Toronto Through the Eyes of Lynn Crawford
Lynn Crawford has made a name for herself working in exclusive kitchens like the Four Seasons, and some kitchens that needed a little help, with her appearances on the Food Network's Restaurant Makeover. She's traveled a long way from George Brown College's culinary program to being the executive chef at the Four Seasons in both Toronto and New York City, and appearing on an episode of Iron Chef America.
She's currently expanding her name recognition to the screen and kitchen again, with a new show on Food Network, Pitchin' In, and as the new owner of Riverside's former Citizen restaurant, soon to be known as Ruby Watchco. In the midst of what she calls "crazy renos," Crawford talks New York vs. Toronto, fresh ingredients and her new restaurant.
What neighbourhood do you live in?
I just moved back from New York, at the tail end of last year. I'm just renting a little condo up at Yonge and St. Clair as a temporary pit stop. I would love to be close to the restaurant, I would love to be in Leslieville. It's a quick and easy commute down to the restaurant for the time being.
How do Toronto restaurants compare to those in New York City?
There's a lot of talent in Toronto. Toronto is a really food-savvy city. There's a great love and appreciation for wonderful food and wine. I think the one big comparison would be that New York is a lot larger. Of course there's a lot more restaurants. In Toronto there's so much variety and so much ethnic diversity. That's really enjoyable about Toronto. There's so much to choose from. I'm proud to be back in Toronto, to be surrounded with so many talented chefs.
Where have you had some great meals in this city?
I love Massimo's and I love Mistura. I love my fellow Food Network chef, Mark McEwan and his restaurants for sure. I like neighbourhood places There's a great little Vietnamese restaurant on Dundas, Mi Mi's for Vietnamese or Saigon Palace. I love going along Bloor and going out for the Korean hot pots.
I love what David Lee does and the Black Hoof. I love the Drake and [executive chef] Anthony Rose. I love Gio [Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant, aka The Nose] on Queen East. We've been hanging out at The Roy ... that's a nice gathering on a Friday night of crazy construction. I love the food, they do a really good job.
It depends on your mood and what you're feeling. I have very simple tastes when I go out. It has to have great atmosphere and great energy in the front of the house. That's what makes it so memorable, and of course the food. I like that immediate first impression of being welcomed.
When you were traveling across the country filming Pitchin' In, what were you homesick for?
I was homesick for home! After the past four years working at the Four Seasons and spending the last three years in New York, I couldn't wait to get back home and get the restaurant up and running. That was what I was homesick for because I knew the project was going to happen when I returned and that was what I was most craving.
Where are some of the spots in Toronto to buy the freshest ingredients?
After visiting farms in the country for the show, are you tempted to pull up your roots and leave the city?
I would in a heartbeat, however, I don't think that I can be in two places at the same time. We have an outdoor space at the restaurant and I will, of course, grow all of my own herbs for the restaurant. It would be great to do some heirloom tomatoes up top on the roof deck.
Wouldn't it be lovely to have a garden? That would be a dream of mine. That's why I would love to live in the country for sure. One step at a time. I've been doing Chef Gypsy for quite some time. I'm really glad to be home, I can't tell you.
When will Ruby Watchco open?
Mid-march. We're trying to get a million things done in a short period of time.
What can people expect from the new restaurant?
A restaurant where, first and foremost, it's going to be all about the food. It'll be a chef-driven menu, with an atmosphere of comfort and warmth and good times. Its a place where I want it to be neighbourhood and casual and welcoming, full of heart and soul and passion. I want to cook with my heart and give it to as many people as I can.
We're going to support the local farmers and growers. We're going to celebrate the season and we're going to celebrate the table and really the star in the restaurant are going to be all those wonderful farmers and growers that gift chefs wonderful product.
Doing the show Pitchin In has really inspired me to use the best quality product and to support local.
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