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Taste Makers & Leaders

Michael Wekerle
Michael Wekerle

Michael Wekerle is a rock star in the world of Canadian finance, known for his shrewd value spotting in the fields of tech, biotech and media. As the founder and Chairman of the merchant bank Difference Capital Financial Inc., he oversees a fund that includes such successful growth companies as Hootsuite, Vision Critical, BuildDirect and Blue Ant Media. He also holds significant real estate assets, including an impressive portfolio of high-tech commercial properties in Waterloo, Ontario, as well as the historic Toronto entertainment venue the El Mocambo. And he is a partner in the Canadian franchise of Wahlburgers—Paul, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg’s Boston-based burger chain.
Michael lives in Toronto and is a doting father to six children. He donates millions of dollars to a wide variety of philanthropic interests, including UHN, CAMH, SickKids and Holland Bloorview, as well as the youth outreach organization Seeds of Hope and the acclaimed Baroque opera company Opera Atelier. Michael is currently featured on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, highlighting his entrepreneurial spirit.


Traci Melchor

Traci is a seasoned entertainment reporter who has interviewed hundreds of stars including Diddy, Denzel Washington, INXS, Mariah Carey, Madonna, John Travolta, Janet Jackson, Paris Hilton, Shakira, and Sheryl Crow. Melchor also spoke one-on-one with Madonna for the TV special Madonna: Confessions.

Melchor began her entertainment career as Host of Rapcity on MuchMusic, before moving to Citytv Toronto as an Entertainment Specialist. In 2000, Melchor relocated to Los Angeles, California where she guest starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Lizzie McGuire, and reported from red carpets as the Hollywood Correspondent for Star!. Melchor returned to Canada in 2005 to host MuchMoreMusic. In 2008, Melchor joined CTV’s eTalk, remaining with the program until The Social was launched in 2013. She also regularly contributes to The Marilyn Denis Show, CP24 Breakfast, CTV News and Toronto’s CHUM-FM.


Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray is an Indo-Canadian actress, model, television host, philanthropist and social activist. In 2005 she appeared in the Canadian film Water, which premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2008 she starred alongside Sheetal Sheth in the romance films I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen.

Ray made her Indian cinematic debut in 1994 with the Tamil film Nethaji, alongsideSarath Kumar, in which she appeared in a brief role. In 2001 she appeared in the Bollywood film Kasoor alongside Aftab Shivdasani. In 2002 she acted in the Telugu film Takkari Donga, alongside Mahesh Babu. On 16 November 2010, TLC India announced that it would film a new 5-part series, Oh My Gold, with Ray. It premiered in 2011. The series Oh My Gold was set against the cultural-yet-contemporary backdrop of India. Uncovering the beauty of various cities, Ray played both a host and a travel guide. In 2016, Ray appeared in Ram Gopal Varma’s biographical Veerappan.


Shahir Massoud


Shahir is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and has since worked in the kitchens of Mario Batali (Lupa) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (The Mark Hotel). He is currently a Co-Host on CBC’s daytime talkshow, The Goods, alongside Jessi Cruickshank, Steven Sabados and Andrea Bain. Shahir is also the Owner and Executive Chef of popular fast-casual Italian restaurant, Levetto (now with 7 locations across Ontario).  He is very funny and charismatic with loads of on camera and spokesperson experience. 

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Culinary Giants

Massimo Capra
Massimo Capra

One of the most engaging and insightful chefs in Canada, Massimo Capra has been delighting a captivated audience throughout his many TV appearances, and also at his fine dining establishments. Taking Italian food to another level, Capra makes a wonderful addition to any culinary event with his sumptuous cuisine and charm.

Rob Gentile
Rob Gentile

At 18, fresh out of culinary school, Rob Gentile landed a job at North 44 working under chef Mark McEwan. “From his time at North 44, I could tell that he was a very inspired and curious chef,” McEwan says of his protégé. In addition to running Buca Osteria & Enoteca—the Italian restaurant he heads in Toronto’s King West neighbourhood—Rob is set to open the seafood-themed Buca Yorkville in the new Four Seasons Residences. 

Victor Barry
Victor Barry

Victor is a born and bred Ontario chef. His work ethic, passed down from his father, has driven him to his position as one of Toronto’s premier chefs. He has honed his culinary skills around the world and has made an indelible mark on Toronto’s restaurant landscape.

As Chef-Owner of Piano Piano Restaurant, Victor is once again forging new ground on the culinary scene. While he remains focused on finding the magic inherent in every single ingredient; he is allowing himself and his guests a chance to slow down and savour experiences that come with great food, great wine, and each other.

Victor’s desire to give his guests a singular culinary experience in Toronto will never change, though the way he does that has. At Piano Piano Restaurant, Victor and his family welcome you to their ideal Italian restaurant, where your hunger is sated and soul is nourished.

piano, piano va lontano – slowly, slowly we go further.


Frank
Frankie Solarik

 Author of “The Bar Chef – A Modern Approach to Cocktails ” and Co-owner of Toronto’s popular bar BarChef- rated by Food and Wine magazine as one of the “Seven new and innovative bars in the world” – Solarik is a pioneer of the Modernist approach to cocktails internationally.

He has been profiled in major magazines, newspapers and TV such as the The New York Times, National Geographic, HELLO Magazine, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, Imbibe magazine, Sharp magazine, CNN, as well as a guest judge on The Food Network’s popular “Top Chef Canada”, Foodable TV, Global TV, City TV, Toronto Life, and CBC.

The buzz is due to the fact that Solarik isn’t just changing the way drinks are made, but because he’s changing the way cocktails are perceived in general, by applying the same detail and passion to preparing cocktails as a chef would to haute cuisine.

“It’s the idea of presenting a drink as a dish, I strive to compose cocktails with the same visual, nostalgic, visceral and taste appeal and complexity that is possible within a dish by creating an immersive tangible experience, the general goal for me artistically is to challenge the conventional thought as to what’s possible within the medium of the cocktail. A Chef looks to manipulate the textures and flavors of proteins, starches and vegetables using modern equipment, techniques and ingredients, I take that approach and apply it to liquid and alcohol”

Although he prefers to describe some of his signature beverages like his “Vanilla and Hickory Smoked Manhattan”, “The Black Truffle”, “The Transformation”, Mezcal, White Chocolate and Eucalytups”, “Mayan Hot Cocoa”, “Chilled Ontario Strawberry” “The Cedar” and “Spring Thaw” as “Modernist” rather than “molecular” the cocktails on offer at his Toronto cocktail bar are perhaps best described as compositions, but rather than harmonious musical notes they are a personal artistic expression, a textural and sensory experience presented in the medium of a liquid.

Traditionally, the mystique of a cocktail is due in part to the fact that they are as much an expression of the personal taste of their creator as they are of that of the person who chooses to drink them – in the case of Solarik, even more so. “That’s what makes the creative process so special, the goal is to challenge the perception of flavor.”

Although many of his signature “dishes” feature complex flavours and spectacular presentations, employing everything from frozen carbon dioxide to hydrosols and blowtorches, at their very core the compositions depend on a less is more approach; a process rooted in balancing components that complement each other rather than contrast, regardless how many ingredients he is working with.

At BarChef Solarik continues to push the envelope; growing a reputation as an innovator and advocate of the progressive approach to mixology. His approach is unique, his research impeccable, and his goal, far – reaching – Put simply, to inspire others worldwide to adopt a completely new approach to cocktail culture and dramatically expand on the Modernist movement. Put bluntly, to cause a ruckus.

“A Legendary Toronto Experimentalist.” The New York Times

“Through passion, skill and imagination, he transforms not only a drink but the very definition of the cocktail and the experience of consuming it.” Three Michelin star Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago.

 



Vikram Vig
Vikram Vij

Chef Vikram Vij is a man of many talents. Austrian-trained Chef, Restaurateur, award-winning cook book author, certified sommelier, Food Network host & judge, AND was the first first Indo-Canadian Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. He took his place in the Den alongside esteemed entrepreneur: Michael Wekerle. During Vikram’s time in the Den, he invested in a number of new businesses and continues to work with the entrepreneurs involved.

Vikram has been cooking since he was 10 years old and with 5 successful restaurants under his belt, Vancouver-based Vij’s & My Shanti, he is a man with a clear vision – to spend his life introducing fine Indian cuisine to the masses.

The theme of the My Shanti menu is based upon Vikram’s culinary travels, and includes flavours, ingredients and influences from all over the world. Within weeks of opening, My Shanti received a nomination from Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine as one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants. It is the second year in a row a Vij’s establishment has been nominated, having won the People’s Choice award in 2013 with Vij’s Railway Express.

Vij’s Restaurant has become renowned in Vancouver, across Canada and now globally as one of the finest Indian dining experiences in the world. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman said of Vij’s that it was: “…easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world.

Chef Epié
Chef Gilles Epié

 Chef Epié started working at the age of 14 and trained with Alain Senderens, after he traveled the world and learned its cuisine he returned to Paris to receive the Michelin Star in 1989 at the young age of 22 (he still holds the record for youngest chef ever to receive the star). Worked as a chef at the following top Restaurants: Miravile (owner), Paris; L’Orangerie, L.A; La Petite Cour, St. Germain, Paris.

After mastering Paris, he left in 1995 to explore US cuisine; not speaking a word of English, within a year was voted the Best Chef in America of 1996.

Voted Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 1996 for L’Orangerie in Los Angeles. Chef Epié took the restaurant from empty tables to being booked months in advance with his amazing light French fare.

Chef Epié is known for his rich bold tastes that he creates without butter or cream. No easy feat. “I use a lot of steam, and with this pure and simple way of cooking you must only use the finest products,” Chef Epié explains.

The culinary fusion of Epié’s French/California dishes has wowed a mixed crowd of gastronauts, top politicians, movie stars and supermodels around the world. They call him the “American Frenchy”. Catered Frank Sinatra 80th birthday; Catered Sophia Loren’s birthday. Cooked a Presidents Dinner for George Bush, Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford.

Cooked for the King of Sweden, Sheik of Qatar, Bruce Springsteen, Slash, Sharon Stone, Michel Polnareff, Gregory Peck, Richard Gere, Elizabeth Taylor, and Princess Diana.

After ten years in the US, Chef Epié’s dream restaurant location became available, right off of the Champs Elysée and he felt the pull to return to the most critical gastronomic stage in the world, Paris, with everything he had learned.

Gilles Epié currently owns and runs Citrus Etoile (opened August 2005) with his wife former model/actress Elizabeth Epié.NY Times and Condé Nast Travel both listed Citrus Etoile as a “must visit” new restaurant in Paris 2006. Condé Nast Traveler 2006 named Citrus Etoile as one of the Top 100 Hot Restaurants In The World (returned to Paris 2005). Citrus Etoile was chosen to be a member of the Châteaux & Hotels Collection – Tables remarquables in 2007. Best Restaurant in Paris to do “a business lunch” 2008.

Chef Epié has been named the “chou chou” (darling) of the journalists. The critics come in to Citrus Etoile to eat when they aren’t working to speak and learn from Gilles. The critics not only enjoy Chef Epié’s food, but his company, for all of his acclaim, he is still not a snob and extremely accessible.

Chef Epié and Citrus Etoile are both on Twitter and Facebook where he personally uploads pictures and videos of his delicious food several times a day. Go to YouTube to find just a few videos of Chef Epié discussing his craft from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv.

Citrus Etoile was recently feature in Alain Ducasse’s latest book, “J’Aime Paris” (p.127) as one of his favorite restaurants in Paris.

Frenchy’s, his French Bistro, opened in April 2013 in the International Terminal 2 at the Charles de Gaulle Airport and is a favorite among travellers. To celebrate it’s opening the chic French magazine, Paris-Match did a huge spread featuring Gilles and his wife, Elizabeth, having a black tie picnic on the wing of an American Airlines Boeing Jet.

In 2013, Citrus Etoile was awarded the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence, which recognizes the top 10% institutions in the world rated by travelers. Gilles did two seasons (2013-2014) of his reality show in France for Canal+/Cuisine+, “Dans La Vraie Vie D’un Grand Chef.”

His reality show and restaurant success lead to 20 thirty minute episodes of his cooking show “Un Frenchy en cuisine” which aired on Canal+ in 2015. In March of 2015, Gilles was chosen and invited to cook two nights in New York by the Chefs Club Food and Wine Magazine. In May 2015, Chef Gilles was selected as the sole chef to create and cook for the French Gastromic Week event in the Mauritus Islands, La Clef Des Champs, Floreal. He fell in love with the culture and the people and is looking into opening a restaurant in the area.

Gilles is proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Citrus Etoile in 2015. Gilles is a rare chef who loves technology and is always upgrading his website and blog. He loves staying in contact with his fans through social media be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whosay.

On any given day, you can find cameras following Chef Epié around his kitchen discussing his cuisine, the economy and its effect on the food industry. When not filming in Paris, Gilles is traveling the globe to educate students, master chefs and international celebrities in their kitchens around the world.

When people ask Gilles about his impressive past, the humble chef, says “Google me, you will find out a lot more”.


Patrick Kriss

 Born and raised in Scarbourough, Patrick Kriss has fond memories of his introduction to the food. As a child, Kriss baked pies and helped make breakfast with his grandmother at their summer cottage. He went on train at George Brown’s culinary arts program and began his career at Toronto’s renowned Auberge du Pommier. A move to New York City saw Kriss work under French chef Daniel Boulud at his eponymous, Michelin-rated Daniel restaurant for three years. When Daniel closed for renovations, Kriss left for France to work at Reìgis Marcon and La Maison Troisgros. In 2010, he returned to Toronto to work at Splendido, where he worked for nearly two years. He most recently received praise for his talent at Toronto’s highly acclaimed Acadia restaurant. Building on the success of his experience, Kriss is teaming up with general manager Amanda Bradley to make his culinary mark.


Devan Rajkumar

 Chef Devan Rajkumar’s dedication and professionalism for his craft as a culinary and food expert is evidenced by his relentless passion and ambition to become one of the best in the food service industry. He is fiercely committed to FOOD at the highest level with compelling authenticity. His love for food and quest to showcase his talent is observable with his natural exuberance and knowledge when he is engaged in preparing a menu demonstrating for the public, competing in live culinary challenges, working the line at various restaurants, catering high end events, food styling or performing on TV. A review of the numerous events he has participated in reveals his symbiotic connectivity and love for ALL things food related. Devan continues to expand his knowledge of food by travelling extensively to broaden his palate.


Michael Hunter

 Hunter by name and trade, Michael is an outdoorsman, forager and hunter. Born and raised on a Caledon horse farm, Hunter’s dream was to own a restaurant that would combine his love for food with a passion and respect for local ingredients. Formerly of Toronto’s Sassafraz, Luma, Scarpetta, and Reds Wine Tavern, he has used his experience in the outdoors to explore his culinary creativity, becoming chef and co-owner of Antler Kitchen and Bar. Antler is strongly rooted in regional food culture – pure, fresh and seasonal. It embodies local flavour and spirit, offering contemporary dishes with an emphasis on wild food and farm-fresh ingredients that are always sourced locally.

In a world of smoke and mirrors, Soniya gets things done.”

Mark McEwanChef

Soniya continues to surprise me with her discipline and persistent drive.Very intuitive and focused on finding the right opportunity for me. I love the fact that she gets all this accomplished while running in her high heels! Soniya is a true professional & brilliant agent.

Vikram VijChef

Soniya has been a great help in navigating the celebrity chef scene in Canada. She understands the culinary scene and is a great resource to discuss ideas with.

Robin LindenFairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Soniya's enthusiasm, ethic and drive are exactly what I needed in great representation. She has helped nurture and discover new clients such as Dairy Farmers of Canada, Foodland Ontario and Baci Perugina. She literally and figuratively brings food to the table.

Christian PritchardCulinary Adventurist, Emcee, Dude