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Since 2009, Franco Stalteri has put on a series of underground dining events in Toronto and abroad under the moniker Charlie’s Burgers. Today, he spends his time planning the top-chef-prepared dinners and running the CB Wine Program, which delivers its members special vintages from around the world (next up: reds and rosés from Gulfi, a cult Sicilian producer). We caught up with Franco after his yearly tasting trip to Piedmont, Italy, where he meets with winemakers  – and eats a lot of truffles.

Franco Stalteri

What’s your packing style?
I keep things as simple as possible, and under-pack so I have room for the more exciting things I’ll bring home – like wine.

How did Charlie’s Burgers come about?
I used to be a headhunter in the hospitality industry and would speak to chefs who felt restricted in creating their menus. Charlie’s Burgers is an opportunity for chefs to have a blank slate to execute anything they want, all paired with great wine.

Is there one dinner that stands out?
There are so many. Five years ago, the chef of Atelier in Ottawa, Marc Lépine, did a 100-course dinner at a restaurant we took over in Toronto. The hundredth course was dehydrated chocolate cake served in a corncob pipe with a lighter, and you smoked it.

Tell us about your last trip to Piedmont.
It was to finalize the selections for our new CB Reserve Wine Program – it’s like the business-class version of our subscription service. The first delivery was six Barolos from our producer Rocche dei Manzoni. The grape used in Barolo is nebbiolo – the name comes from the Italian word for fog, nebbia, probably because the region gets a lot of it. It’s neat to look out over the hills and see the intense fog in some areas and not in others.

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