Disclaimer: The team at Uncle Ray’s sent over a Ray’s Backyard Bud & BBQ Kit (minus the Bud) for the Palmers to review. But all thoughts and opinions remain my own, and when I eat meat down to the bone… you know it’s a good sign.
The night before everything went to hell, my friend Gabe and I were supposed to have dinner. With us living on opposite sides of the city, I usually try to find somewhere in the middle to meet up, and this time it was Uncle Ray’s Food & Liquor.
Or rather… we would’ve, but bowed out as the world grew dicier and everyone sent home. But if you’d told me then that our city would shut itself down and we wouldn’t sit in a restaurant proper for months to come, we might’ve reconsidered.
So for a long time, it was a remnant of the world before, one of the things on a long list that we wouldn’t get our hands on for who knows how long.
But in June 2020, that need not be the case, since Uncle Ray’s Food & Liquor has both takeout and delivery options that go perfect with this weather!
A while ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Yannick Bigourdan, a man who’s many things, but you may know him best as the man behind many of Toronto’s upscale offerings. Carbon Bar. Union Chicken. Amano Pasta. Even LodinG, his foray into offering something that’s not delicious food!
In my quest to tell more great Canadian stories, we sat down over some of Carbon Bar’s signature apps as I delved deeper into the story of a French man who fell in love with our true north strong and free. He tasked me with doing his words justice, so without further ado, I present—An Evening with Yannick!
Who is Yannick Bigourdan?
He’s a Dad—he spends time with his hands in numerous pots, but he fights hard to stay involved and be present for his two kids. He falls in love with new ideas very quickly, juggling fifty passions at a time while actively trying to add fifty more. You can find him playing ping-pong, skeet shooting, downhill skiing and more, but he’ll always make time for a great game of hockey!
This man who’s developed four thriving businesses from the ground up wouldn’t even be in Canada if it wasn’t for his work with the Four Seasons Los Angeles!
No stranger to the hospitality industry by then, his work saw frequent travel to Toronto to both further the Four Seasons brand with his Canadian counterparts and take in everything Toronto has to offer as a bustling multicultural city. Well, one thing led to another (as often happens when you’re constantly associating with the movers and shaking of the world), and Yannick eventually found himself face-to-face with the opportunity to take over Splendido, a fine dining establishment deeply entrenched in Toronto lore. Exactly the sort of place one might transition to if already familiar with what delivering stellar customer service looks like thanks to the Four Seasons!
So, armed to take another massive shift in his life—something he’s all too familiar with as you’ll soon discover—Yannick put every dollar he had into developing Splendido. Literally. He was so invested in making it a success that his wife took care of the rent for six months while he figured out the groundwork!
But Splendido’s just the beginning of the story. Without Splendido, Yannick would’ve never even considered becoming a Canadian citizen, and that’s when everything changed.
You can’t live your formative years in the boundless suburbs of a major city without feeling like you’re missing out. Growing up, I spent more time hanging in basements of my friends’ parents than I did painting the town any shade of red. We had to get creative and invent things to do for fun because you’d seldom find anything open past 9. And if you had a little money in your pocket and you wanted fine dining? Then you’d better hope you had wheels unless you wanted the same frozen food from the same family chains all over town.
There was little to write home about eating out in the ‘burbs… that is until places like Union Chicken started showing up!
Union Chicken — The Best Thing to Come Out of Etobicoke in a While!
Nestled in Cadillac Fairview Sherway Gardens’ south-west corner, Union Chicken‘s the brainchild of four owners—Yannick Bigourdan, Adam Teolis, Michael Angeloni and Dan Kennedy. Between the four of them, you get a huge range of insights and approaches to restaurant culture, with lessons learned from places like Splendido, Grand Electric, nationwide chains, and—most notably—The Carbon Bar coming together to build Union Chicken‘s mystique.
Though smaller in stature than some independents who try to be any- and everything to all people, Union Chicken uses its compact square footage, a focused menu and straightforward ambience to get you focusing on one thing and one thing alone—enjoying delicious food!
After conning my best friends into watching the boys, Sarah and I made the crosstown trip to Union, where Adam promptly greeted us, introduced us to Mike (and the Robs) in the kitchen, and Dan, a fellow Dad from the east side who joined us later in the night. (I assumed Yannick was busy doling out deliciousness at The Carbon Bar where the food’s well worth the price, but I digress.) Our seats were a food photographer’s dream: two very comfortable raised seats overlooking the front kitchen, where I took in the simmering rotisserie chicken and food prep with ease.
But the team made sure taking photos was the last thing on my mind—it was time to try the savoury treats Union Chicken had to offer!