Chef Scott started giving his food tours around the same time Local moved into Leslieville and the Riverside, four years ago. We heard about him from the beginning – through fans of his at the Roy – but it wasn’t until this issue that we finally found the space and a good fit for telling his story. If you havn’t been for a tour yet, what are you waiting for?? Wait a minute, I havn’t been for a tour yet?? What am I waiting for??
On a browser? Copy is below. On a computer? pdf file is at right.
CHEF SCOTT GOT OFF TO HIS START IN LESLIEVILLE AND RIVERSIDE RIGHT AROUND THE SAME TIME LOCAL MAGAZINE DID. WE HEARD ABOUT HIM FROM THE BEGINNING AND ARE EXCITED TO FINALLY BE TELLING HIS STORY.
Chef Scott Savoie had been on the road for five years working as a private chef when he found his way to Toronto, five years back. He was tired of living out of a suitcase and fate may have stepped in when he met Tania Daviduke. “Tania was a big foodie and would take me to a neighbourhood and we would explore and sample the food. Eventually we thought it would be neat to show people all these little areas of the city.”
That turned out to be a big idea and within a year, Tania and Scott had struck up a partnership and created The Culinary Adventure Company. Scott found a home in Toronto and one perfectly suited to his love of food. While he focuses on executing the tours, Tania has his back with the blog, photography and management of the business. After only four years in business, the company tours seven different neighbourhoods. As Scott says, “If you can’t find something you like to eat in Toronto, there’s something wrong with you. There are around 8000 restaurants.”
Their first tour was Riverside-Leslieville and it remains the fan favourite to this day. Groups head out every Saturday at 11am and tour seven stops before 3pm. Scott says, “you head out with twelve people who don’t know each other and by the end people are exchanging phone numbers and emails!” The Riverside-Leslieville tour starts at Mary MacLeod’s Shortbread, visits Saint John’s Bakery, does a wine tasting at the Wine Rack, an Olive Oil tasting at Olive & Olives, has a sandwich and a caesar at Table 17, learns about sustainable seafood at Hooked and wraps with ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop.
At every stop they learn about the business they are visiting and the food they are sampling. “They get the perspective of a chef,” Scott says, “Going somewhere with a chef is different than going somewhere on your own.”
Mia Sturup, owner of Olive & Olives has been a part of Scott’s tour since it began and since she opened her store. “We love having Scott come in,” she says, “He’s an amazing tour guide. He’s learned so much about the neighbourhood so it’s not just a culinary tour, it is historic as well.” When the tour stops at Olive & Olives, Mia has a shot of Extra Virgin Olive Oil ready to sample and the group learns about how to taste an olive oil, how to shop for one and how to store one. Chef Scott typically brings in a tomato over which Mia puts their Basil-infused Olive Oil and they have a baguette in tow from Saint John’s Bakery that they then all sample. Before they leave they have chocolate with Orange-infused Olive Oil drizzled on top. Everyone leaves informed and treated.
Mia says she has had people come into her store who say they came in on a tour and enjoyed it so much they finally made it back. The tours are great for the local businesses they visit as well as for Chef Scott and the participants.
Chef Scott says, “We wanted to take people beyond the CN Tower and the Hard Rock Cafe. Toronto’s a city of neighbourhoods and we wanted to try to make tourists feel like locals and locals feel like tourists.” In its four short years in business, their company has won many awards. In 2012 they picked up the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance award, and they have been ranked number one on Trip Advisor in the Food & Drink category. There are many other kudos.
Overall it is this sense that Chef Scott is trying to add value and bring a new perspective to the world of tours that seems to stand out. He says, “tours always have an educational component. People learn about the neighbourhoods. We go into the galleries. We point out interesting buildings.” All of this while going about the business of telling the story of the food.
It did all start in Riverside and Leslieville though. Back when Tania was taking Scott on the neighbourhood tours he says “we went to explore the area one day and fell in love with it. There’s some really cool stuff here.”
Table 17 was an early participant on the tour. Table 17 owner, Erik Joyal tells me that Chef Scott sat down with Erik and his partner John Sinopoli a few times to hash out how it would work. They settled on serving up a sandwich and a caesar. Depending on the size of the group they either sit at Table 17’s bar or up in the private dining room. Erik says that Chef Scott, “chit chats about the neighbourhood but also takes the tourists through Table 17’s food philosophies,” such as working with local farmers and keeping the menu in an ever-evolving state of seasonality to keep things fresh while maintaining a tradition of fine dining.
Chef Scott says, “I’ve enjoyed watching the culinary scene evolve. Gone are the days of chefs in tall white hats. These restaurants and food-based businesses are doing some fabulous stuff.” And it does seem as though in turn the Culinary Adventure Company is doing great service to the businesses and the neigbourhoods it tours.
The tours have expanded over the years. Besides exploring Riverside-Leslieville tours operate in Greektown, Little India, Little Italy, Baldwin Village and on Church Street. Chef Scott has built up a number of what he calls “culinary partners” who join him in telling the stories of these areas. But tours have expanded beyond the food tours inToronto neighbourhoods to the Culinary Adventures that give the company its name. Included in this category are the Spring and Fall forages for wild edibles – mostly mushrooms that are conducted through the Don Valley. The group takes regular wine trips to Prince Edward County for wine and cheese experiences. They have an award-winning tour in which they paddle a massive canoe across to Toronto Island and enjoy a local, Ontario sustainable picnic. Last but not least, the company offers classes in sausage making, knife skills, cheese appreciation, oyster shucking and beef butchering. It really does add up to a foodie’s dream and frankly it is Scott’s dream as well.
“I love it,” he says, “Everyday I love it. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and think, I could do this, and I could do that. I live and breathe it. Honestly, I have the best job in the world. I eat and drink professionally!”