The Toronto restaurant Alo has once again made the list of the world’s best restaurants to the great surprise of owner and chef Patrick Kriss. He says it could have helped run the restaurant out of a downtown parking lot for several months.
The world’s 50 best restaurants annual list (which actually includes 100 in total) has ranked eateries around the world for almost 20 years and is based on votes from over 1,000 foodie experts.
Alo came in at number 98 out of 100 and is the only Canadian restaurant on the list this year.
“It was very welcome, but it was a huge surprise. I did not expect it. And with everything restaurants have been through, I did not even think about it,” Kriss said. As it happens hosted Carol Off.
The restaurant previously made the list in 2019 at number 90.
For about four and a half months, Kriss ran his flagship restaurant in a parking lot, serving a ten-course tasting menu.
“We brought all the staff back, we brought all the furniture from Alo, and we pretty much set up this tent on Wellington to copy Alo. So maybe it had something to do with it, ”he said.
“There are a lot of judges in Canada who travel, and maybe they were all there. I can’t really explain it, that’s my best answer to you.”
Pivot for delivery
Kriss opened Alo in 2015 at the Toronto Crossroads in downtown Queen St. and Spadina Ave. It was followed by three others: the Aloette diner-style restaurant, the Alobar steakhouse and the Salon, a private event space.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America in March 2020, Kriss was forced to shut down its rooms completely. At the time, Kriss had 175 people on the payroll, and had to lay off 150 of them.
We had the mindset that ‘OK, we’ll never open again like a regular restaurant … we’ll think take-out.’ “– Patrick Kriss, owner and chef of Alo Food Group
He remembers standing in the bar of his restaurant a week or two before closing and wondering how it still felt normal for now.
“I remember it in my head like, ‘Oh god, we’ll close soon. I could not believe it. “
When the restaurants were closed for personal eating, Kriss and his staff began cooking for delivery.
He said it took a couple of weeks for orders to rise – but when they did, it gave everyone “a little bit of light” to see that it was possible to find a way forward.
“We did well. We slowly started hiring people back and we had the mindset that ‘OK, we’ll never open again like a regular restaurant … we’ll think take-out.'” he. “Now we’re a new company, and now we just have to take takeaway.”
Takeaway varied to match each of the restaurants.
Alouette served burgers, so many that Kriss estimates they sold between 1,000 and 1,500 a week.
“Alouette largely saved the company on its own because it was so busy right outside the bat, ”he said.
Alo made five-course menus for $ 65 each. Person. The weekly menus can include meat dishes, fish and even raw seafood and oysters.
“We wanted to shake the oysters, we put the top on again, we wanted to put them in a nice little container full of ice cream,” Kriss said. “The raw seafood, we wanted small ice packs, and we wanted to use an elastic band to hold it on, keep it held together.”
As pandemic restrictions loosened and indoor dining has returned to Ontario, Kriss was able to increase its staff to about 120 people. The restaurants have planned new menus – and most importantly they are busy.
“It’s good to see people out,” Kriss said.
Written by Andrea Bellemare. Produced by Ashley Fraser.