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le select bistro

Someone made a movie about one of Toronto's most famous restaurants

One of Toronto's most famous restaurants, Le Sélect Bistro, is the topic of a new documentary created by a group of students in Toronto. 

For over 40 years, Le Sélect Bistro fostered a family of over 80 employees until bidding a bittersweet farewell back in February 2021.

The business announced on its Instagram page that condo developer, Allied Properties, would be taking over ownership of the property.

Fans of Le Sélect didn't have to live without the restaurant's classic French plates for too long, as the business reopened earlier this year, changing hands from Frédéric Geisweiller to ex-Keg CEO David Aisenstat. 

Raval Alviarez, who directed, wrote and edited the film, and Hayley Pinto, the documentary's producer, are both second year Film and Television Production students at Humber College. 

Their new documentary, Le Sélect, uncovers the history of the well-established restaurant, and features scenes with current staff as well as previous owners, Frédéric and Jean-Jacques. 

"Over the course of those 40 years, Le Sélect amassed quite a following, and it created the careers and launched the careers of so many talented culinary workers across Canada," Alviarez told blogTO.

"The memories that were formed there, and the relationships and bonds from the 80 plus employees who occupied that space became a tight knit family." 

Alviarez began drafting up the idea for the ten-minute documentary back in January 2022, at a time when the restaurant was still closed.

He initially pitched the documentary as part of his program requirements, and connected with a close friend who had worked at the restaurant.  

"I was kind of worried over the summer about what was going to happen to the space, and when I heard that they would reopen, it was a relief," he explained. "I remembered how heartbroken everyone was when they had to sell the place, and when they closed and not knowing if they would reopen, so I wanted to revisit that." 

The documentary began filming in mid-October, collecting over 500 minutes of footage and interviewing at least seven subjects. 

"It was amazing to talk to everyone that we spoke to, every time we only had a few hours with them, they were so willing to share their story and talk about Le Sélect," producer Pinto told blogTO. 

Alviarez said the team even managed to capture footage of the previous owners returning to the restaurant for the first time since they closed in the earlier half of 2021. 

"They walked in and people just started clapping, and it wasn't even planned," he told blogTO. "I think that just spoke to the type of people that they were." 

Pinto said the business was a lot more than just a restaurant, and managed to make a considerable impact despite being located in a huge city. 

"The owners really gave people who had no experience a chance, and they've become such great chefs and cooks and really excelled in their craft because of a small business," she said. 

Alviarez explains the crux of the documentary is uncovering the true story of the restaurant, what happened when the owners were forced to sell it, and if anything could've been done to prevent it.

Some questions he asked himself throughout the filiming of the documentary include: "what are we losing when a lot of these family businesses are displace in our city? What's the soul of our city? Where is it going as we go through these periods of urbanization and modernization?" 

Alviarez said the tale of Le Sélect is also a story we see all too often around the city. 

"I think the statistics are over 3,400 small businesses closed within the last year, and someone can hear that and they don't know what it means," he told blogTO. "I think this documentary is trying to show people what it means when we lose a space like that." 

Pinto echoed these sentiments, and explained that the documentary reveals so much more about the city we live in. 

"This documentary's really about the heart of Le Sélect as a restaurant, but also the heart of Toronto, and the people that live here," she said. 

The documentary is set to screen at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Jan. 18. 

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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