TORONTO, March 12, 2014 – 40 different vegetables and herbs grow in L-Eat Catering’s backyard garden, the only stand-alone garden serving the company’s catering and two Paese restaurant operations in the GTA.
It’s amazing what comes from a simple dry-cleaning errand. Four years ago, Toronto culinary force Tony Loschiavo, owner and founder of two Paese Ristorantes, L-EAT Catering and L-EAT Express, intended only to drop off some clothes when he saw a “ house for sale” sign around the corner from his flagship and head office location at Bathurst St. north of Wilson Ave. While itself not of interest, the house came with a “rather new and very large garage”, which would make an ideal workshop/storage unit for off-site catering equipment. Then he and Executive Chef Chris Palik checked out the backyard and saw past the choking weeds and tangle of trees. “It was an eyesore, but for North York, we knew it had potential for a tremendous garden.” And so, the notion to use the yard as a garden to serve the company began to take shape.
Four years later, Chef Chris has carved out 2,500 square feet of thriving garden through sheer determination and a few hours a day of dedicated hard labour — labour that can only come from passion. “We couldn’t come close to producing everything we need for the business,” Palik says, “but we use every single thing that comes from that garden. Everything we grow becomes part of a daily special.”
Perhaps more important, he says, the garden has profoundly impacted the staff’s relationship with food. “Ask a new cook where tomatoes come from, and he’d answer, ‘The top left shelf in the walk-in fridge.’ They don’t make the connection between the plant and the food. When someone doesn’t recognize how hard it is to grow a tomato, they’ll cut off half an inch just to get the core out, and throw it in the garbage,” Palik adds. “Now we have almost no waste. It spills over into meats,cheese — it translates into the respect we show to all our ingredients.”
Wait staff are kept in the loop too, so they can fully appreciate what goes into the daily specials, and relay that information to their clientele. Chef Chris says the garden has become such a cornerstone of the Paese philosophy, it’s not unusual find a couple of restaurant guests sitting at the picnic table, appreciating a fine summer evening and the verdant scent of the garden. “It’s something Torontonians don’t normally have access to,” he said. “People who are born and raised in Toronto often have never seen a strawberry plant.” “For me, one of the great things is that the garden really embraces what Paese stand for,” Chef Palik says. “Everything we do is hand-crafted and house made. We make
All our food in-house, and this just takes it a step further. For the servers to be able to tell a guest that their salad came right from the garden to their plate, that we’ve touched every part of the process, lets them know that there’s something truly different about our menu.”
Recently, (for the first time) select news media were invited to lunch in the garden, where beautifully appointed tables were set up on the patio and Chef Palik’s team prepared six courses on the spot. Experienced sommelier Loschiavo hand-picked Ontario wines to go with each course, the first of which was a bagna cauda, a warm, garlicky dip perfectly mated to fresh vegetables. The course also featured fresh Ontario rainbow trout, smoked on site. As an example, for the second course, the Executive Chef took inspiration from a beautifully rustic picnic dish he’d seen in France. Chickens stuffed for roasting were wrapped and cooked inside paper-thin bread dough, which helps keep the chicken incredibly moist. The bread then becomes a perfect crusty complement. “In France, the hotel would pack it up for guests to carry off for lunch,” he said. And the dessert, well, it was spectacular. It was a frozen lemon soufflО with a cucumber mint gelee hidden inside it by Pastry Chef Logan Prong. Running in behind a pistachio sable and a dollop of lemon sorbet. An Inniskillen Vidal Ice Wine helped it all slide down very smoothly.
-Bay leaf
-Corn (two varieties)
-Figs (one green tree, one black tree)
-Flatleaf parsley
-Flowering chives
-Green onions
-Purple potatoes
-Several varieties of hot peppers including
the hottest in the world, the ghost pepper
(Palik says sometimes his staff, after working
hours have contests to see who can eat
the biggest piece)
-Soy beans (edamame)
-Swiss chard
-Tomatoes: Paese’s all-heirloom tomato
patch features Green Zebra, Striped German,
Laflamme, and San Marzanos among
its 18 to 20 varieties.
-White eggplants
-Zucchini (three varieties)

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