20 | November/December2019 eatdrink.ca |@eatdrinkmag with farmers and suppliers before conceptualizing Grace. The staffing model challenges the traditional roles of the front and back-of-house, with the cooks often serving and engaging with tables. It is an open kitchen in the most real sense, approachable and transparent. Murphy knows that it is fiscally responsible to make an investment in training workers properly about the various positions within the restaurant. “We recognized in the beginning that we were going to have a high labour cost. We pay our employees a living wage. We are trying to make the best of the fact that the capitalist systems — paying workers less than a living wage — in the restaurant business are broken. We want the staff fully invested in the restaurant, so we have adopted a co-op model with no upper management salaries.” This type of innovation is so unusual and forwardthinking that it made headlines when the owners of Emma’s Country Kitchen on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto proclaimed they would add a non-compulsory three percent surcharge on guest checks so full-time workers could have health benefits. Some patrons complained, other patrons and colleagues in the industry commended the move. There is a debate in the restaurant community about whether a surcharge is too contentious and whether it is the most sensible way to underwrite enhanced working conditions for restaurant employees. Some restaurants introducing health benefits for workers are sidestepping the surcharge and choosing instead to raise prices. Changing the patriarchal kitchen hierarchy and the dismantling of oppressive constructs are topics Murphy and I have discussed on several occasions. Historically there has been wage inequality and institutionalized segregation by gender and race in the restaurant business. There remains a profound connection between sexism and homophobia in the restaurant kitchen culture. Everyone is entitled to equal protection in the workplace. “The traditional hospitality industry is unfriendly to women, especially in the back of the house. We have known this for years — the long hours, the macho aggression, the harassment present in many kitchens. The point is that it’s not just women that suffer from these issues. Men don’t thrive in this environment, either. I have worked with men that have had problems balancing work and life because of the late nights, the stress, and the physical labour,” says Murphy wistfully. “Many men have been harassed, felt bullied and intimidated in a toxic atmosphere which allows only a narrow range of personalities to succeed. In the ideal kitchen, and I like to think we model our kitchen after that ideal, everyone feels supported, listened to and respected. I would even go so far as to say, utterly rebellious to the traditional chef mentality, that restaurants should be more accommodating to the personal lives of their staff. The kitchen Top: Soft boiled egg, brioche toast soldiers, duxelles, beet mayo, radishes, beer powder & celery root. Middle: Lake Erie pickerel, wild rice, black lentils & red cabbage consomme. Bottom: Maitake mushroom, Swiss chard rondelles, walnut & pickled celery.
eatdrink: The Local Food & Drink Magazine Spirit-forward, seasonal craft cocktails by Lauren Fitzgerald is not a cult, and you shouldn’t have to forsake your family, your friends and your relationships to be successful. Ultimately, the kitchen is a meritocracy regardless of gender. That’s the best part. Even if you are at a disadvantage to start because you are a woman, or because you can’t afford the fanciest tools, or because you don’t speak English, or you have a mental illness, if you can cook, you get respect. If your plates look good, you get respect. If you clean up after yourself and help your team when they need you, if you work hard, it can’t go unnoticed, and you will earn your place.” If you’re looking for a modern dining and drinking experience, Grace is the ideal venue for a multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Relax at the bar in front of the open kitchen or in the lounge with a signature cocktail or choose from the carefully curated beer and wine list. Grace offers late-night snacks and drinks after your downtown concert or trip to the theatre. Grace Restaurant 215 Dundas Street, London (at Clarence) 226-667-4822 gracelondon.ca dinner: wednesday–saturday from 5 pm sunday: 6–8 pm lunch: thursday–friday 11:30 am–2 pm brunch: sunday 11:30 am–2 pm BRYAN LAVERY, Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large, brings years of professional experience in the restaurant and hospitality business as a chef, restaurateur and partner in the culinary experience and consulting business, Lavery Culinary Group. Always on the lookout for stories Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes. at The Market at Western Fair on Weekends! ALIESKA ROBLES is a London photographer and producer of Forest City Cookbook. alieskarobles.com