Joe Beef, Vin Papillon, and Liverpool House co-owner and general culinary personality David McMillan has penned a somewhat surprising column with the twin declarations that “Toronto is now the great Canadian food city…I feel we may have lost the title in Montreal.”
The column appears in the latest issue of Toronto food publication Foodism (read it in full over here). Based on the above quote, it would be easy to hand-wring and make a fuss out of McMillan’s comments, the column is really about Toronto, and McMillan doesn’t use the platform to take a dump on Montreal and its food scene.
Here’s a few notable take-aways from the column:
- Making a comparison to the alt-folkier sounds of Toronto’s music scene, McMillan says he finds “a sense of community” in Ontario’s food scene at large.
- McMillan suggests Toronto has become the great Canadian food city because of its strong economy, rather than any inherent problem with Montreal’s scene: it’s “due perhaps to the great exodus of corporations moving out to the greener pastures of Toronto.”
- Things McMillan particularly admires about Toronto and Ontario: honey, beef, lamb, crustaceans, craft beer, and cider.
McMillan elaborated on his column in a CBC Toronto morning show interview, and the CBC have perhaps tried a little hard to frame it as some big mutiny; a beef with Montreal on the part of McMillan — but his main point still stands up: ”I'd say these days it's a hard city to live in. There's definitely corruption, definitely crumbling infrastructure, definitely lots of mismanagement of public funds, but not really incredible growth over the years.”
Plenty of Quebecers know the story of how Montreal used to be Canada’s metropolis, until major banks and corporations moved to Toronto — a change sometimes blamed on the introduction of Quebec’s strict language laws (Bill 101) a few decades back; McMillan appears to be saying that shift is echoed in the restaurant world. Montreal isn’t nearly as economically depressed as some points in the past, but it bears reminder that Toronto is vastly more populated than Montreal, so it makes sense that it would have a greater diversity of restaurants, more good restaurants, and more restaurants, period.
His only vaguely confusing comment in the CBC interview is as follows: ”There haven't been many new restaurants. As far as competition, there hasn't been much growth.” The city still sees a reasonably constant stream of openings, and while there haven’t been any Pied de Cochons or Toqués setting up shop recently, spots like Hvor or Hoogan et Beaufort (among many more) are still excellent newer arrivals — that said, Toronto is probably seeing a greater quantity of equivalent.
No doubt some may be upset by the column, but for the record, McMillan has been a big advocate for Quebec’s food scene (most notably in the recent Joël Robuchon fuss) so it’s perhaps not the grand defection that the CBC spelled it out to be.