Gusto 101 Serves Southern-Italian Dishes with a Twist in a Converted Auto Body Shop in Toronto

Toronto has a dynamic culinary scene with a sheer diversity of restaurants with so many different flavors.

Since the competition is fierce in this city, a restaurant has to stand out to make a name for itself, especially when it serves the popular cuisine of Italian.

Gusto 101 in downtown Toronto at the Portland and Adelaide intersection, does just that.

We visited Gusto 101 a few years ago, a southern-Italian restaurant known for its traditional cuisine paired with a bold and modern twist. Even the name Gusto, which means tasty in Italian, is a tribute to the restaurant's roots to Italy.

With an industrial vibe, the restaurant is located in a former auto body shop and has a rooftop deck, Gusto 101 has a tech-forward kitchen to match its innovative front-of-house interior.

“[This is] probably one of the most high-tech kitchens I’ve ever worked in. We have a full-induction burners, combi oven, so on and so forth…It’s at the top of the level of, as far as, the future of kitchens, and the future of restaurant design...,” says Elio Zennoni, executive chef at Gusto 101 in the video below.

But it’s what the chefs prepare in the high-tech kitchen that is the real triumph.

Some of the most popular dishes include ravioli alla norma, rigatoni bolognese, branzino grilled paired with escarole, cannellini beans, celery, salmoriglio and the Tuscan wood-fired grill with grilled chicken and seasonally changing sides.

Watch the Table 42 Vignette episode below to see Chef Zennoni work his culinary mastery and prepare the signature Tuscan Wood Fired Grill Pollo with grilled chicken, butternut squash puree, farro pickled radicchio, and toasted hazelnuts dish.

Is Your Restaurant Losing the War for Talent? Here’s Why!

Now hiring. Looking for line cooks. And servers. And dishwashers too. Apply now.

Does this look familiar? Ads like these blanket the market every single day on the internet as restaurants embark on an inner war. The war for talent.

This struggle may not be as horrific as real warfare on the battlefield in a foreign country, but this battle is closer to you and the impact can be crushing to a business. You are fighting a war that you can’t win playing by traditional rules. If you want to win, you are going to need to attack this problem where the competition can’t touch you...inside your culture.

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You’re Hiring for Skill Over Personality

When you get desperate to fill a position, you take short cuts and you compromise your standards. Don’t feel bad about it, because we all have done it as inexperienced leaders. The logical move would be to look for someone with experience. You need a line cook so you filter through the application and find someone who has experience. You interview them and they say all the right things, so you hire them. They start and it all goes to hell on the line.

Why?

Because you didn’t see the big emotional baggage they brought in with them. Sure, no one breaks out their emotional baggage on day one. They wait until they get settled in and then they unpack all that drama and bad habits. By then the damage is already set into motion. You could fire them, yet the thought of confrontation or placing a new help wanted ad up just makes you not say anything.

This is commonly known as silent approval and it is a silent culture killer as well. By not saying anything you have given the “silent approval” that below par standards are now the new standard. When this happens it’s like the crew has mutinied and now runs the ship. Good luck trying to get it back into your control.

Your Culture Sucks

You will always lose the war for talent if your culture is not A level. Culture is the deciding factor when it comes to winning the war for the best talent in your market. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but if you’re not getting A talent coming in to apply to join your team then you have a C level culture. They don’t find your culture attractive.

How can you fix that? Make sure your cores values known. Most restaurants do not understand the intense power that solid core values offer for recruiting and attracting top talent. People are drawn to people who are like themselves. If your culture core values are all about parties and having a good time, then look around and you’ll see your team is a reflection of that.

Culture problems are not easy to fix, that’s not saying you shouldn’t try. At its essence, culture is a living thing that is co-created by the leader/owner and their leadership team. It does take a team effort to bend and shape culture. Many try to take this challenge on alone and it’s a losing battle. You need team synergy to craft an A level culture.

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You Don’t Train Enough

Would you go to the gym for a week to get in the shape of your life and suddenly declare, “Well, that’s it! I’m in shape now, no need to go back.” Of course not. Then why do most restaurant treat their training program with that same attitude? They train their most precious resource (their team) a few days when they first start and expect them to maintain that level.

Physical conditioning dissipates over time without constant and never-ending training. You must continue to push yourself to the point where your body is placed under a little stress in order for it to repair and grow. Go to the gym and do the same routine with the same intensity and you’ll plateau fast! How’s your training program at your restaurant? Has your team become complacent? Have they plateaued? If your sales and reviews have flatlined chances are you have a training program that needs a swift kick in the ass!

Training is one area that you have total control over. You don’t control the weather, the economy, or other people (even if you think you can). What you can and do control is your actions that take place within the four walls of your restaurant. Anything inside is your world. You own it. You just need to start acting like it.

You want to make a pact with yourself and your team that from this day forward, you will not be out trained by another restaurant in your market!

It’s time to stand up and stand out as a brand that invests in developing their people. You hear it quite often in articles that quote restaurant owners who love to say, “our people are our most valuable asset”. They say the words and yet their actions fall way short of the goal. You can change that by changing your mindset and attitude about training.

You’re Not Appreciative

You can call them millennials, Gen Z, or even "snowflakes." Labels are the worst way to get people to come together and we use them all the time in our own restaurants to divide the team instead of pulling them together. How about the classic Front-of-House (FOH) and Back-of-House (BOH.) We create dissension in our own brand by casting people into labels.

The problem with labels is that they carry a preconceived notion behind them. How many of these sayings have you heard (or even may have said yourself)?

“Kids today don’t want to work.”

“I can’t find good help, so I just do it myself!”

“They just don’t care.”

Here’s the truth: seek and you shall find. Whether or not you are aware of this, you are always putting out one of three types of energy. Positive, neutral, or negative.

Negative energy is just that...is an energy vacuum that sucks the life out of whatever it comes in contact with.

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Shutterstock

Neutral energy is like a flat line on an EKG. Others might describe it as meh. When you are in neutral energy you are just being nothing.

Positive energy is the stuff that legendary brands are made of. These leaders are like human sparklers when they walk into a room. They command a great presence and people are drawn to them like the moth to the flame. You can’t help it, they are powerful at attracting others to their cause.

If your energy is 80% in the positive range, then you’re doing great. If you hover between negative and neutral, then you have a little soul searching to explore.

How can you correct the course on this one? Be a little humble and be a lot more grateful. Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions you can tap into. Here’s the other part of that...you can always find something to be grateful for. Is it always easy? Hell no. Will you feel better living with a little more gratitude in your heart? Hell yeah!

Start by offering up a couple of words that perhaps your team is not used to you saying and that is “thank you”. Try it out. If you can, look in a mirror and tell that person staring back at you, “thank you.” Okay, it might feel a little weird to be talking to yourself in a mirror, but hey we’re talking about doing those things that average people won’t do! That’s how you become outstanding. You challenge yourself to do things that are just outside your comfort zone.

Making the changes required to win the war for talent all starts on the battlefield between your ears. Yes, you are your biggest problem and you are also your best solution. There is not a war for talent out there, there is a war with talent that we created within ourselves by the negative self-defeating talk that flies around in that brain of yours. Change your thoughts and you change your restaurant. It may not happen overnight, however, it’s a great start!

Want more tips from Donald Burns on how to create a better restaurant? Check out the recent episode of The Barron Report below where Burns breaks down some of the psychological principles that get in your way from building the restaurant and life you truly desire.

Why are CBD Edibles Being Pulled Off Restaurants in Some Parts of the Country?

Across various parts of the country, health department officials are asking restaurants to voluntarily pull CBD-infused foods and drinks off menus.

The latest local and regional governments that have reportedly taken steps against CBD are New York City, California, Texas, and Ohio banning the substance from restaurants and retail stores.

For example, according to the New York City’s official government website, beginning July 1, New York City restaurants that don’t comply with the CBD ban voluntarily could be embargoed of their CBD products by the health department... and by October 1, officials “will begin issuing violations to restaurants and retailers for offering CBD-laced foods and drinks. Violations may be subject to fines as well as violation points that count toward the establishment’s letter grade.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, which derives from cannabis, doesn’t cause the psychoactive effects for the lack of enough THC—the compound that gives people the “high” sensation.

In fact, CBD proponents claim the substance is mainly used for its therapeutic benefits helping people relax, ease pain, anxiety, insomnia, and even depression.

Despite the fact that not many studies have been done on cannabidiol in human trials, as pointed out by a recent New York Times article, we are seeing an immense amount of CBD products being sold across the country, with Walgreens as the latest retailer to announce plans to sell creams, patches, and sprays in nearly 1,500 stores in select states.

So, why is it being pulled out of the restaurant space, specifically?

Although, the farm bill that was passed in December 2018 legalized industrial hemp in the U.S., this only means industrial hemp was removed from the controlled substance category. Anything that is put in foods and drinks has to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and, as of right now, CBD is not determined safe or effective for other health conditions aside from being an active ingredient in an approved drug that treats two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

The FDA regulations are something different and there’s a huge push from lawmakers to change this.

Since there is no federal law specifically addressing CBD-laced edibles, some states, like Colorado and Maine, have already attempted to clarify the status of the substance by passing laws allowing the addition of CBD to food, as reported by Reuters. California and Texas have introduced bi-partisan legislation to do the same, as reported by the Associated Press.

Last week, the FDA slated the first public hearing to take place May 31 to discuss how to regulate CBD food and beverage products.

In the meantime, here at Foodable, we are tracking the latest in this arena:

In a podcast episode of Chef AF, Chef Brandon Foster shares with us a personal anecdote about how CBD has positively affected a local farmer to The point where this person wanted to dedicate the rest of his available land to grow hemp for the CBD industry.

In an On Foodable Feature episode, our host Layla Harrison breaks down for our audience some of the CBD-infused products that have stood out from the rest.

And in a Barron Report podcast episode, we learned about Azuca— a company offering CBD and THC products ranging from edibles to sweet syrups.

We expect to continue hearing about ‘Culinary Cannabis’ and its impact on the restaurant business and society as a whole. so, stay tuned for more interesting content!

Toronto’s Bar Raval Serves Cocktails with a Barcelona-esque Atmosphere Morning, Day and Night

Foodable Network is always looking for bar concepts that offer unique beverage experiences. Bar Raval in Toronto, Canada is unlike any other.

When you walk in, you feel as though you have been transported to the Spanish resort town, San Sebastian. This is no accident, either. The name Raval is a nod to the Raval neighborhood in Barcelona.

The bar is standing-room only and was custom design by the Toronto-based architecture and design studio Partisans Projects.

The bar's structure is truly a masterpiece with gaudi-esque wood panels and rich mahogany millwork.

“Bar Raval was an opportunity for us to use advanced digital methods to reinterpret—not replicate—classical Art Nouveau tropes for the 21st century,” said Alex Josephson, Partisons co-founder, as reported by "archello."

The one-of-a-kind structure is all part of the bar experience curated by the owners.

“We wanted the space to be just like the experience — very organic,” said Robin Goodfellow, part owner of Bar Raval. “You come in, it’s like a warm hug from a tree. We’ve heard people say it looks like the inside of a tree’s heart.”

Guests are immediately wowed by the atmosphere, but what about the cocktails?

In the "Across the Bar" episode below, Goodfellow gives us a taste some of the handcrafted beverages served at Bar Raval.

Since the bar is open morning and night, the concept offers beverages like the Mal Gusto, a popular morning beverage with sherry and Cocchi Americano, a quinine-laced aperitif wine produced by Giulio Cocchi.

Watch as Goodfellow displays his bartending mastery by mixing three of Bar Raval's most popular cocktails in the video below.

Ensuring the Vitality of our Fish Supply for Years to Come is a Group Effort

It has become more important for restaurants to be socially responsible when it comes to serving seafood.

To ensure the vitality of our fish supply, we need to evolve our relationship with the ocean’s resources.

But how can suppliers and operators work together to achieve this common goal?

At our recent Foodable.io event in Seattle which was focused on the topic of seafood sustainability, we sat down with Jennifer Bushman, director of sustainability at Pacific Catch, Kami Couch, a filmmaker/fisherman from Alaska, and David Nichols, executive chef at Rider to discuss how each in different roles of the seafood supply process are making a sustainable impact.

Nowadays, consumers want to know where their protein is coming from. But to deliver this information, it is a group effort between supplier, distributor, and operator.

"For us, it's about making sure we know what's coming, holding our suppliers' accountable, watching it every day, training our staff because staff training is so exceptionally important, and then what the James Beard Foundation and others are calling 'storied fish,' which is when we close the loop with the marketing and engagement we have with the consumer so that we can tell those stories on the ground," say Bushman.

Then it's up to the operator to collect as much accurate information about the fish as possible and to pass it on to the team.

"This is still a very new movement, it's been making huge strides in the last few years and it's only going to continue to get better. On my end, it's about training my staff," says Nichols above.

By operators and chefs making an effort to better educate their customers and partners, this will only continue to give life to the sustainable movement.

Watch the full episode above to learn more about how we can improve our relationship with this vital ocean resource and some of the helpful apps out there revealing seafood sourcing information for chefs and consumers.