A look inside top restaurants West of the Greater Toronto Area and the chefs behind their success.
Since the dawn of time, food has been something that brings people together. Meals were the time of day when loved ones would gather to converse, discuss the events of the day, laugh and relish in one another’s company. Today, the fact remains that gathering over a fine meal paired alongside an ambrosial glass of wine is the perfect backdrop for summer entertaining, and the Greater Toronto Area is peppered with delectable dining options to elevate your summer cuisine experiences.
The Lord Nelson
Name: Chef Keith Hall
Restaurant: The Lord Nelson
Location: 650 Plains Road E, Burlington, ON
Years With Restaurant: 6 years
Area of Specialty: Fine Dining Steakhouse, Lobster and Seafood
Chef Keith has been fascinated with the culinary arts since he was a young child cooking breakfast for family. He has spent time working in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, noting that the two cities had very different culinary scenes. “The California influence is very alive in Vancouver, they’ve taken classical cuisine and utilized it but taken it apart to add in so much more flare. It’s a combination of classical nouveau.” Chef Keith joined The Lord Nelson six years ago. Having grown up in Oakville, he was already very familiar with the clients and had a strong client base of his own in the area. The Lord Nelson is known throughout the Greater Toronto Area for its quality steak and seafood. Chef Keith was excited to come on board and shake things up in a manner of speaking. Specializing in continental cuisine, particularly Italian, he was excited to bring some new era flare to the Burlington icon. “When you’re a chef, you need to be well rounded, a bit of a chameleon. You can’t stick to one particular style, you need to be versatile and adapt to different situations. I think that’s what I’ve brought here, some fresh, new ideas.”
Featured Dish: One of Chef Keith’s inspired prix fixe menu options at the Lord Nelson; This mouth-watering tenderloin veal and black tiger shrimp pairing is prepared in a zesty white wine fusion sauce complete with hints of citrus and fresh herbs.
Name: Chef Michele Kindos
Restaurant: Barra Fion Tapas & Barrel
Location: 1505 Guelph Line #10a, Burlington, ON
Years with the Restaurant: 1
Specialty: Spanish-Inspired Tapas
Unlike many chefs, Michele Kindos did not realize her true passion for cooking until later in life. In fact, she spent the majority of her career working on the manufacturing side of the food industry. “Slowly, over the years, I began to dislike what was taking place in the manufacturing industry for food. There were so many chemicals and preservatives. I wanted to work with food in a way that was natural, fresh and unique.” It was at this time that Chef Michele knew she needed to make a change. She enrolled in culinary school and eventually left her executive position to pursue her true passion. Recently she realized there was a gap in the Burlington culinary scene that needed to be filled. “There was a strong need in North Burlington for something different. Before Barra Fion, it was mostly chain restaurants or pub food.” Chef Michele lived in Europe briefly and fell in love with the European lifestyle; she found that meals in Europe were not simply the time of day you ate, but more of an interactive occasion, and that is what she wanted to bring to Barra Fion. The menu is heavily influenced by Spanish flavour profiles with some South American and Latin American fusion mixed in. “While I am technically the executive chef here, the talent comes from everyone in my kitchen. The entire process is incredibly collaborative. I have a wonderful team.” Everything at Barra Fion is made directly in house. Everything from their bread to their pizza dough is baked fresh and all of their meat is smoked right inside the restaurant. The team recently introduced a new menu that further elevates the tapas portion of the menu. It’s the perfect setting for summer entertaining with friends and family.
Featured Dish: The Traditional Paella at Barra Fion is a true representation of the restaurant itself combining all the ingredients they make in house with the traditional Spanish flavour they are known for. This rich, smoky and satisfying meal is made with house-smoked chicken, homemade chorizo, fresh shrimp and mussels baked together with a bed of sunny saffron rice.
Name: Chef Stephen Clark
Restaurant: Chop Steakhouse & Bar.
Location: 3451 S. Service Road W, Oakville, ON
Years with the Restaurant: 4
Specialty: Steak, Prime Rib and Seafood
Chef Stephen was three years into his mechanical engineering degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC) when he realized he could not ignore his true passion any longer. Since he was a young boy, he’s been fascinated with cooking. He fondly remembers preparing meals for his family after school when his parents would be working late. Chef Stephen left UBC and pursued his chef career at Vancouver Community College. Since completing his apprenticeship through the college’s Culinary Arts program, Chef Stephen has built an incredibly impressive résumé for himself, although you would not know it with his genuine, humble nature. He had the opportunity to cook at Michel Rostang in Paris and in Lebanon for a year as well. He was even recognized for his talents by world-renowned chef Alex Chen who asked him to compete alongside him at the Bocuse d’Or, often referred to as the culinary Olympics. “Alex and I have known each other for nearly 20 years now. He was one of my very first mentors and one of the first chefs to truly inspire me.” Chef Stephen has been with Chop Steakhouse & Bar for a total of four years and has held the prestigious role of executive chef for three, a job he describes as a dream come true. Chef Stephen is now responsible for managing the menu for all 12 of the Chop locations in Canada and, while he is based in Calgary, he is very involved in the success of each location. Chop is known all over Canada for using only the choicest cuts of beef. This contemporary steakhouse delivers a memorable culinary experience in a warm and comfortable atmosphere of modern luxury.
Featured Dish: The Smoked Rib Eye Steak at Chop is the perfect summer indulgence that you will not find anywhere else. This 14 oz. rib eye steak is cold smoked imparting an unforgettable smoky flavour. It is an incredible combination of alder, apple and hickory seared to perfection and served with a house made lemon barbecue sauce comprised of 18 ingredients.
Name: Chef Doug Walker
Location: 134 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, ON
Years with Restaurant: 6 months
Specialty: Global Dishes
When people think about downtown Oakville’s culinary scene, they cannot help but think of Seasons. Seasons is nestled in the historic Anderson Block of downtown Oakville. This 18-year-old town favourite has built a reputation for exceptional food in a warm, elegant atmosphere. Doug Walker has recently come on board as the new executive chef and is excited to continue the legacy that Seaons has built. Chef Doug has wanted to be a chef since he was 14 years old, working at a health foods store in Oavkille. “I remember walking into my guidance counsellor’s office and telling him I wanted to go to school for the culinary arts and his immediate response was ‘Okay, well you won’t make any money.’ Even my parents tried to persuade me in another direction, but you can’t ignore what you’re passionate about.” Chef Doug completed his chef apprenticeship in Oakville before moving to Toronto to work at Pangaea and Peter Pan’s. As the new chef at Seasons, Chef Doug is most excited about the restaurant’s commitment to local, fresh produce and centering a menu on the seasons themselves. He loves that the owners are passionate about using as much organic material as they can and focusing on a farm-to-table philosophy. He finds that his own style has a strong Italian influence, but doesn’t like to limit himself to specific flavour profiles. “One of the best things about living in Canada is how multi-cultural our country is. I meet people from all over the world and take bits and pieces away from everyone to further develop my palate.” One of the reasons Chef Doug truly loves what he does is the instant reaction he gets from his customers. When you work in a corporate environment, you could work on a project for months and then wait months to hear any sort of feedback. “I know if someone is happy with my work the minute they take a bite, and that is an incredible feeling.” Chef Doug is thrilled to be a part of the Seasons team and continue the brand’s success.
Featured Dish: This pan-seared halibut is topped with freshly grilled chorizo sausage and a buttery decadent roasted pepper velouté accompanied by crispy fingerling potatoes, garlic scapes and micro beet greens.
Marquee Steakhouse & Piano Lounge
Name: Chef Serdjo Lakich
Restaurant: Marquee Steakhouse & Piano Lounge
Location: 2 – 500 Steeles Avenue East, Milton, ON
Years With Restaurant: 4 years
Area of Specialty: Classic Steakhouse Cuisine
Since before Chef Serdjo can remember, he has had a strong passion for fine food and music. Opening his own steakhouse and piano lounge with his wife and business partner Diana, allowed him to combine these two beautiful art forms. After patrons of Marqee have enjoyed their dinner, they can look forward to Chef Serdjo joining one of his talented pianists to play guitar. Following his graduation from George Brown College, Chef Serdjo completed his apprenticeship at Glen Abbey Golf Club. He then went on to work in both downtown Oakville and downtown Toronto. He is extremely passionate about supporting local businesses and a lot of his produce comes from farms right in Milton. MarQuee changes its menu seasonally and is coming up on its 18th menu this summer. “We love to experiment with new things and see what works and what doesn’t. We’re a classic steakhouse, but with much more flare. Sometimes we’ll serve sautéed spinach and melted Grey Owl cheese, overtop of a beautiful piece of steak. It’s about fresh, new ideas.” Chef Serdjo draws a great deal of his inspiration from his extremely talented team of chefs. He is very proud of his restaurant and even more proud of his staff. “I have the best team around, I love working with each one of them. We have a very family-oriented mentality and a high level or respect for one another.”
Featured Dish: Chef Serdjo’s Polenta Crusted Cod is an elegant, healthy dish offering a wonderful alternative to a more traditional breadcrumb crust. It is served with a crème fraiche, grilled seasonal vegetables, basil pester and saffron basmati rice.