Chefs You Should Know

Chef Corbin Tomaszeski on Toronto’s Food Scene and Where to Find a “Down-and-Dirty” Meal

Chef Corbin Tomaszeski leads the helm at Toronto favorite, Savoury. (All Photos: Courtesy of The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto)

For celebrated Canadian Chef Corbin Tomaszeski, food is as much about people as it is about creating palate-pleasing cuisine. That’s why Tomaszeski’s partnership with The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto to create Savoury — a unique, intimate dining experience where up to 14 guests enjoy a special chef’s-choice menu — is such a work of passion.

Chef Tomaszeski spoke to Marriott TRAVELER about his approach to cooking and the role food plays in bringing people together.

When did you fall in love with food?

I grew up on a farm and learned at a very early age to have a full appreciation of ingredients. I learned that if you prepare a meal with fresh, homemade ingredients, people will show up. And what gravitated me to food at the very beginning was the onset of people coming together through food.

You speak often about the meaning of food. Can you explain what that implies?

I think the purpose of food is the coming together of people and the sharing of experiences. I think too often people get consumed with the semantics of preparing food, which I can do myself as a chef.

But for me, when I cook it’s important to ask myself, “What will people see? What will people share over a plate of my food? What do people talk about?” And that’s really what it’s all about, and every great chef knows that.

That’s why I was never one of those chefs that was chained to the stove. I would cook, change my apron around, go out and shake the hands of my customers and my clients. I like to connect with the people who eat my food.

What’s special about the culinary experience offered at Savoury?

Savoury is the extension of everything I just said about the importance of people and food. It’s why I cook. Savoury is the celebration of the craft of cooking. It’s unpretentious. It’s not formatted. It’s just enjoying fantastic, local, seasonal food. There’s no set menu. We prepare food that we get the day of and get inspired.

In your opinion, is Toronto a great food city?

I think Toronto is one of those iconic places in the world that has renowned food. Not only because of the chefs that work here and the spectrum of restaurants, but because of the many cultures that exist.

There are pockets of amazing food in every single neighborhood … you name the ethnicity, you name the country, we’ve got a little pocket. That’s what also makes Toronto so exciting. Because of the different foods and cultures, even as an established and experienced chef, I can still learn something new every day.

Do you have any favorite places you like to eat in the city?

Because I’m a chef, people always ask, “Where’s your favorite place to go?” And you know what? It’s all over the place. Toronto is so multicultural, and there are thousands of restaurants and bars that exist in this city, so I like trying them all and exploring different ones.

Recently my wife and I were in the mood for Indian/Pakistani food, and we like to go to Lahore Tikka House. It’s certainly not high end. It’s down and dirty, and you’re sitting on plastic furniture. Oh, but the food! The aromatics, the finesse, the flavor, you can tell it was made with love.

What’s something visitors to Toronto should not miss out on?

Well, I just took my kids to Toronto’s new Ripley’s Aquarium, and they loved that. And of course, I tell people that they have to come to the hotel and enjoy a meal at Savoury.

But one of the best complements to the wonderful culinary experience people are going to have in Toronto is for visitors to take the trek down to the Niagara wine region, which is just a little over an hour away.

We have some amazing vineyards and orchards that people simply shouldn’t miss. Go to the vineyards and do some wine tasting. There’s such a large spectrum of incredible sparkling wines, reds and whites and wonderful ice wines. Go discover the unsung heroes of Canadian wine.