Ides 52: Chef Avtar’s Witbier
Chef Avtar Singh’s cooking has drawn upon Toronto’s diversity to create unique dishes that have left an indelible stamp on this city’s food culture.
A self-taught chef, Singh left India as a young man in 1979, living in both Iran and Italy before settling in Toronto, where he found that cooking was a craft that transcended his limited knowledge of English.
Around 1983, Avtar began working in the kitchen at Babur, the Queen West restaurant that introduced Torontonians to butter chicken. He studied culinary arts with passion and a fixation on quality. In 1995, he and his wife Parveen opened New York Subway, selling subs & burritos on Queen West. It’s hard to imagine now, but a burrito was nearly impossible to find in Toronto in those days, much less a sublime fusion offering like his Malaysian-influenced Jumbo Satay Burrito.
A year later, they launched Gandhi Cuisine, where Avtar created his distinctive spin on the West Indian rotis he was first introduced to in Toronto, stuffing made-to-order griddle-cooked roti with mouth-watering Northern Indian curries. Gandhi Cuisine was the birthplace of what is arguably the quintessential Toronto dish, the Butter Chicken Roti, and has spawned imitators all over the GTA.
After 37 years in the culinary world, and with three grown children, Avtar and Parveen decided the time was right to close Gandhi Cuisine because, as Chef Avtar put it: “Life is your art, you have to follow your heart.”
In humble tribute to Chef Avtar’s mighty contribution to Toronto gastronomy, we offer this light and refreshing witbier, with hints of coriander and cardamom, a perfect accompaniment to a spicy East Indian roti.