Franco Stalteri = Charlie Burger

I received a message on Twitter this weekend from Mr. Charlie Burger himself indicating that he was the waiter who had served me at the two Charlie's Burgers events I attended. I remembered who he was immediately- Franco: a handsome and warm gentleman who made the entire experience lovely. 

The word is out.

James Chatto wrote a piece in the Saturday Globe and Mail about Franco, whose day job is director of experiential marketing for Your Brand Integrated Marketing Communications, a company I've had some dealings with over the past couple of years. If this whole Charlie's Burgers experiment is any reflection of the kind of buzz Stalteri can create, he's done very well.

Stalteri said the reveal came because the secret had "run its course." I feel sad that the charade is now done, but it sounds like there are more Charlie's Burgers dinners in the works for the future. 

If you'd like to read my overview of experiences with Charlie over the past couple of years, click here.

And go. You should go.

Sheep Testicles

Earlier this summer we had a barbecue with some Middle Eastern friends of ours. We had a feast: quail, Cornish hens, octopus,  and lamb. It was wonderful. Our friends told us of a Persian delicacy that was banned in most parts of Iran: sheep testicles.
A few weeks later, we gathered for our friend Heather's surprise birthday party Our friends brought the sheep testicles as promised.
We ate the sheep and lamb testicles on grilled flat bread. The taste was mild and buttery with a texture like foie gras. Some of our friends struggled with the mushy texture.
Below is a video of the sheep ball being prepared for grilling on the barbecue by my friend, The Micker. I wouldn't recommend watching it if you're got a weak stomach:

Joey - Eaton Centre

Last week, I was invited to attend the opening of the new Joey restaurant at the Eaton Centre. 

The first thing we noticed upon arriving was the wall-size convertible windows at the front, revealing an adaptable patio space. Very slick.

For those who aren't familiar with Joey, it's a Canadian chain that is more dominant out west. I wrote about the original launch when the chain came to Toronto at the Shops at Don Mills in September 2009. I also did an interview with the very young and shockingly handsome Executive Chef Chris Mills.

The atmosphere at Joey is slick, dark and sexy. The space is quite impressive with the high ceilings and tucked-away upstairs seating. The servers looked like they had a checklist of cues for heterosexual men: Blonde! Curls! Cleavage! Eyelashes! Sparkles! Cleavage! Given the target demographic, it probably makes sense, but that kind of thing always makes me snicker. (You may remember me referencing this in my review of Woodlot.)

The food we sampled was comparable to what we eat at the launch: lobster grilled cheese, Thai curry, Indian butter chicken, Kobe beef meatballs, sushi options, and molten lava chocolate bites. A few items that impressed me were the locally-sourced meats and cheeses offered as a part of the charcuterie platter. Most impressive of all was the response I received from one of the chefs regarding the platter selection:

"Let's call a spade a spade. Joey is a chain. But that doesn't mean we can't have regional representation on our menu so that's something we strove hard to include. Ontario and Quebec have some amazing local meats and cheeses that we wanted to feature."

I commend Chris Mills for making this decision.

And the winner of Top Chef Canada is...

Below is the news release announcing the winner from last night's final episode of Top Chef Canada. I was hoping for either of the runner ups, but a big congratulations to Dale MacKay!

VANCOUVER’S DALE MACKAY DECLARED CANADA’S TOP CHEFBeats Out Chefs Rossi and DeSousa in the Final Battle of The SeasonTop Rated Series in Food Network Canada’s History
Vancouver based Chef Dale MacKay is the inaugural winner of Top Chef Canada, as revealed in the fierce and emotional season finale of Top Chef Canada that aired tonight on Food Network Canada. Along with the Top Chef title, Dale will receive the grand prize of $100,000 and a GE Monogram Kitchen worth $30,000.
In the final episode, Chef MacKay took on fellow finalists Toronto’s Chef Rob Rossi (formerly Mercatto) and Calgary’s Chef Connie DeSousa (CHARCUT). Chef DeSousa started out strong, winning the Quickfire Challenge, but it was Chef MacKay’s impressive three-course meal prepared for guest judges David Hawksworth, Chef/Owner of Vancouver’s Hawksworth; John Peller, Owner of Peller Estates; and Jason Parsons, Executive Chef at Peller Estates that earned him the title of Canada’s first Top Chef. 

Before opening ensemble in May 2011, Chef MacKay had been a protégé to world renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay at his restaurants in Tokyo, New York, and London. More recently, he was Executive Chef at Lumière, Vancouver’s Five Diamond, Four Star, Relais Gourmand establishment, managed by celebrated New York Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group. As Executive Chef/Proprietor of ensemble, Chef MacKay aims to give Vancouverites an entirely new and exciting dining concept, combining classic French techniques with modern influences and flavour profiles from around the world. 

Viewers who missed the season finale of Top Chef Canada can tune in to see it again on Saturday, July 9th at 7pm ET/PT on Food Network Canada or watch it online starting tomorrow at More information about the eagerly anticipated second season of Top Chef Canada, set to air on Food Network Canada in 2012, will be revealed in the coming months.