The Toronto restaurant scene has been dealt yet another blow with Sonia Verma reporting in the Globe and Mail yesterday that star chef, Jamie Kennedy, has made the decision to sell his eponymous Wine Bar due to financial difficulties. With the closing of Boba, Cluck, Grunt and Low, and Perigee (to name a few) earlier in the year, and now the sale of the Wine Bar, it seems apparent that Toronto is definitely suffering the effects of the world’s failing economy. Jamie Kennedy’s decision is particularly upsetting to me because it is at his restaurants that I was inspired to become a sommelier.
The first time I went to the Wine Bar I was still a school teacher. I knew a little about wine, but, most importantly, I knew that I liked it a lot. The food, of course, was delicious and I was very impressed by the recommended wine pairings for each dish. I don’t recall the details of what I ate or drank, but I do remember that it was an eye-opening experience.
My next visit to a Jamie Kennedy restaurant was a couple of years later. I was in the midst of questioning my career choice as a teacher, and to help get my mind off things, my husband took me to lunch at the Gardiner Museum. We ordered the recommended wines along with our meals. Again, the pairings were superb. Not only were the food and wine delicious on their own, but together the flavours exploded in my mouth awakening all my senses. The combination of the food and the wine added a dimension to both that they did not have on their own. I was hooked. I thought to myself that being a sommelier must be the best job in the world. It was at that moment that I decided to pursue my wine education. When I arrived back home, I immediately enrolled in the next International Sommelier Guild’s Wine Fundamentals II course (I had already completed ISG’s Wine Fundamentals I a couple of years earlier). That spring I resigned from the school board and in August I began the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers program at George Brown College. And, the rest, so they say, is history.
Now, I realize the person responsible for all those incredible food and wine pairings was the very gifted Jamie Drummond, the sommelier for Jamie Kennedy since 2004, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Jamie Kennedy, with his unruly mop of dark, curly hair. He has been at the front of the slow food movement in Toronto for a long time, but it seems that the very thing he preaches is what is bringing him down. Unfortunately, it’s expensive to eat locally produced food – funny because one would think that it was cheaper. Jamie has scaled down the food at the Gardiner Museum, but is determined to continue to feature local produce on its menu and on the menu at the Gilead Café. He believes that consumer demand for local produce will eventually drive the prices down. Let’s hope, for his sake, he’s right or this could be the end of the Jamie Kennedy empire in Toronto.
Have you had a memorable (good or bad) experience at one of Jamie Kennedy’s restaurants? Leave a comment to tell about it.