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To survive the pandemic, many restaurants have converted to take-out options, but some experiences just can’t be replicated with a cardboard box and plastic utensils.
Although restaurants have been reopened for indoor and outdoor dining for a few months now, people are still using take-out services to try and replicate the experience of eating out at more intimate places. The mystery and luxury of a high-end blind tasting menu––which is a multiple-course menu designed and curated by a chef––is something that you just can’t get on UberEats. Unfortunately, many restaurants have either eliminated or greatly reduced tasting menu services because of limited capacity and space. Some chefs who specialized in tasting menus have either had to alter their practice at the expense of their passion and skill or walk away from the industry entirely.
That is, except, for Top Chef Canada semi-finalist Chef Imrun Texeira. Texeira is currently building a personal chef business that brings a multi-course blind tasting menu right to your dining room. Texeira will even bring his own plates and cutlery, so no need for plastic utensils here.
As a recently-named winner of the 30 Under 30 award program that recognizes top young performers in Canada, Texeira has not only the vision, but also the skill to make his dream a reality.
“I’ve helped create blind tasting menus for some of the best restaurants this country has to offer so I know there’s a demand for this type of experience,” he says.
Texeira’s personal chef business is set to launch this Fall and will be called “Wanderlust”––a reference to his multicultural style, cuisine and passion for exploration and travel.
“I use seasonal local products while also highlighting the diversity of food cultures across Canada. I see this as a ‘new Canadian cuisine’”, he says of what his dishes will encompass.
Since January, Texeira has been networking with caterers, private chefs and TV personalities in Toronto, who pointed him in the direction of personal chef work.
“Personal chefs are not new... but no one is doing it quite to the style that I am, I’ll definitely be one of a few or the first, especially in Canada,” he says.
One of the main reasons he came up with the idea was that he didn’t want his skillset to go to waste. After interning and working in Michelin Star restaurants in Copenhagen and around the UK, Texeira knew he wanted to continue honing his craft and bringing his exclusive fine dining menus into people’s houses.
“People still want that experience and service, and I feel like there is a niche market for it in Toronto,” he says. “Now I go in and do what I do best, and the diner will have to give me the reigns.”
For Texeira, this is not just another “COVID side hustle” as he put it, but rather he wants this to become his long-term work, post-pandemic.
“Sometimes when you work in a restaurant, you really have to bend to people's desires, and there’s that old school saying of ‘give the customer what they want’ but now, I’m going to be asking them about their non-negotiables and taking them on a culinary journey from there,” he says, referring to his vision for the menu.
Texeira has always been a believer in having it all and through this new endeavour, he wants to show that it is possible to do what you love without letting it take over your life.
“I’ll be able to live a healthier lifestyle because I can take more time for myself to work on my physical and mental health, which is especially important after the year and a half we just had,” he says.
Even as restaurants reopen, the convenience of take-out and at-home dining experiences hasn’t wavered. Texeira believes although the COVID-19 pandemic set back the restaurant industry in devastating ways, it also created new opportunities that chefs and owners can take advantage of.
“To be at the forefront of a new concept in the culinary field is cool... it keeps things interesting,” he says.
This “new concept” of offering more personal and intimate fine dining experiences has transcended from a necessary move to keep business alive to an exciting new idea the industry is beginning to tackle.
“I feel a lot more people may go this way in the future, but I don’t think a lot of people will offer this kind of in-home dining experience at this high level,” says Texeira.
Texeira will debut his blind tasting menu business with est, located in Riverside, on Oct. 13.