VL 1-on-1 with Chef Carl Heinrich from Richmond Station Restaurant
Walking into Richmond Station you will be immediately struck by the bold interior. Its towering ceilings and statement art, to-the-ceiling wine racks and simple yet stunning lighting come together in a way that makes it clear you’ve just walked onto the set of what is sure to become a memorable experience. Add to that the most welcoming, genuine and gracious staff and you know it beyond doubt.
Chef Carl Heinrich joined me in the front of the restaurant and was equally as welcoming as his staff. I understood how all customers of Richmond Station must feel; an honoured guest.
I think you will agree after reading the Q&A that Chef Carl has a lot of very interesting and inspiring things to say. His enthusiasm is contagious to say the least.
Stacia Carlton: Where do you find your inspiration?
Carl Heinrich: “The easy answer to that is the ingredients, the people that we buy from. There are a couple of ways to make a menu… one way is to look around for recipes, maybe you look on Twitter see what’s happening… write out a list of ingredients and ask your sous chef to get it… the other way is to call the farmer and say “what is happening right now? and if it’s great then send it to me.” We figure out what we’re going to do with it and we put it on our menu. And the second way will always give you better results.
We have about 50 suppliers and we buy whole animal. So this morning we went out and bought 2 sides of beef and a lamb from our farmer. So we don’t buy striploins or fat or bones, we only buy whole animal, so when we run out of steaks we buy another cow. You ask where does inspiration come from… when you’ve got a whole pig in there and you’ve got to use the whole thing that’s pretty inspirational. There are things that go onto the weekly prix fixe menu and that’s what the chalkboard is for… there are items we can’t guarantee we can get for a three month menu, like venison. It’s hard to get a deer on the truck… hardest part of the farmers job, so when he does, he calls us and says “You want a deer? Great” So the deer comes in and we’ll take the loins and the legs the racks and we’ll do chops or roasted venison leg, what have you but then we’ll take the belly, the neck and we’ll braise them down and turn them into a chilli. So that’s where the inspiration comes from… you bring in an animal and you’ve got to figure it out.”
SC: What are your thoughts on what’s trending right now in the city?
CH: “Trends are trends… I don’t know… there are some things I like and some I don’t, but if it’s delicious it’s delicious. If local is a trend, then sure I’ll wear that hat. i think it’s great if more and more people are buying locally and supporting their local agriculture and meeting people that grow food and that’s a trend then that’s awesome. i have no problem with that!”
SC: What do you wish Toronto had more of?
CH: “I think that Toronto is at point now that we can be a bit more playful in the type of restaurants and shops We’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the social media, we’ve got enough people that if you want to open a specialty pastry shop, the do it. We aren’t missing much I don’t think. I just think we need to do more and do it better with more international press and tourism. It only gets better. I think there’s a lot of talent here. Everything we need is already here… we just need to be a little bit more celebrated in my opinion. I’m incredibly optimistic about what’s coming out of Toronto in the next five years.”
SC: Where do you shop for ingredients in the city?
CH: I live right near Wychwood Barns… Wychwood is awesome. I’m a big supporter of Community Food Centres Canada as well The Stop is their first one and Wychwood is run by The Stop and all the proceeds go the The Stop. Brickworks is obviously amazing and the St. Lawrence Market. Those are the biggest and busiest and that’s a lot of fun to be there. Those are the best. Outside of the city the beef is coming from Markdale… that whole Georgian Bay area, a lot of what we serve comes from that area. Kolapore, Singhampton near Creemore.
SC: Where do you like to go out to eat in Toronto?
CH: “Dandylion, that’s Jay Carter’s new place, it’s a lot of fun. Peter Pan just reopened… it’s beautiful inside you should go check it out. Obviously Buca Yorkville and Bar Buca. But I mean every week something new is opening. But honestly when I’m away from Richmond Station I like to cook and eat and home. I find a lot of inspiration in that… when you run a kitchen you don’t always have the luxury of just cooking.”
SC: Where do you like to travel for food?
CH: “Everywhere has done something that’s worth trying. I like Vancouver… the culinary scene there has just blown up way better scene than 6 years ago.”
SC: What was the last thing you ate?
CH: “I just had a piece of fried tofu 5 minutes ago… it was pretty good! Kensington Market has some great fresh tofu they make every morning.”
SC: Do you have a motto by which you live your life and run your restaurant?
CH: “Absolutely, at this restaurant I have one goal and my partner and I share that goal… it’s the same goal we all have in this restaurant and that goal is that everybody that comes into this restaurant enjoys their time while they’re here and leaves happy and that they want to come back. Certainly it means customers but it also means your colleagues and delivery drivers and the writer who comes into interview the chef. We want everyone to want to come back.”
It’s working! This writer definitely wants to go back. Between Chef Carl’s passion for local “whether it’s trending or not” and the simple yet ultra important issue of delicious taste he has found a recipe which will always work… hands down. Don’t miss Richmond Station at Taste of Toronto July 2-5.
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Stacia Carlton is a culinary school graduate and food writer. Please look for her weekly at www.bestillandeat.com