2016 LIFESTYLE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
MICHAEL BONACINI

THE DAY THIS MAGAZINE WAS GOING TO PRESS, THERE WAS A RIBBON-CUTTING CEREMONY IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO FOR THE OPENING OF CANADA’S FIRST SAKS FIFTH AVENUE—WHERE, IN LATE SPRING, OLIVER & BONACINI RESTAURANTS WILL OPEN LEÑA, AN ODE TO ARGENTINIAN COOKING SPREAD OVER THREE FLOORS AND 11,000 SQUARE FEET.

Sponsored by American Express

Before 2016 is done, the company that Michael Bonacini and Peter Oliver founded in 1993 to open a downtown restaurant called Jump (still going) will also launch Bar George in what was once Montreal’s historic Mt. Stephen Club, as well as The Guild in Calgary, Beaumont Kitchen in a second Saks at Sherway Gardens, a new brew house in partnership with Big Rock brewery in Toronto’s Liberty Village—and maybe a new Italian joint there, too.

By then, O&B will be operating 18 restaurants with a workforce of well over 2,000 employees. This was not what young Michael Bonacini had in mind when he quit his family’s hotel in South Wales in favour of the big, wide world of London, UK. Nor did he plan on becoming a TV star on a hit  show called MasterChef. He just wanted to learn to become a better chef—and the best thing then going was a revolutionary new style of cookery dubbed cuisine naturelle, being created by Anton Mosimann at The Dorchester Hotel.

After six years there, Bonacini upped and left for Toronto to become executive chef of the Windsor Arms, then enjoying its heyday—with its charming Three Small Rooms enjoying a run as the best restaurant in the city. In 1989, he jumped for Centro, sharing chef duties there with another Mosimann alumni named Marc Thuet. Four years later Bonacini swapped his whites for a well-cut suit and a restaurateur’s hat.

The history of successes that followed is unique in Canadian restaurant history—and for that American Express salutes his singular achievement with its Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016.

Congratulations to Michael from Canada’s 100 Best and Veuve Cliquot.

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