There is a fine dining restaurant in Toronto that has had to adapt to take out and patio service after more than 40 years of hushed and semi-hidden serving to movie stars, politicians, business moguls and d other famous clients.
Scaramouche was founded in 1980 by Morden Yolles, whose family owned the building where it is now located in a residential area near Avenue Road and St. Clair.
This isn’t the first restaurant in the space, however: there has been a restaurant in the Scaramouche space since the 1950s, serving guests who stayed in the building during its aparthotel life from the 1950s to the 1970s approximately.
The building has an official historical designation and the original mansion where it is located was completed in 1891.
The original owner sold it in 1897, it fell into disuse in the 1920s and the mansion was demolished in the 1930s although some features like a retaining wall have survived.
This brings us to the period of the 1950s when one of Toronto’s first Modernist buildings was built on the property, becoming an apartment hotel that would have been visited by people like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Since the 1970s, the building has housed high-end rental apartments.
After the opening of Scaramouche, chefs like Jamie Kennedy and Michael Stadtlander ran the kitchen until it came under the control of his partner Keith Froggett around 1985, who is still there. The other partner Carl Korte joined the team in 1990, and is still there to this day.
At the end of the 80s, Scaramouche opened its own sibling concept in part of its space, a pasta bar and grill. This was one of the first adaptations the restaurant will make to survive in its long history.
Scaramouche’s main dining room served more of classic French-origin cuisine, and Korte told blogTO that the pasta bar was created to âmeet the demandâ for something âmore marketable, more casualâ.
Korte says they “try to stay relevant” to Scaramouche but “never dramatically change” what they do, and owe their long-standing success in part to that balance.
He says this is achieved by the way they ânever focused on operating at a high level,â but always continuously introduced new employees and listened to their ideas in order for the restaurant to evolve.
When the pandemic struck, the restaurant is expected to move faster than ever. They always had a balcony that could become a patio, but they never used it out of respect for the tenants of the building.
They came to an arrangement to create the patio for the past two summers, then came the challenge of keeping up with the demand.
Korte says the interior holds 160, and although the patio only holds 38, about the same number of people are still trying to reserve a spot at Scaramouche.
Along with that, Scaramouche had to deal with a much smaller staff, forcing the restaurant to cut its hours from six days a week to five.
Korte says a lot of “people have decided not to come back” and “a lot of people are moving away from hospitality,” which is a “universal problem” for restaurants right now.
âThere’s not much you can do, we try to take care of our staff, to keep them motivated,â Korte says, even though he says no one is âknocking on the doorâ to apply for a restaurant job.
Another challenge the restaurant has faced is how to pack their high-end dishes with fine ingredients such as lobster, caviar and foie gras to take away, with Korte saying they had to go from “porcelain. in the box “and” that’s not what a chef wants. “
Scaramouche simply tried to keep the dishes presentable, landing on some type of biodegradable container that holds their food well.
âCustomers agree that it’s not like inside, but not bad,â says Korte.
In addition to their reputation and the trust of their customers which kept them coming back for take out and onto the patio, Korte says one of the most important factors for the restaurant’s survival was that they were “allowed to keep a small team, psychologically it’s really important. “
âAlthough it was a downside everyone worked hard and we are in good shape,â Korte said.