by Kylie Meyermann
Lorenzo Loseto has been the Executive Chef at George Restaurant for eight years.
Chef Loseto grew up in Italy and was inspired by his family to create signature dishes by using local ingredients. Chef Loseto began his career as an apprentice at the Windsor Arms Hotel. After working as a Sous Chef in Toronto for nine years, Chef Loseto moved to Vancouver where he was the Executive Chef at Bacchus Restaurant. Returning to Toronto in 1999, Chef Loseto’s innovative approach to ‘Toronto Cuisine’ has earned George Restaurant 12 awards and plenty of critical acclaim.
I would like to begin with the end of my interview with Chef Lorenzo Loseto. After I thanked him for his time and told him that I had run out of questions, Chef Loseto told me that there was one more thing that he would like to say.
CLL: I hate it when people and the media say that ‘simple food is the hardest to cook.’ They say this because the more ingredients that are incorporated into a dish, the easier it is to mask an error. But simple food is not less. Simple food should not be easy to duplicate. Anyone can go out and buy local ingredients and create a simple dish for themselves at home. When people go out to eat, they should be marvelled. As a chef, I want to be challenged and inspired. We need to make tough decisions. I don’t want this to be confused.
He said these words with such emotion and conviction. He kept his eyes fixed on mine the entire time he spoke, and his hands were animated, flying across the table top. It was only my second time interviewing anyone, and here was one of Toronto’s greatest chefs, desperate to convey his message. I felt bad because the inexperienced journalist in me had no adequate response.
Chef Loseto Lorenzo grew up in Italy. In our brief 15 minutes together, he mentions Italy often. When he was a young boy, he would go to the local market with his mother. The Loseto family never cooked processed food and only used fresh seasonal ingredients. The available produce inspired the family to personalize recipes and add creative twists to signature dishes.
GFR: The St. Lawrence Market is near George Restaurant. Do you purchase most of your ingredients from the market or do you have select farmers that you work with?
CLL: At George we cook with local ingredients that we buy from the Food Terminal, Wychwood Barns or the Dufferin Grove. As a chef, you have to listen to what other people are saying and trust your farmer. It’s difficult to find constancy with proteins. I can have two pieces of steak that came from the same farm, which I then season and prepare comparatively, but the two proteins will taste differently, perhaps because one cow was eight years old and the other was five years old. Constancy is difficult to achieve.
GFR: You grew up in a family that embraced the challenges of cooking with seasonal ingredients. What are the challenges of cooking in Toronto?
CLL: Even though I grew up in Italy, I am strictly Ontario trained. Toronto is a beautiful city that is renowned for its multiculturalism. I do not like restaurants that incorporate fusion dishes into their menus. I like to combine both western and eastern traditions into a single plate. The challenge is to be creative and aspire to be multicultural.
GFR: Toronto goes through trends pretty quickly. The fashion, music and art scene change with the seasons. Which food trends do you predict for the future?
CLL: I would like to see Toronto return to refined cuisine. Shared plates and rustic Italian cuisine has oversaturated the food industry. I would like to see the return of the reservation book.
Chef Loseto has been in the food industry for 21 years. He loves his job and likes to be challenged. At the beginning of the interview I asked him what the term ‘Good Food’ meant to him. Chef Loseto thinks that ‘Good Food’ should be uplifting and inspirational.
CLL: I like to think that after a day of work, I can say that today was a Good Food day; I was challenged; I was inspired by the ingredients. Good Food should make everyone eating it feel good. When I buy Good Food, when I prepare it, when I eat Good Food, I feel good. Good Food is uplifting.
GFR: How do you implement your philosophy of Good Food at George Restaurant?
CLL: Good Food has to be taught. Good Food is backstage in the kitchen. The younger staff are taught and trained to adapt the Good Food philosophy. Good Food involves making tough decisions and living what you preach. In the kitchen, we teach and live Good Food.
Chef Loseto mentions that the media plays an important role in influencing the Good Food Movement. It’s easier for people to think that they have adapted a Good Food philosophy by purchasing reusable bags, or growing their own herbs. However, Good Food should not be confused with Simple Food. Chefs should continue to challenge themselves and push the boundaries of what it means to create Good Food. The Good Food Revolution has barely begun and Chef Loseto wants people to continue to be challenged and inspired by Good Food.
Chef Loseto believes that the most important thing to remember is that Good Food is about tough decisions and attention to detail.
George Restaurant is located at 111 Queen Street East, Toronto ON t: 416-863-6006