The Man Who Would Be King

Who says print is dead? While it has definitely taken a backseat to digital media, it still has specialty uses for when marketers want something tactile, with value, that they can put into people’s hands as important keepsake and selling tool.

A case in point is the magazine-style publication I helped to create with branding agency 52 Pick-up for Bianca, a condominium being developed by Tridel in Toronto’s New Dupont district. The magazine serves as a city guide for prospective buyers, showing them the kind of the lifestyle they would enjoy here, with outstanding cultural, culinary and shopping attractions.

For the magazine project (art directed and designed by 52 Pick-up), I developed a story line-up, assigned freelance writers, wrote key stories ourselves, edited copy and collected artwork for layout.

Here’s one of the stories I wrote (the article was followed by Rose’s recipe for hummus):

The Man Who Would Be King

With his five popular Dupont Street restaurants, Anthony Rose has turned the area into a dining destination – one that is the foundation for a larger empire to come.

Anthony Rose makes many strong claims to be King of Dupont. The 40-something chef and restaurant owner was named one of Toronto Life’s 50 Most Influential. Last year, the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals crowned him Restaurateur of the Year. But most tellingly, he is credited with starting the restaurant boom in the area, led by cuisine that’s comfortable and familiar but with that little something extra that attracts diners in droves.

We caught up with Anthony Rose at Rose and Sons at noon, just finishing a breakfast meeting with his business partner, Robert Wilder, and about to head out to do the daily rounds of all his restaurants. In a conversation held above the happy lunchtime clatter, Rose is justifiably proud of the empire he’s built but becomes most animated as he talks about what lies ahead.

Q: So what started you cooking?
A: My mom was a great cook and baker. I loved to cook with her. I loved food and was a fat kid. I hated school. I struggled through Hebrew school, high school and then university, Concordia – I think I went to six classes over two years. So I finally gave up and returned to Toronto. I had done some cooking part time and thought, let’s try this full time.

Q: You started your career as a dishwasher at one restaurant. You worked your way up in the business and became executive chef at the Drake Hotel for five years. Why did you decide to open Rose and Sons in 2012?
A: My brother walked by People’s Restaurant and it had this foreclosure notice. Growing up, we used to eat there weekly. So I thought, perfect. Twentyeight seats – wicked. I could cook and do everything myself. This will be so much fun. We wanted to do an upscale diner.

Q: So why did you expand?
A: Well, we discovered 28 seats doesn’t really make a business. So we decided to open Big Crow next, and then went from there.

Q: Each of these restaurants has a strong individual theme, from the hipster cool of Bar Begonia to the upscale deli atmosphere of Schmaltz. What connects them all?
A: The simplicity of the food we serve. The overall familiarity of the flavours. You come to any one of these restaurants and think, I know this food. It’s delicious. This is like what I make at home, only better.

Q: Some claim that this area was restaurant deprived before you came here. Why did you target it?
A: It just happened organically. People would just offer us spaces and we’d say, that’s convenient. Still I find Dupont Street a very interesting area. It was always a very blue-collar area, with rental places, gas stations, grocery stores and so on. But it’s now changing, with developments like Tridel’s, restaurants, galleries and stores opening all over the place. It’s a good time to be here.

Q: So the area’s growing. How about your business?
A: Yeah, we’ve got plans. This spring, we are opening a burger joint behind Bar Begonia. It’s called Madame Boeuf and Flea – a combination hamburger restaurant and flea market. And we also want to open an Izakaya.

Q: Opening a Japanese restaurant makes sense. I hear that you and your son, Simon, love to eat it together.
A: Yes, he’d eat sushi all day long and ramen – we go to the Momufuku noodle bar a couple of times a month… Also I should mention that Rob and I have plans to expand to L.A. and New York. We’re also working on ideas for a hotel, more like a bed and breakfast, something from the country but you have it in Toronto.

Q: Yikes! There’s not a lot of time for leisure in your schedule. Do you have a recipe you could share with us?
A: Sure. Actually the timing’s good. I’m also working on a cookbook.

See the full Bianca Magazine.

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