Windsor Arms

The Windsor Arms and JP Challet's Next Act

Fresh off his battle against Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, Chef Jean Pierre Challet is full of inspiration and is ready to teach Torontonians a thing or two about dining.

After designing and opening the kitchen in the Windsor Arms over ten years ago, chef JP Challet is returning to the boutique hotel to open his restaurant, Ici. Along with partners Jennifer Decorte and Peter Tsang, Challet plans to open his restaurant with a concept that could very well spell the death of fine dining in Toronto.

"In a way, I don't really believe in fine dining," said Challet, who plans to price his menu at an affordable $60 per meal. While Challet plans to do away with higher price points, he maintains that service and quality of food and wine will remain of utmost importance. "For me the biggest challenge is to make the people in Yorkville, and in Toronto, to say, 'We don't want to be too expensive,'" he said.

Ici at the Windsor Arms will feature a short menu of seven appetizers, seven mains and five desserts. Focusing on food and wine pairings, featuring Canadian products and wine, the menu will rotate every month and a half. While Challet believes strongly in Canadian, local and seasonal produce, he will not be shy to source outside of a 200 mile radius.

"Some people put on their menu,"200 mile menu" and then serve you a tomato in January. Where are you going to get a tomato around here this time of year?" said Challet. "I believe in staying Canadian, but we must go from East to West." While staying devoutly local will not be top priority at Ici, promoting Canadian wine will be.

"People do not realize that Ontario has great wine," said Challet. "Look at Le Clos Jordanne," he said, citing the Claystone 2005, a Chardonnay beat out the world's best winemakers in a blind taste-test at the Judgement of Paris last May. "That is a pretty serious achievement," said Challet.

"Most countries that produce their own wine, consume most of their wine, but not here," he said. This is something Challet is actively hoping to change by both promoting Canadian wines and hosting affordable bi-monthly tapas style winemaker dinners.

As he moves forward with his plans at the Windsor Arms, Challet has not given up on his Harbord Street bistro. "Ici [on Harbord] will become Ici Aussi," said Challet. Having attained a hard-to-come-by liquor licence from the city, he nurses two ideas for the space, which he hopes to open in March.

One is to turn Ici Aussi into a French tapas and wine bar. The other is to use the space as a training restaurant for his sous chefs, where his chefs will have the opportunity to run the space with their own menus for three months at a time. With plans like these, it's clear that inspiration is abundant for Challet.

Says Challet, "I always cook the way I like to eat. I always want to make a restaurant the way I like to be a customer."


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