Last updated on January 24th, 2021 at 01:29 pm
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. Uncle Ray’s Food & Liquor. 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!
Yannick Bigourdan — Who Is He?
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.
An Evening with Yannick — How Yannick Bigourdan Found His Inner Canadian
If you’ve never attended a swearing-in ceremony for Canadian citizenship, you should really attend a swearing-in ceremony for Canadian citizenship! It’s something many Canadian-born citizens take for granted—the studying, stress and waiting that comes with obtaining one’s Canadian citizenship, so you find out that you’ve made it, it’s a pretty big deal!
Which is something Yannick only realised when he got there!
Committing to having his vision for Splendido bear fruit, Yannick knew he’d need to become a Canadian citizen to see it happen. And he did so successfully, but when he got to the swearing-in ceremony, a copy of that day’s The Globe and Mail in hand, getting his citizenship was simply a step in a much larger plan he had underway. A step that’d see him pop in, get his papers, and get back to the many things on his list!
At least, that was the plan until he took a good look around the room! He didn’t see people merely showing up as a formality to declare they were no Canadian—what we saw were a group of proud, new Canadians, surrounding themselves with friends and family to celebrate finally making it. In many cases, they were people all too aware of the privilege now afforded to them by being Canadian, and that the strife and struggle from their former homelands could stay in the past where they belonged. They were free to live in pursuit of a better life!
And it was in that moment Yannick understood. He’d been short-sighted, not realising the full impact of being Canadian, and he too was ready to celebrate, calling his wife then and there in the hopes that she could be part of the moment, too!
Being a Canadian Citizen is More Than Just Having a Piece of Paper — How Yannick Found His Canadian Groove
It’s been nearly two decades since then. What started with Splendido in 2001 turned into 7½ years of owning Nota Bene. And that turned into eventually selling his stake and focusing on developing new establishments like LodinG and Union Chicken!
And in that time, Yannick’s figured out what Canada means to him—a nation built on tolerance, acceptance or integration. One that’s quite possibly the greatest country on Earth despite refusing to advertise it. And in many ways, a nation that’d benefit from a bit more common sense.
Some say that when one doesn’t have real problems, they create them so they have something to do. In Canada, that can sadly happen. A lot.
Letting five-minute commuting delays cause us anguish or getting upset when our favourite cookie’s sold out. We treat our coworkers’ mistakes like they’re the end of the world and take things personally when we only have part of the story. We assume, avoid confrontation and never ask the difficult questions—things would be so much simpler if we could be honest about our feelings and deal with issues as they happen instead of letting them linger in our minds.
Life’s often unnecessarily complicated, and to that Yannick looks to our nation’s great equaliser—hockey!
Of Shots and Sensibility — What Hockey’s Taught Yannick About the World Around Him
There’s room to weasel your way out of responsibility in many situations, but hockey is not one of them!
Hockey’s fighting shocked Yannick at first, but the more he played, the more he appreciated both the game and those who play it! Yannick’s played with firefighters, cops, former NHL players and tradesmen—but in the rink, everyone’s just Canadian. Hockey’s taught Yannick more about generosity, respect and integrity than he has anywhere else in Canada—it’s a privilege he’d want nothing more than his fellow Canadians to experience, too, so maybe this post will inspire you to give it a go!
An Evening With Yannick was an Evening Well-Spent!
So that was my evening with Yannick, spent learning about one man’s story, the world he’s building, and his perspectives on what being Canadian means to him. What was clear from our conversation is that we can all strive for a higher standard of being Canadian. Getting a better understanding of one another. Taking the time to listen before we lunge to conclusions. Yannick’s shown we can find the inspiration for our lives in the most unexpected places, and I hope that you find yours.
Here’s to making 2018 your own, and until the next, I remain,
More About Yannick Bigourdan
Yannick Bigourdan is the proprietor behind Carbon Bar, LodinG, Union Chicken and Amano Pasta. When he’s not busy filling hungry bellies with delicious food or helping others dress to impress, he enjoys a myriad of activities like golfing and helping his kids with their competitive water skiing!
The Carbon Bar
The Carbon Bar is Toronto’s top dining destination for Southern-style fare, BBQ, and cocktails! The dinner menu offers Southern-inspired snacks, platters and signature dishes in a family-style format that evolves with the seasons. A highly recommended dining experience is The Chef’s Table, which offers The Carbon Experience with a multi-course family-style tasting menu highlighting the menu offerings with two seatings every night!
Loding first opened its doors in Paris, France in 1998. Founder Michel Gozlan wanted to implement a new concept in the men’s fashion industry selling high quality and luxury products at the fairest price. In less than two decades, Loding has expanded to over ten countries worldwide with 68 retail locations. For more information about Loding and Maison Patina, please visit Loding.ca and MaisonPatina.com.
Union Chicken opened in 2017 and promises chicken lovers organic, free-range fried and spit-fired chicken with mouthwatering sides, decadent desserts and craft cocktails. Open seven days a week for brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks and take-out. For more information, please visit unionchicken.com.
Created in 2017, Amano Pasta provides Torontonians with a meeting place inside Union Station to savour Italian-Canadian cuisine. The breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks destination features a modern Italian espresso bar with freshly made grab ‘n go pastries and sandwiches and a retail marketplace where customers who wish to prepare and replicate the dishes at home can purchase Amano’s ingredients. For more information, please visit www.eatamano.ca.
Uncle Ray’s Food & Liqour
From the creative team of Union Chicken and Amano, Chef Mike Angeloni is bringing southern-inspired food and fun just steps from St. Lawrence Market in Old Toronto. From Shrimp & Grits to Roasted Double Pork Chops, guests can enjoy an upscale casual experience with a few surprises. Perfect for a night out for two, celebrating with groups of friends or just hanging out at the bar. A great selection of wines, local beers, and cool cocktails make this place the perfect spot for your next culinary experience. Oh, And you might just find out #whothehellisuncleray! whothehellisuncleray.com