Richmond Station is a mid sized restaurant located in the heart of downtown Toronto, right on -- you guessed it -- Richmond Street! An odd L-shaped design makes the space look deceptively small, and in some sense, provides two almost completely different dining areas, with distinct ambiances.
We connected with our table neighbour and his guest over dessert, and were soon set up with a tour of the premises conducted by Mr. Donovan himself.
We got to learn about not only the colourful past of the space, but about how the unique structure of both the space and the kitchen(s) influence the type of dishes prepared and the flow of work in general. We learned of the chalk board menu that changes twice a day, and saw the open kitchen -- next time we'll dine at the chef's table for sure, and leave it up to the chef to concoct us something not on either menu -- as well as the eat-in pantry (great for small parties, with the added quirk of serving as a functional pantry, so that you or your guests may need to temporarily vacate a seat during your meal so that one of the employees can grab a dry pantry item from the shelf behind your chair)!
We also got a tour of the kitchen itself, and even the meat fridge, which Donovan proudly explained is big enough to allow for cold butchering, which is better for the food in terms of taste and food safety. While we were there, I noticed a big tray of Bully Oysters from PEI; Donovan explained that as with other suppliers, he had negotiated to get only the best (in this case biggest and freshest) stock available.
He also pointed out that the staff ate together as a family twice a day, an important part of establishing and maintaining a positive work environment, he and his partners felt. (Our own waitress corroborated this sense of work satisfaction, even though she'd only been there for just shy of a year.)
This restaurant, Donovan noted, was a teaching space, and he and his partner Carl Heinrich wanted to ensure that everyone who came there showed promise and enthusiasm for the industry, and was able to work towards their own career goals by having a broad range of experiences at different stations in the kitchen (or front of house). Initiative is both encouraged and expected.
As someone interested in leadership and personal growth, and how a positive work environment contributes to and is influenced by both, I tremendously appreciated not only the incredibly tasty meal we were served, but also the opportunity to have a peek behind the curtain and learn more about leadership and learning in this particular environment which is so different from -- and yet surprisingly similar to -- my own in structure.
These guys have maximized every experience they've had to squeeze as much learning out of it as possible, and it's clear they are applying said learning to this venture. How delightful to have people like this enriching the culture of our city!