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Never mind the Michelin guide
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Keith Froggett, the star chef behind Scaramouche, on life after COVID and focusing on excellence by Ben Kaplan
On a recent Friday night at Scaramouche, Keith Froggett’s 42-year-old jewel in midtown, we had white asparagus and filet mignon and grilled octopus. The meal, paired with French, local and California wine and finished with a vanilla meringue, was impeccable, divine: expertly presented and prepared, fastidiously plated and sourced, elegant in execution and idea. Is it enough for a Michelin? The highest prize in global cooking that’s finally being awarded in Toronto? Froggett and Carolyn Reid, Scaramouche’s current executive chef, who has worked with the British legend for 27 years, aren’t certain. “I’ve spent most of my career cooking in Toronto and we never had a Michelin guide. I used to use it when I’d go travelling, but would I look at it today? Probably not so much,” says Froggett, who took over the Scaramouche kitchen from Jamie Kennedy and Michael Stadtlander in 1983 and ü has guided it through excellence ever since. “I don’t think the Michelin star coming to Toronto is a negative thing. I think it’s a positive thing, but are we craving a Michelin star? No. I’m more worried about bums in seats.” Bums in seats, of course, is the top concern of every local restaurateur in the first postCOVID summer of our global discontent. Froggett, when
discussing the pandemic’s effect on his restaurant, downright cringes when mentioning his fine dining pivot to delivery. “It was depressing looking at a dark dining room and all those packages. I hated everything about putting the food in boxes and losing control,” Froggett admits, though he’s also quick to credit his younger staff with figuring out the delivery apps and streamlined system for processing and sending out orders. “I understand why we had to do takeout, but I really disliked it and, for me, it’s about inviting people in your house.” The house, however, currently isn’t what it once was, and this is a COVID symptom not just affecting Scaramouche, but every restaurant in Toronto, big and small. The employment crisis, which affects restaurants’ inability to attract young talent, is requiring some of the city’s biggest chefs to work the line, including our boldest names, like Alo’s Patrick Kriss and the legendary Susur Lee. Carolyn Reid, who writes the menus at Scaramouche — which no longer include daily specials — says sourcing ingredients has become an impossible quest and items like Australian lamb, quail, John Dory fish and even simpler items like midwestern American ham are no longer available. It’s the reason why so many Toronto