by Malcolm Jolley

Chef Graham Pratt at the back of the house at The Gabardine

The Stop holds a special place in the hearts of Toronto’s top chefs, so demand for a spot to serve forth at the community food centre’s annual What’s On The Table fundraiser invariably outstrips supply. But when organiser Roz Heintzman had lunch downtown at The Gabardine a few months ago, she was impressed enough to leave her business card for chef Graham Pratt. Pratt, who’d heard about The Stop and thought it was pretty cool emailed Heintzman back thinking he and his crew might be able to volunteer in drop-in kitchen at Davenport and Caledonia. When Heintzman offered him a spot at the Wychwood Barns super-chef celebration he couldn’t believe it. He’d be sharing the room with heroes like Keith Froggett, Jamie Kennedy and his former boss Donna Dooher. This is a big deal for the 27 year old chef, in charge of his first kitchen since only February.

The Gabardine brings a Queen Street sensibility to Bay Street

I met Pratt at The Gabardine on a grey October afternoon recently. At 3pm the restaurant was still two thirds full with tables lingering over glasses of wine or pints of beer. Owners Alison McKenna and Katherine Rogrigues opened the restaurant on the site of an old dive bar on Bay Street between Richmond and Adelaide. Their vision of bringing a Queen Street neighbourhood hangout to the Financial District was rewarded immediately by crowds and rave reviews for its locavore, gastropub takes on power lunching. Pratt signed-on as chef on the recommendation of Rodney Bowers, for whom he worked at The Citizen and Rosebud. Prior to that Pratt made his chops in the kitchen of Dooher’s Mildred Pierce. Pratt brought with him a team of young cooks (the oldest is 28) including sous Kyla Rajkumar and pastry Christine Fancy.

Pratt is a little circumspect about what he’ll serve at What’s On The Table but is willing to tell GFR that it’s going to be a savoury take on cannoli involving pork, cheese and veg… sounds perfectly suited to eating with one hand, while sipping a glass of wine in the other and strolling around the Wychwood Barns on November 2nd.

See the entire line-up of chefs at What’s On The Table at

Malcolm Jolley is the executive director of Good Food Media, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to educating the public about artisanal food and the publisher of Good Food Revolution. Follow him at