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Get to Know a Chef: Adisa Glasgow, 3030 Dundas West

Posted by Natalie Chu / February 18, 2013

adisa glasgow chef toronto Though he's just turned 30, chef Adisa Glasgow says he feels like an old soul. But his menu at 3030 Dundas West in the Junction isn't sticking to the classics. Glasgow wins over crowds with creative dishes that pay homage to his heritage and other culinary influences. The Trinidad native talks about his vision for bringing Caribbean food to Toronto, surprising his diners with unexpected ingredients, and one dish he's currently obsessed with.

Did you always want to be a chef?

Everyone in my family cooks, and I screwed up a lot trying to help out in the kitchen when I was younger, but I always wanted to be a chef. We always had huge meals; Thanksgiving at home was not like here. If you had a decent year as far as money was concerned, you fed the neighbourhood, so that was a lot of fun.

Where did you grow up and what brought you here?

Half in Trinidad and half in Vancouver. I came to Canada when I was 12, and I moved to Toronto about a year ago. I was chasing a woman, who was Italian, so I wanted to move to England to move closer to her. But being Trinidadian and getting a work visa there is pretty impossible, so then I decided instead of coming back to Vancouver, I might as well try out Toronto and see what the scene is like here.

How would you describe the food scene in Toronto?

It's exciting. There are a lot of hungry, young chefs, and a lot of new restaurants. I just felt like everyone out here was trying to really push the envelope. It's competitive as hell, and it's hard to try and come up with some really innovative stuff.

adisa glasgow chef toronto Where did you learn to cook?

I started as a dishwasher in a restaurant. I never went to school; I just started washing dishes, then started prepping. From there I moved to garde manger, then sauces, then eventually moved through the whole thing. I even took a hiatus for a year and worked in the front end, just so that I could get a good grasp on what's going on. Then I did my tour around Vancouver, working at different restaurants. I decided to settle down in an Italian restaurant, Quattro, and the chef, Bradford Ellis was very good. He's a pretty jovial guy, but he taught me a lot.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned working as a chef?

Probably just to put your ego aside and learn from the people you've hired. Just in the short time that I've worked with other chefs in this city, I've noticed there's a little bit of arrogance and I'm not sure where it comes from. Maybe it's because of the press they've gotten, that they think they're rockstars, but I've learned to keep the ego in check. Also, just to be able to do what I want, because honestly, I just put stuff together hoping it tastes good. Don't stop making something because you feel like the crowd's not going to love it. I had to stand through a lot of things on this menu to let it shine and give everybody a chance to try it.

How did you end up at 3030?

Craigslist. I quit Grand Electric, and I was going to move to Winnipeg because my dad was really sick. Then I got a phone call from him saying the cancer was in recession and he was doing well, so I decided to stay here. I was looking through the classifieds, and my girlfriend found this head chef position so I figured why not. I came in and they picked me, so I guess I got lucky.

You have some pretty adventurous items on your menu. How do you feel the food works with the bar crowd?

I do get a little roadblock with people sometimes, they don't know about eating beef cheeks, dandelion greens, or that black cod is worth $26. People come in and see pinball tables, brick walls, and they kind of get thrown off a little bit. But once they relax, they realize that you don't need to be on King Street or have white tablecloths to enjoy a good meal.

People really grew on a lot of stuff; the pigtail torta was tough to sell for a while, then all of a sudden we're flying through them. So they're opening up to me, and slowly but surely they're giving me a chance. The goat wellington is the only thing I'm really surprised about with people. Typically when you see goat, it's probably inside a roti, but I find that people are just blowing through goat right now, and it's kind of strange.

Is the Goat Wellington your Trinidadian roots coming through?

There's that and the bread with the pigtail torta, that's called a fry bake, from Trinidad. It's a little puffier the way we do it in Trinidad; we add more water, stretch it, and fry it so it puffs up, I just use less water here so it's flatter. It rises a little bit, but it still has that flakiness, almost like puff pastry. The hot sauce that I put on it is my mom's recipe, and she actually emailed that to me.

3030 dundas west chef toronto Any other cuisines you're currently obsessed with that influence your menu?

The butter chicken wings is from me growing up in Vancouver eating tons of East Indian food and loving it. With the next menu, I'll probably do a lot more Trinidadian-influenced stuff. I didn't want to label this place with a cuisine, because then you're limited by that. But I feel that in this city, there really aren't any great Trinidadian restaurants. There's lots of shops with lions painted on the walls, with an old lady in the back pumping out rotis, which is great, but I'm really going to try and find some classic Trinidadian recipes and kind of meld it with my cooking background, and see what I can do with that.

How do you keep pushing yourself creatively?

That has a lot to do with me just trying to impress my boys back in Vancouver. I'm trying to get them all to come out here, and really see the scene. For myself, it might sound a little cheesy, but it's all about my mom. She shipped me off here, and I just want to show everybody back in Trinidad that the boy is doing it up and taking some of our culture and throwing it out there. I came to Canada to do something and hopefully take it back to Trinidad, hopefully open up a restaurant there.

What's next for you and the restaurant?

I definitely want to start experimenting more with food. I love the egg; I'm working on the egg right now and doing this crazy thing with a tartare. This place has its niche, but it can only go so far with what I have going on. Friday and Saturday nights it's chaos, and I don't think anybody's tasting my food; it's just fuel for the madness. Eventually, I do want to open my own place--a small restaurant--and do some intricate stuff. Hopefully I can get that done later than sooner, because I don't want to rush into anything. I know the city's getting hit hard with any chef that's seen some sort of success opening their own place within a year or two. I want to take my time.

What do you do when you're not in the kitchen?

I have this sweet motorcycle that I like to rip around. I collect records; I used to be a DJ when I was younger, so I still have a lot of them. I play hockey, though a lot of people can't believe that I skate quite fast. And just going over to 416 Snack Bar and tear apart their steam bun. I stroll in there all grimy and shady, ask for a steam bun and a double scotch, and then I'm out in 10 minutes.

adisa glasgow chef toronto RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS

Most underrated ingredient? Maggi Seasoning

Best culinary tool? Kunz spoon

A chef that inspires you? Mark Ota

What's one dish you can't live without? My mom's tomato sauce or fried okra

Favourite Toronto restaurant? 416 Snack Bar

What would people be surprised to find in your fridge? Something

One food trend that needs to end? Tacos

For more chef profiles, visit our Toronto Chefs Pinterest board.

Photos by Jesse Milns



J / February 18, 2013 at 11:51 am
Maggi seasoning! hahah good stuff, love a dab of that here and there for stir fry.
No to tacos! I agree.

Keep up the good work at 3030! Love the food, great quality and good vibes all around.
You're also right about big egos in the kitchen in Toronto. People need to keep themselves in check. What it comes down to is the food and service.
Michelle / February 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm
I love 3030 and 416 snack bar
sun / February 18, 2013 at 01:27 pm
Sunglasses. COME ON.
Sara / February 18, 2013 at 02:40 pm
Gotta check this out.
Abe / February 18, 2013 at 03:03 pm
mom's tomato sauce. always the answer.
G / February 18, 2013 at 04:38 pm
wow sunglasses in every pic. wonder why that is? next time try using visine. or maybe don't smoke a doobie right before camera guy shows up.
R / February 18, 2013 at 08:05 pm
Food is decent, a little overpriced though for what it is. Service is total crap, it's not service really, not in a traditional sense. Very pretentious place to be honest, sometimes to the point of being very rude.
Rich replying to a comment from R / February 18, 2013 at 08:25 pm
"Very pretentious place to be honest, sometimes to the point of being very rude."

Amen. Drove us away and now we spend our booze and food bucks at Indie or (in a pinch) Gabby's.
evan replying to a comment from G / February 19, 2013 at 03:18 am
or from the looks of it of the top picture, shielding from bright sunshine. umm… racist...
Hairy Jerome / February 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm
Where's the hair net on the female cook?
Allhands Aroamin' replying to a comment from Hairy Jerome / February 19, 2013 at 06:48 pm
Where's the female net on the hairy cook?
Joshie replying to a comment from evan / February 20, 2013 at 10:51 pm
How is smokin doobies racist? Its a comment on the vibe not the ethnicity... It's Toronto Canada, you know that strange smell you smell every other block? That's doobies...
Chefsoletrini / February 21, 2013 at 01:24 am
I smoke lots of weed...but only after work...
Kat / February 21, 2013 at 11:25 am
A wonderfully honest interview/article. We should all be able to speak so frankly about our jobs. 3030 is one of my fav Toronto joints, a feel good vibe, delicious food, friendly staff. Clearly a labour of love for the management & staff. Kudos to all for their hard work, that place is always busy and open late... I'd wear sunglasses too if I worked this hard, everyday. Looking forward to seeing this chef's evolution.
TorontoFoodReview / March 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm
HOLY CRAP! Chef Adisa is out of this world. The food was fantastic but the service/management left a lot to be desired. This young man has some serious culinary talent. I can't wait until he opens his very own resto. Kudos to the Chef-- our party was so impressed with the food that the crappy service didn't bother us as much as it usually would. Well done.
louis vuitton bags us / April 25, 2013 at 08:52 am
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José Petitpas / April 28, 2013 at 01:50 pm
What can i say..... i worked with Adisa in van. this young man had the whole kitchen stuff laughing always... not only talent and passion back stages.... this boy has the spirit most people lost .... waiting the end of the month for
j.a / August 14, 2014 at 11:52 pm
after reading this article i find it so ironic because he is a cocky arrogant asshole who doesnt even take his sunglasses off to talk to staff. he has turned into everything he thought he wouldnt become case and point strolling in and out as he pleases and barely lifting a pan to cook anything.

-an ex line cook
Other Cities: Montreal