There are many ways to tell a story. I, for example, use words, whether I am writing or speaking on television or hosting an event, producing a show, or even teaching a class. It seems that the art of storytelling is at the core of everything I do, really. Whatever the topic - food, fitness, travel, weather - it's all telling a story. As a photographer, my husband tells stories (rather spectacular ones, I may add) through still images. And chefs, I learned during my tenure hosting Toronto Dining (and ever since) tell stories through the food they create.
Great chefs have great stories to tell. It only makes sense. Often they are well-traveled, their careers taking them on a journey with multiple stops on the way to gather bits of information and inspiration here and there, and from that they create their story that they tell in their kitchens. From menu to menu, from restaurant to new restaurant, the story changes and evolves.
Chef Claudio Aprile has always been known to tell innovative stories on the plate. From Senses to Colborne Lane to Origin, Toronto diners have been captivated with the flavours he creates. I remember being particularly addicted to a duck confit french toast (brioche, obviously) at Origin on King East - it was definitely my go to, and for many others as well. But when the same original location for Origin recently shuttered, it was because things had run their course and Chef had a new story to tell.
And so, the space at the corner of King and Church has been given new life as Copetin. Inspired by his mother's suggestion, the new restaurant was named after a Latin American word meaning "“drop-in, aperitif, community and social." Which is exactly what Chef Aprile (who was born in Uruguay) wants to provide to his diners - a space to kick back, relax and enjoy the dining experience. Copetin is divided in to three spaces: a main dining area with an open kitchen, a bar lounge and a patio. The lounge is of course, more relaxed in terms of atmosphere and menu, while the dining room leans to the more traditional, though thoroughly creative. Of particular note is the six seat chef's counter in the dining room, where guests can give the Chef free reign on their meal, serving dishes not included on the regular a la carte menu. A culinary playground, of sorts.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Grand Opening event at Copetin and experience the atmosphere and little preview bites of the food on offer. Unfettered by any rules or being bound to one particular type of cuisine, Chef Aprile is not only free to tell the story he wants to tell through his menu, but in doing so also tells the story of the city he calls home. Inspired by Toronto’s various neighbourhoods, cultures and food personalities, Aprile says the food at Copetin is "exciting and unpredictable". For him, Copetin will be like a workshop - a place where he can experiment and explore new techniques and flavours.
I sampled items from the lounge menu: fresh oysters, lamb kebabs, Korean fried chicken - literally all over the map when it comes to culinary origin (see what I did there?), but in Toronto, it makes sense. And it was all delicious. One standout for me was a romesco sauce that accompanied a chorizo tostada. I stopped my conversation on the spot to say "Damn, that's a good romesco." And really, it's those kinds of details that are important.
Many came out to celebrate with Chef Aprile that night, from celebs to socialites, fellow chefs and food writers, which was great to see. Personally, I am happy to see the reinvention and revival of this downtown space that is so familiar and loved by much of this city.
- All photos by George Pimentel.