Toronto-based restaurant Alo was once again included in the list of the world’s best restaurants, much to owner and chef Patrick Kriss’ surprise. He says running the restaurant out of a downtown parking lot for several months may have helped.
The annual list of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World (which actually includes 100 in total) has ranked restaurants around the world for almost 20 years and is based on votes from more than 1,000 food experts.
Alo came in at number 98 out of 100 and is the only Canadian restaurant on the list this year.
“It was very well received, but it was a huge surprise. I didn’t expect it. And with everything the restaurants went through, I didn’t even really think about it,” Kriss said. As it happens host Carol Off.
The restaurant was previously on the list in 2019 at number 90.
For about four and a half months, Kriss operated its flagship restaurant in a parking lot, serving a ten-course tasting menu.
“We brought all the staff back, we brought all of Alo’s furniture back, and we basically set up this tent on Wellington to replicate Alo. So maybe it has something to do with it, ”he said.
“There are a lot of judges in Canada who travel and maybe they were all there. I can’t really explain it, that’s my best answer for you.”
Pivot to delivery
Kriss opened Alo in 2015, at the intersection of downtown Toronto between Queen Street and Spadina Avenue. It was followed by three more: the Aloette diner-style restaurant, the Alobar steakhouse, and the Salon, a private event space.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America in March 2020, Kriss was forced to completely shut down its spaces. At the time, Kriss had 175 people on the payroll and had to lay off 150 of them.
We had the idea that, ‘OK, we’re never going to open as a regular restaurant again… we’re going to think about take out.’ “– Patrick Kriss, owner and chef of Alo Food Group
He remembers standing at his restaurant bar a week or two before it closed and marveling at how normal it still seemed to him, for now.
“I remember in my head it’s like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to close soon.’ I could not believe it.”
With restaurants closed for in-person meals, Kriss and her staff turned to preparing food for delivery.
He said it took a few weeks for orders to go up – but when they did it gave everyone “a little bit of light” to see that it was possible to find a way. to be continued.
“We did well. We slowly started hiring people again and we had the idea that, ‘OK, we’re never going to open as a regular restaurant again… we’re going to think about take out.’” He said. -he declares. “Now we’re a new business, and now we’re just going to do take out.”
The takeaways varied to match each of the restaurants.
Alouette served up hamburgers, so much that Kriss estimates they were selling between 1,000 and 1,500 a week.
“Alouette basically saved the business on her own because it was very busy from the start, ”he said.
Alo made five course menus at $ 65 per person. Weekly menus can include meat dishes, fish and even raw seafood and oysters.
“We took off the oysters, we put the lid back on, we put it in a nice little container filled with ice,” Kriss said. “Raw seafood, we would have little ice packs and we would use a rubber band to hold it, hold it together.”
As pandemic restrictions eased and indoor dining returned to Ontario, Kriss was able to increase its workforce to around 120 people. Restaurants have new menus and, most importantly, they are busy.
“It’s good to see people come out,” Kriss said.
Written by Andréa Bellemare. Produced by Ashley Fraser.