Sommelier to Restaurant Owner: Steve Beckta Keeps the Fire

Continued from Part 6: Steve Beckta Restaurant

When I step back through the wall of heat into the kitchen, Quinn is telling Vardy: “They loved the béarnaise—they ordered the steak just for the sauce. But they thought the steak itself was a little salty.”

“Tell ‘em to go to hell,” says Vardy smiling.

In fact, Vardy and all the staff take customer feedback seriously. They’ve adapted a number of dishes because of such comments, and made other changes too.

For instance, the tasting menu, rather than just listing the food and wine, now explains why certain wines were paired with dishes.

The restaurant has even softened the lighting in the women’s washroom to make women look better in the mirror.

The kitchen’s fluorescent ceiling lights suddenly short out.

It’s a regular occurrence that several electricians have been unable to fix: when the heat exceeds 50°C, the combination of heat and humidity exhaust even the fixtures. The staff works on under the romantic orange light of the heat lamps.

As the evening draws on, the kitchen aroma evolves from savoury to sweet. The servers relax their pace slightly.

Sitting along Macmurdo’s pass are the stuff of sweet dreams: crême brûlée with fresh ginger, cardamon and mocha beans; chocolate tart with pistachio gelato and butter crunch; and the restaurant’s signature dessert, Steve’s Gone Bananas: a moist banana-chocolate cake, banana gelato, torched banana, banana bread, banana compote topped with banana chips.

Beckta brings Meyer and Rosen into the kitchen, where they congratulate Vardy and his team on the meal.

“My favorite dish was the tagliatelle with wild mushrooms,” Meyer tells me later. “I was also impressed with Steve’s gentle hand at cooking seafood.”

In Meyer’s view, the restaurant perfectly exudes Beckta’s warmth, good taste, professionalism and lack of pretension.

“He’s a restaurant thoroughbred. He was born to do this work,” Meyer enthuses. “Steve doesn’t really need any of my advice. I hope he’ll stick to this for a long time.”

After Beckta sees his guests off, he comes back into the kitchen and talks to me briefly about his future plans. Might he like to own his own vineyard or go into politics?

“I want to be right here. I love how I can use food and wine to take care of people.”

***

More updates: In 2009, Steve opened his second restaurant Play in the Byward Market, with chef Mike Moffitt (pictured below), who is now executive chef and a partner in the business. Then in 2011, Beckta opened Gezellig in Westboro.

PLAY

chef-moffatt

Play exterior

Gezellig

Gezellig Rotator-115

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