One Friday evening in early March, I popped in for dinner at Yorkville’s Alobar—Patrick Kriss’s third and newest Toronto restaurant—and as I tucked into some jamón-dressed oysters hot from the charcoal-fired Josper, I looked up towards the kitchen and spotted chef Kriss there, fussing over some plate or other at the pass.
The last time I dropped by his original restaurant, Alo, for a tasting menu back in December, Kriss was there, too, surveying the room and the culinary traffic from his alcove at the entrance to the main dining room.
Just as he was the time before that, and on my previous visit to Alobar. Given that I’ve never been to his second restaurant, Aloette, without seeing him there also, I had to ask a passing manager how exactly this be-everywhere-at-once system works.
“He likes to be at Alo for the start of the first service,” explained John Bunner, operations manager for the Alo group. “Then he comes here [to Alobar] to check in and see how things are going. Then he’s back at Alo for the start of second service. Then…”
It was dizzying. To the outsider, the arc of a successful chef’s career looks so simple: start with an overachieving little restaurant, earn kudos, get your own TV show, open a second, larger, more profitable place, shutter the first, and focus on peddling $40 hamburgers to business people on expense accounts. But chef Kriss is evidently stuck in a very different sort of rut. Instead of monetizing his reputation with simpler, larger-scale operations, he is branching out and expanding his brand with more small, specialized and labour-intensive restaurants. And even as Aloette and Alobar take his attention away from his showpiece, Alo, he hasn’t allowed either to diminish his perfectionist focus one whit.
From the kanpachi crudo and its vadouvan-like whisper of curry brightened with mango and lemon verbena through to the roast saddle of venison with chestnuts and white chocolate, my last meal at Alo was easily one of the best I have eaten there. And while chef de cuisine Nick Bentley deserves much of the credit, responsibility ultimately lies with his mentor and overseer, chef Kriss, who approves each dish and makes sure it arrives at the table exactly as he wants it. So, for maintaining his dedication to delicious, exquisite perfection, and never once resting on his laurels, Patrick Kriss is once again named our Outstanding Chef of the Year.