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Destination: Restaurant Pearl Morissette

When RPM co-chef Daniel Hadida takes a drive from work in Jordan Station back to Toronto, or his native Scarborough, it’s generally for one purpose alone. “Mostly to eat lunch,” he says. “Conceptually, going out to experience places to eat is important.”

Naturally, Hadida has lots of regular haunts along the route from wine country to the city. On Dundas Street in Mississauga, there’s Monasaba, a Yemeni restaurant known for its mandi–roast lamb or chicken with aromatic basmati. Nearby, a Venezuelan café called the Latin Hut, is well-regarded for its empanadas. And just off the 403 on Highway 8, on the outskirts of Hamilton, there’s Maria’s Tortas Jalisco, a family-run hotspot for esquites, tortas, and tacos.

My drives around Southern Ontario are usually about stopping for food,” he says.

And so it has been since Hadida and his co-chef Eric Robertson opened The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette (as it was then known) some five years ago. But back then the nature of the excursions was different. Food runs didn’t mean eating out for pleasure and to seek useful inspiration in exotic cuisines. Instead, they were about picking up raw product for their own restaurant – and sometimes distributing some of it along the route back.

Like with runs to Pearson International to collect orders of fish, processed and shipped according to RPM’s stringent standards – for which distributors and fishers would not just charge a premium, but also demand a sizable minimum order to compensate for their trouble. Too large, usually, for RPM to manage on its own.“So, I’d spend the night making drop-offs at other restaurants, struggling to get people to share my order of cod so fresh that it was still in rigor, scallops that were still snapping their shells, or razor clams that were spitting water. Finally, I’d get home and pass out for an hour, wake up, and get back to work.”

Fortunately, RPM has scaled up since those early days. Its expanding needs mean that they can cope with larger orders – and that more distributors come directly to them. And very few shipments arrive at Pearson any longer. “Now that I’ve become an amateur shipping logistics specialist,” Hadida says, laughing, “we pick up most of our fish at Hamilton airport instead.”

Meats, dairy, and grains all come from nearby, and forage and vegetables closer still – mostly from RPM’s own grounds. “We’re a farm-to-table restaurant, trying to delight people by showing off a community of great suppliers.”

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