Good Food Revolution remembers J. Charles Grieco and honours his great contribution to the Canadian Hospitality Industry.

J. Charles Grieco receiving an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Guelph, June 2014.

J. Charles Grieco died on Tuesday, January 29 of natural causes at Grace hospital in Toronto. The Canadian hospitality industry mourns the passing of a giant, as do we at Good Food Revolution. An obituary of Charles (or I should say, Dr. Charles), listing his many and great accomplishments, including the founding and directorship of The Ontario Hostelry Institute, is posted here. And a 2014 GFR interview conducted by Jamie, wherein Charles explains his philosophy and vision of hospitality can be found here.

On reflection, there are two aspects of Charles Grieco’s accomplished life that I find remarkable. The first is his foresight and anticipation of the professionalization of the hospitality industry. How in 1977, when he moved to form the OHI, could he have foreseen our modern era where the daughters and sons of respectable middle class parents aspire to don chef’s whites or build the next big restaurant thing? More than forty years ago, Charles saw the dignity in hospitality work and the potential for excellence, and spent the rest of his life working hard to help those who aspired to achieve it. We take that for granted now, but without Charles Grieco’s vision, our reality would have been that much slower coming.

The second thing about Charles Grieco, apart from his passion and interest in the hospitality industry, was his specific interest in the individuals in it. There is no doubt that the millions of dollars he raised for culinary scholarships had great material impact in the lives of those that received them. And the awards the OHI gave to those they felt deserved them offered sometimes badly needed encouragement and recognition, but the money and the laurels were, I think, the effects of a more profound cause: Charles’ genuine interest in the people in the hospitality industry. For me and countless others, it was Charles’ personal interest in me, in what I was doing, and what I hoped to accomplish going further that saved me, more than once, from too long a dark knight of the soul. A conversation over lunch at The Chef’s House would encouraged me to continue when times were challenging, or think bigger when things were going well. I’ll miss that very much, and I know I am not alone in the sentiment.