The Drake Hotel Reinvents the Food Enterprise With its New Commissary
Written by Christina Gonzales
Images courtesy of the Drake Hotel
When Bill Simpson, chief development officer of the Drake Hotel, interviewed Ted Corrado some five years ago for the corporate executive chef position, the first thing on Simpson’s mind was expansion. But all Corrado could say was, “Okay, well we’re eventually going to need a commissary.”
Four-and-a-half years later, the dream of creating a home base for all Drake foodstuffs is finally becoming a reality. Set to open in June, the 8,000-square-foot expanse located in an old manufacturing building on Sterling Road in Toronto’s Junction Triangle will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails daily (along with brunch on the weekends, of course).
The Commissary will also be the heart of the entire Drake food and drink operation: the home of Drake catering, as well as a place to make breads, charcuterie, and pastas, to meet the needs of the Drake’s multiple eateries. Whether you want to call it a gastronomic hub, commissary, or food hall, there’s no doubt that this is the Drake Hotel’s most ambitious culinary endeavour yet.
A One-Stop Shop
Corrado and head baker Jonas Grupiljonas hope that the new Drake Commissary will be a one-stop shop for the neighbourhood’s food and drink needs: a place where nearby office goers can grab a house-made Kombucha and babka for breakfast; where families can have a sit-down lunch; where friends can lounge for an after-work cocktail.
“You’ll be able to do this two ways,” explains Corrado. “You get a number, like what you get at the butchers, you walk around, see what’s been made that day, and take it to your desk. Or you can be served, just like our other restaurants.”
Food from Scratch
When Corrado started at the Drake, most basics like bread and pickles weren’t made from scratch, so as the team developed their repertoire (they now make everything in house, from ice cream to pepperoni), Corrado decided it was important to cement the legacy.
Walk into the Commissary’s front doors and the first thing you’ll see are Grupiljonas’ baked goods: banana cream pies, sourdoughs, and croissants. (Is your mouth watering yet?) But that’s not all. There are grain bowls, personal pizzas, and breakfast sandwiches, too. “It’s slowly smoked brisket and eggs on English muffins that we make in the back,” Grupiljonas says. “Basically, everything we make from the see-through kitchen, from the meat to the sauces to the ferments.”
Centre for Innovation
Bill Simpson, the Drake’s general manager, says that the commissary is a state-of-the art project that’s meant to be a centre for collaboration. “[It’s a place] for working on new recipes, new food ideas, or concepts. It’ll be a little bit of a lab for the bar team as well because we’re going to be making our own juices, syrups, and bitters.”
For Corrado, the new location represents a massive leap for the Drake’s culinary team. “It allows us to make food on another scale, right?” Corrado says. “With this space, innovation will come.”
Most importantly, the new food site aims to break down barriers between diners and chefs. “Everything’s super open,” explains Grupiljonas. “You’ll be able to talk to a chef as he’s coming out. We’re not hidden in the back anymore.”
The success of the Drake is rooted in its commitment to the local community and the company’s ability to satisfy the creative needs of its staff. Tucked away behind the Commissary’s shiny new kitchen are change rooms, showers, and an office for Drake employees (Corrado says that the only thing missing from the space is a gym).
Aside from the venue being a gift to Torontonians, the Drake Commissary is also a forward-thinking strategy from a hospitality corp, and an example of a Canadian business that has truly invested in its team.