Chef Lanny MacLeod’s love of cooking began when he was a child — trying new recipes and watching Julia Child on PBS with his grandmother.
“We went through her old Betty Crocker cookbooks and her Chatelaine and Canadian Living magazines and picked out recipes we both liked to make a [recipe] scrapbook.”
Though the scrapbook was lost in a devastating fire, MacLeod still has his grandmother’s old Betty Crocker cookbook (a first-edition copy) and often turns to it for inspiration.
These memories are what MacLeod says fuels his cooking style at Toronto’s Victor Restaurant in Le Germain Hotel Toronto Mercer. “I like to cook things I thought were fancy when I was a kid — very soulful [and] to the point,” says the executive chef. “I want to remind people what it’s like to eat a home-cooked meal, but elevated to [incorporate] the luxe factor [of] this beautiful hotel.”
Examples include Perch Almondine — a Lake-Erie perch with French beans, wild rice and a lemon-butter sauce($28) — and the Big Vic, a house-ground beef patty topped with double-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, aged white cheddar and Russian dressing($23).
While attending Niagara College Culinary School, MacLeod met his mentor, Virginia Marr. “[She was] a really kick-ass chef who inspired me and my entire class,” he says, remembering how Marr took him under her wing and made sure his career set off in the right direction. “[For my internship] she set me up with Chris Smyth [at Noble Restaurant in the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.] He’s the calmest, most kind man and I’ve always said I want to be like him when I run a kitchen, because you can get great work out of people [by treating them] with kindness.”
Shortly after graduating, MacLeod moved out east to P.E.I. with his partner and headed up the kitchens at The Pearl Café and Shaw’s Restaurant.
When MacLeod was hired as sous chef at Victor Restaurant — and later promoted to executive chef — he set out to create a fun, familial environment with his team.
“I’m grateful for the team I have here. It’s important to have fun at work— we’re
cooking food not performing brain surgery.”
The chef says his greatest accomplishment has been maintaining a healthy relationship amidst the gruelling hours that come with a career in the restaurant industry. “My
relationship with my partner [is my] utmost success, because being able to have it and still [work this job, is something] a lot of people in this industry don’t get.”
Written by Shelby O’Connor