david gulyas la palette

La Palette manager running for mayor but he's not in it to win it

The manager at La Palette, the popular Queen West french bistro that birthed Drom Taberna, is one of the 102 candidates running for mayor, but his campaign isn't about winning.

David Gulyas isn't trying to be Toronto's next mayor but he is trying to change the way local citizens participate in the municipal election.  

His website, Please Vote Toronto, reads, "I am not the best candidate for mayor, not yet, but I am the best candidate to help us find one."

That sentiment looks to be his unofficial campaign slogan as he ramps up his work to educate voters.

Starting Saturday May 27th, every Saturday leading up to Toronto's June 26 by-election for mayor will see Gulyas hosting community circles in Alexandra Park for the public to discuss civic issues and community needs, as well as learn about the election process. 

The meetings will happen from 1-4 p.m. at the South-West corner of the park. Community members are encouraged to attend, as well as all mayoral candidates. 

The events will have weekly themes to guide the discussions and include voter education elements focused on helping people know where and how to vote, how the advanced ballot works, and how to get assistance for any barriers they might face in voting on June 26th. 

Though some Torontonians may be surprised to see a hospitality worker run for mayor, it makes sense when you contextualize the community that Gulyas comes from.  

The Drom community which spans both La Palette and Drom Taberna is known in Toronto as a multicultural creative hub for activists and artists alike.

The owners, Shamez Amlani and Maria Litwin, are two of the founders of Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market where they continue to volunteer their time. 

David gulyas la paletteThey, along with Drom Taberna staff member, Rashid Mohiddin, comprise Gulyas’ small campaign team which works out of La Palette. 

The community is both civic-minded and immensely supportive.

In 2021, the Drom Artist Collective was launched to connect local artists with resources, tools, creative services, and a network of mentors and advisors.  

Then followed Drom film Productions and Drom Publications, which has released a number of books and zines. These publications are sold online at Drom Artist Collective and in house at both restaurants, and include poetry written by Gulyas, who is also a writer. 

The prosperity of artists and hospitality workers is right at the heart of Gulyas’ mission to critically and objectively unite Toronto citizens on the fundamental issues facing our city. 

David gulyas la paletteGulyas has been living in Toronto since 1989, when he moved with his parents from Budapest, Hungary. He has worked at La Palette for 11 years. 

"I have two kids," says Gulyas, "I'm intimately tied to this city and I want to have hope for it, but I don't if it continues in the same direction that I see."

He hatched his plan to run for mayor in October after John Tory was elected to his third term in a landslide election, even though only 29% of eligible voters in Toronto actually cast a ballot. 

"It's a shame that the best we can do is to pick leaders with one quarter of the electorate. It is why so much of the good and the potential in Toronto is not represented," says Gulyas.

David gulyas la paletteOn Gulya's campaign website, he writes that it is a privilege to participate in this election and to be allowed to dream of becoming mayor.

Historically, he writes, it has been a group of "corporate, self-preserving men" that have held this privilege at the highest levels of Toronto. 

He frankly states, "These men suck. What they represent sucks. What this city needs is not another man that sucks."

With the advent of Saturday's community circles, Gulyas ultimately wants to start a hopeful, regular political discussion that will continue past the election cycle.

His campaign prioritizes the wellbeing of city-dwellers, right down to smallest community challenges that other politicians aren't talking about– like public bathrooms. 

The rest of his campaign, at least on social media, uses a bit of satire to highlight community issues.

When asked if he feels hopeful about some of the other candidates, Gulyas says he respects Olivia Chow and Chloe Brown, whom he refers to as a, "very strong, brave and charming person." 

"If I can help in any way to focus discussions around issues as opposed to any kind of partisanship or affiliation candidates may have, that would be a wonderful thing," says Gulyas. 

Photos by

Fareen Karim

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