2021 Restaurant Trends: Making Progress on Wellness, Wages and Diversity

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This year’s Changemakers are leading the way in an industry that’s in the midst of building back better.

Fighting for Diversity

When La Maison Onyx food stall opened last July in Montreal’s Jean–Talon Market – one of North America’s largest open–air public markets – it established a new culinary destination for the city’s Black and Indigenous chefs to showcase their food and culture. Repping a rotating lineup of chefs and producers engaging with food for a greater purpose, the stall kicked things off with sizzling, street food–style jerk–chicken gyros courtesy of the team from Tropikàl Restobar and MasterChef Canada’s Marissa Leon–John’s fully loaded corn buttered and topped with “bold n smoky fairy dust” (her signature spice blend), cheese and fresh lime. A portion of the profits go to DESTA Black Youth Network Community Food Program, the non–profit outreach program responsible for the Jean–Talon Market initiative. Next summer the pop–up incubator will carry on inspiring a future generation of restaurateurs, fighting racial inequality and slinging some of the best food in town.

November 3, 2021
La Maison Onyx food stall
La Maison ONYX creator and DESTA Food Program Coordinator, Berlin Reed (far left) with season standouts Marissa Leon–John of Elle Jay's Private Dining (center) and Caro Angers (second right) of Caro's Bodega at Jean–Talon Market – September 2021.   Photo: Kamden Biggart

Fighting for Wages 

food on table
Richmond Station   Photo: Sarah Brownlee

Restaurants are making changes to ensure their staff is earning a liveable wage. Richmond Station in Toronto has adopted a “hospitality included” policy, building in an 18 percent average price increase. In Montreal, Foxy’s Dyan Solomon is helping shrink the pay gap between front– and back–of–house by implementing a wage increase. “The unjust labour of our industry is crumbling,” says Solomon. “But the public is still unaware what it costs to get their food on their plate. There’s a huge shift that needs to happen.”

round plate with food
Foxy: Charcoal seared Kenauk trout, jalapeño, pickled onions, fermented turnips, lime, purslane and tomato water. Tomato water is obtained from charcoal roasted tomatoes, which are crushed and then drained to collect the water.   Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemarbre

Fighting for Wellness 

two people standing in front of restaurant
Sous Chef Gizem Afsar and Executive Chef / Co–Owner Adam Hynam–Smith in front of Dispatch, located in the redeveloped Lincoln Building in downtown St. Catharines.    Photo: Brent Kore

Not 9 to 5 – a non–profit for the food and hospitality sector – is combatting substance abuse and mental health issues in the restaurant industry using accessible resources (an online community) and high–profile advocates (chefs Matty Matheson and Jennifer Crawford). Other pioneers include Montreal’s Joe Beef, which created Remise en Place to support restaurant workers with addiction issues, and Dispatch, in St. Catharines, Ontario, which is developing a neighbourhood wellness group for those who work in the hospitality industry.

Next up: Tropikàl Restobar: A Spotlight on Pan‑Caribbean Flair and Flavour

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