Donato has been redefining Toronto’s nightlife experience. As creators of numerous landmark establishments — including the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex, Rosewater, Spice Route and Cibo Wine Bar — the Liberty Entertainment Group has become recognized as one of the most successful and innovative companies in this industry
Peter Oliver & Michael Bonacini: In 1993, the pair founded Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality, which is now recognized as one of Canada’s leading restaurant and event groups. With locations in Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon, the company’s diverse portfolio currently includes a collection of unique and innovative restaurants, event spaces, a bakery and several strategic partnerships.
Sinclair & Frédérique Philip: It’s been more than 30 years since the Philips opened the Sooke Harbour House in the Sooke, B.C. Since that time, their inn and restaurant has earned an international reputation as a must-visit destination for food lovers and for its role in pioneering and championing the sustainable use of local, regional B.C. cuisine.
Jack Evrensal: The founder of the Toptable Group of Restaurants, Evrensel is known for his true sense of hospitality, attention to detail and love of food and wine. He is a founding board member of the Chefs’ Table Society and The Podium Club, as well as a member of the James Beard Culinary Foundation. He was also the first Honorary Chair of Taste of the Nation.
Charles Khabouth: Khabouth owns/manages 16 restaurants, bars and clubs in Toronto, including Figo, Batch, Macho Radio Bar and a Dubai outpost of Weslodge. His newest project Bisha — a 44-storey hotel and condo building in the Entertainment District — opened last year and the first Canadian outpost of Akira Back restaurant.
Normand Laprise: Laprise and partner Christine Lamarche have operated Toqué! since 1993 and launched the more casual Brasserie T! in 2010. Both restaurants focus on seasonal local cuisine. “For me, Quebec cuisine is very, very local — local produce and local [talent],” Laprise told F&H in 2017. Laprise has received a number of honours and recognitions throughout his career, including Relais & Château Grand Chef, Knight of the National Order of Quebec and Member of the Order of Canada.
John Higgins: Chef Higgins career has taken him around the world and seen him work in kitchens at Buckingham Palace, Four Seasons Hotels and Toronto’s King Edward Hotel. The Scottish-born chef has led national culinary teams in international competitions and has made several recent television appearances on Food Network programs, including Top Chef Canada and Chopped Canada. Higgins is currently Chef School director at George Brown College — a post he has held since 2002.
Vikram Vij: Chef Vij’s first restaurant, Vij’s, has been a Vancouver institution for more than two decades. He has since built a small restaurant empire which includes Vij’s Rangoli (Vancouver) My Shanti (South Surrey, B.C.), the Vij’s Railway Express food truck and Vij’s Sutra — a market/restaurant hybrid at the Victoria Public Market. The Indian-born celebrity chef and entrepreneur also boasts a line of frozen meals partnerships with brands including Air Canada, Chefs Plate and Neal Brothers, in addition to being the author of four books and appearing in TV shows such as Dragons’ Den.
Albert Schnell: As executive chef for Hilton flagships in Canada, Schnell has been a visionary, a culinary artist and a mentor to some of the finest chefs around the world during his 50-year career. He’s prepared banquets for three generations of the British royal family, as well as an array of international royalty. Before retiring, Schnell was a judge for the prestigeous Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France. His legacy includes the Albert Schnell Hilton Learning and Catering Centre at Toronto’s Humber College.
Marcel Kretz: This French-born chef carries the unique distinction of being the first chef to receive the Order of Canada. Kretz helmed the kitchen of La Sapinière in Val David, Que. from 1961 through 1990 and is heralded as a pioneer in the development of regional Quebec cuisine and the showcasing of local products. During his career, the award-winning chef represented Canada in international competitions, taught part-time at École Hôtelière des Laurentides and was named CCFCC Chef of the Year in 1981.
Michael Stadtländer: The German-born chef came to Canada in 1980 to head up Toronto’s Scaramouche alongside friend and fellow chef Jamie Kennedy. In a release announcing the pair as recipients of the Governor General’s Award in Celebration of the Nation’s Table, the chefs were lauded as “the original locavores and Toronto’s first celebrity chefs.” Today, Stadtländer and his wife Nobuyo operate Eigensinn Farm and Haisai in Singhampton, Ont., where he practices his passion for farm-to-table cuisine.
Mark McEwan: McEwan began his career in 1981 as the youngest-ever executive sous chef at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto. He opened his first restaurant, North 44, in 1990, followed by Bymark restaurant, ONE and Fabbrica. In 2009, McEwan opened a $6-million, gourmet-food supermarket “McEwan” at Shops at Don Mills, with a second 6,000-sq.-ft. location added in the PATH at the TD Centre in 2015. His grocery store also creates grab-and-go items that are sold at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. McEwan has been an ambassador for Second Harvest in Toronto, helping to spread the word about food rescue and hunger relief.
Jamie Kennedy: Often called the godfather of Canadian cuisine, thanks to his innovative approach to gastronomy, commitment to sustainable agriculture and advocacy of local food, Kennedy has been instrumental in shaping the country’s culinary landscape. His restaurants included Gilead Café, Jamie Kennedy Gardiner, Jamie Kennedy at the ROM, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens and, most recently, Windows by Jamie Kennedy.
Susur Lee: Praised as one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millennium” by Food & Wine magazine, Lee helms five restaurants in Toronto — Lee, Luckee, Lee Kitchen and Fring’s — and oversees his prestigious TungLok Heen in Singapore’s Hotel Michael. He also makes numerous television appearances and travels the world as guest chef and consultant. In 2015, Lee partnered with HMSHost to launch Lee Kitchen at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport
Garland Commercial Ranges: In 1864, the Garland Line began in a small foundry in Detroit. It grew to become the Michigan Stove company in 1873, producing more than 200 varieties of stoves under the name Garland. In 1952, Russell Prowse brought Garland to Toronto. The Garland Group was formed in 1995 and in 2008 became part of Welbilt Company.
MCain Foods Limited: Established in 1957 in Florenceville, N.B. by Wallace and Harrison McCain — along with their brothers Robert and Andrew — McCain Foods Limited is the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products. A multi-national, privately owned company, it employs more than 20,000 people on six continents with global sales in excess of $9 billion.
Donald Ziraldo + Karl Kaiser: Kaiser and ZIraldo co-founded Inniskillin Wines in 1975. The pair produced wines that put Canada on the map — raising the bar on the quality and gaining the industry respect. Their most well-known accomplishment was winning the coveted grand prix d’honneur at Vinexpo, France in 1989 for the Inniskillin Vidal icewine.
Donald Triggs: In 1993, Donald Triggs — along with Allan Jackson — founded Mississauga, Ont.-based company, Vincor Canada, which began to produce Jackson-Triggs wine. In 2006 Jackson-Triggs won the Gold Medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) for best Shiraz/Syrah — the first Canadian red wine to be recognized by the IWSC. In 2010, they won their seventh Canadian Wine Producer of the Year title at the IWSC.
Holland College’s Culinary Institute of Canada, Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Students at The Culinary Institute of Canada use fresh local ingredients from the island’s farms and fisheries. Recently, the school earned two gold medals and a fourth overall placement at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany.
Stratford Chefs School, Stratford, Ont.: Founded in 1983 by James Morris, Joseph Mandel and Eleanor Kane, the school ran as a private, non-profit institution operating out of the kitchens of Rundles and the Old Prune. Last year, the school moved to a new facility to accommodate the 70 students who attend its two-year program.
Red River College, Winnipeg: Opened in 1938, the college is known for its rich culture and Indigenous history. The school is preparing to introduce an Indigenous Culinary Skills Certificate in an effort to promote Aboriginal cuisine. Famous graduates include Gordon Bailey, who opened Lot 30 in P.E.I. in 2008.
University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont.: The School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management has a 47-year legacy of preparing students for careers in the foodservice and hospitality industry. Programs include the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or work for a year through its co-op program.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alta.: NAIT opened its doors in 1962. Graduates of its Culinary Arts program work around the world in hotels, restaurants, resorts and catering companies. In 2009, NAIT introduced the Hokanson Chef-in-Residence Program with celebrity Chef Rob Feenie.