MEATingCHEFS with Joel Solish: Accomplished Toronto Restaurateur Anthony Rose Dishes it Straight
You may know him as @foodie411 online, but in his daily life, Joel connects farmers to mouths, selling the most #sustainable and delicious #meat to the best #restaurants in Toronto.
“Who are you and what do you do? Anthony James Rose, born in Toronto, 1972 and I’m 44. I own, with my business partner and best friend Robert Wilder, Rose and Sons, Big Crow, Fat Pasha, Schmaltz, Bar Begonia, and Madame Boeuf. I recently sold Rose and Sons Swan, on Queen St., and purchased a new Schmaltz, to come on Ossington and Dundas.”
What is your hood, and its hidden gem? “I live in Little Italy, which for a while has been s—. Then Grant (Van Gameren, of Bar Isabel and Bar Raval on College) came to the area. For a long time the spot has been The Fish Store. My go-to has always been the salad with extra fish, and extra avocado. Because I’m paleo, thanks Ben (Ben Clarfield, of Reach Personal Training, where he and Robert work out). Man, it is fresh and f—— gorgeous, I love that place. Bierra Volo, is a new great spot. Pinky’s is so fun, man. Good simple food.”
“It was time for the renaissance, because for years the hood has been absolute s—. My lady friend Kayla, loves Dolce Gelato, but I don’t eat a lot of sweets (thanks Ben). Apparently there is also a hidden roti place in a church, but I don’t know where it is, and my friend who told me about it hasn’t taken me there yet.”
Who is your number one motivation when you are cooking? “I’m thinking about myself. I think most chefs in my world, and your world as well, cook for themselves first. Hopefully the public digs it, and you know, owning 6 places, it is a fine line because a lot of the time the customer won’t love it, but sometimes you have a big hit on your hands. It’s very subjective, this business.”
Very much so I cook for myself first, and then for the customer.”
Who is your personal food Idol and why? “At the moment, which I love that he is coming back into style now, is Jeremiah Tower. Because of the doc, the next generation can see he is the god of California Cuisine and an amazing chef. Huge influence for me, and my roots. My chef Mark Franz, in San Francisco, was his chef at Stars, where I ate many times when I lived there. And Jeremiah and Jonathan Waxman were friends, and JW was a big influence on me and my cooking style.”
Follow up, if you could ask Jeremiah one question, what would that be? “Jeremiah is funny, he says that he is the father of California Cuisine, and Alice (Waters) says the opposite. But if you read his cookbook, which is one of the greatest books of all time, I would love to ask him to redo some of the meals he did at Chez Panisse, because I never got the chance to eat his food there. He had a restaurant where you could get a burger and fries, and a milkshake, but you could also get caviar service. F—— brilliant, man.”
What is your favourite seasonal ingredient? “Garlic. I like garlic a lot.”
What is your favourite cut of meat to cook, and why? “Bacon. Bacon was very taboo when I was a kid (growing up in a Jewish home), and when I ate it and learned about it, I still remember the first time it crossed my lips, onto my tongue, and down my throat, I was like, ‘how could this be so wrong, when it is so right and perfect.’ It really is the perfect food.”
What is your dream ingredient from any corner of the globe? “I’m such a huge fan of, and proponent of avocado toast. It made Swan what it was. I wish we could get perfect avocados here all the time. Not just the bull—- boring avocados we get here in Canada that suck, but the interesting varieties. Avocado, whole grain toast, and alfalfa sprouts. So California, so perfect.”
Favourite home cooked meal when you have a day off? “I’m not cooking s—. My son Simon and I eat out a lot, and we do cook maybe once when he is with me.”
Favourite home cooked meal? “I cook tacos a lot, on the grill, and I cook a lot of Kraft Dinner. Big fan of the KD. Some Tabasco on top, and more disgusting Kraft Cheese inside. I also eat lots of salad at home, with lots of meat on it. We eat a lot of Portuguese Chicken, Simon and I, mostly from The Portuguese Guys.”
“You know what I hate? One of my pet peeves, it actually makes me sick. The ubiquitous video on social media of an egg sandwich, or someone breaking the yolk, and it oozes out. For some reason, it is like nails on a chalkboard. For whatever reason, something inside of me, I can’t watch it. I get angry just thinking about it.”
What is your guilty pleasure? “Peanut Butter and Chocolate ice cream, from Baskin Robbins. Hagen Dazs is a close second, but I like the junkiness of it, and the fact that you can ask for the parts with more peanut butter. Don’t ever take the pre-pack, they are garbage.”
What do you do on your day off? “I smoke cigarettes and drink coffee at home, on my couch, with my New Yorker Magazine. I have a great espresso machine at home, and that’s what I do. Americanos, smokes, magazine. I’ve cut down the smoking quite a bit, which is good. I love my house.”
(Then we went on to talk about his editor, Zoe, and how much we love her and we want to have a dinner party together so she can cook beautiful things with us. But we wont talk about that here any more, she will be embarrassed. Yes, Anthony is writing a book. But we like that Zoe likes to tell Anthony what to do, as well. And I have that on tape.)
Are you working on anything we should know about? “Personally I want to work less, man. I work 7 days a week. I might not be at the restaurants, but I’m always working. It kills anything personal you have, like your relationships. I work way too much, and I fill all my voids with work, and I just want to work less. I want to do more things. I have to fill my life with like going to farms, going to the cottage, hanging out with you and Zoe and Mas (her husband). I dig archery. Any one of these things. There are so many things I could be doing, but work is just easy. The odd Sunday I have off, when Simon is not around, what do I do? I work (chuckles). I’ll go into Schmaltz, because it is such a great scene on the weekends.”
We talk about books for a bit, especially Margaret Atwood. He is currently reading A Handmaid’s Tale.
If you could give one piece of advice to the cooks of tomorrow, what would it be? “I like to think that the advice I was talking to Frank Venditti (chef at Ufficio, and commonly called “A Chefs Chef”) about this yesterday … (we then diverge to talk about the Centro reunion party that happened, and ADD takes over for a bit, but we talk about committing to a job and learning from others) … well, what I would like to see is a resumé, and to see these kids sticking it out for at least a year, to really learn because you need more, and to see more, to breathe that atmosphere. It is more than just brief stints at whatever hot spot will hire you. Breathe that atmosphere.” I then paraphrase: show commitment, and experience what you can, as much as you can, especially in the beginning when you are starting out. “This is a theme we hear a lot, guys like Frank and I (referencing back to his conversation with Venditti). Just have a resumé, apply for jobs, and show up. F—. Staffing sucks. I want to make everything f—— simpler. We just want to give people a good job, for fair pay, and have them show up and work hard.”
Have you figured out the meaning of life? “… family is the meaning of life. Absolutely, man. It’s all you got, when it comes down to it.”
I then leave Anthony James Rose, who I have known since I was 16, with a piece of my own life advice: I live the advice, boiled down with my own modern logic, of my grandfather. “Wake up with a smile, but go to sleep with a grin,” meaning to do or experience that one thing every day that you reflect on when you are falling asleep, that makes you feel happy or proud, or evokes some emotion that gives you that “cat that ate the mouse” feeling.
Thanks to Anthony for being my first, and true, chef love, forever and for always. This interview took place, in typical Anthony Rose style, running across the city in his truck to scavenge props for a photo shoot, and then sitting in a dark and quiet Fat Pasha, drinking Schmaltz’s coffee, eating duck fat latkes, and listing to his chefs prep for service.