Sure, it's prime celebrity stalking ground, but on Wednesday night Yorkville's Sassafraz restaurant will plate up its new menu for A Taste For Life, an event to benefit Fife House, Canada's biggest provider of housing for people with HIV/AIDS. It's one of 77 restaurants that will ask diners to donate to Fife House, with some running entertainment and contests during the evening. Others will have special hosts - mayoral hopeful George Smitherman will appear at Bay Street's Mercatto.
The Globe and Mail spoke with Sassafraz owner Zoran Kocovski about the event, his restaurant and those now-famous political guests who dined there during last fall's Toronto International Film Festival.
Is Fife House the main charity you support?
No, actually we're quite involved in the community and one of our key sponsorship programs is the MS Society of Canada. We produce a cocktail here called the Bellair Bellini, and for every cocktail sold, $5 gets donated on over to the MS Society of Canada.
What are you serving tonight?
One of my favourites is a terrine of wild boar. We have a seared black cod with oven roasted tomatoes and potato rosti, and another one is a spice-rubbed grilled bison rib-eye with a summer vegetable succotash.
So 25 per cent of the proceeds of the night will go to Fife House. How much do you typically make on a Wednesday night in April?
Oh, that's a tough call. Every year it seems to change.
You had to reinvent yourselves after the fire in 2006 that left Sassafraz a shell. How do you view that fire in retrospect?
Frankly, it kept us grounded. And what it has done is make us realize the importance of community. We've had so much support and we're extremely fortunate for it. We decided, you know what? It's important to give back.
Who've been the most recent celebrity guests at Sassafraz?
Well, we did have Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in at the last film festival.
And a certain Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer the same night, no?
Yes. Well, we weren't aware that they had come to the restaurant. Not until it came out in the papers.
They went totally unnoticed?
Nobody noticed them, no.
And come on, there has to have been more celebrity sightings since last fall's film festival.
Well, the actor from the latest James Bond movie - Daniel Craig. I believe he was doing a movie here a few months ago. And [actress]Isabella Rossellini.
Do you teach your serving staff to not be star struck?
There's always people who do get excited when celebrities in come in, but we like to treat everybody like a celebrity.
Anybody famous coming to A Taste For Life?
Whoever does come, they never come announced. It's always a surprise.
Here's a list of the other participating restaurants:
7 Numbers 307 Danforth Avenue
Accents Restaurant & Bar 955 Bay St.
Allen's Restaurant 143 Danforth Avenue
Amaya's Bread Bar 3305 Yonge St.
Barrio Lounge 896 Queen St. East
Beach Bird 1955 Queen St. East
Berber Resto Bar Lounge 49 Front St. East
Big Mamma's Boy 554 Parliament St.
Byzantium 499 Church St.
Café California Restaurant 538 Church St.
Caju Restaurant 922 Queen St. West
Cambalache Restaurante de Tapas 505 Mount Pleasant Rd.
Churchmouse & Firkin 475 Church St.
Chutney's Fine Cuisine 3077 Bloor St. West
Coco Lezzone 602 College St.
Coquine Restaurant 2075 Yonge St.
Crush Wine Bar Restaurant 455 King St. West
Dangerous Dan's Diner 714 Queen St. East
Debu's Nouvelle Indian Cuisine 552 Mount Pleasant Road
Diverso by Ferraro 328 Dupont St.
Earth 1055 Yonge St
Embrujo Flamenco Tapas Restaurant 97 Danforth Avenue
Fire on the East Side Restaurant & Bar 6 Gloucester St.
Focaccia 17 Hayden St.
Forte Bistro and Lounge 133 Richmond St. W
Fresh on Spadina 147 Spadina Avenue
Fuzion Resto-lounge & Garden 580 Church St
Globe Bistro 124 Danforth Avenue
Hanoi 3 Seasons - Queen St. East 1135 Queen St. East
Hernando's Hideaway 52A Wellington St. East
Il Fornello - Danforth 576 Danforth Ave
Il Posto 148 Yorkville Ave
Indochine Thai Vietnamese Restaurant 4 Collier St.
Insomina Café 563 Bloor St. West
Kalamata Greek Restaurant 3473 Lakeshore Blvd. West
Ki Japanese Restaurant 181 Bay St.
La Maquette Restaurant 111 King St. E.
Legends Bar and Eatery 517 St Clair Avenue West
Lola's Commissary 634 Church St.
Lolita's Lust 513 Danforth Ave
Magic Oven 270 Dupont St.
Magic Oven 798 Danforth Ave
Magic Oven 6 Wellesley St. W
Magic Oven 360 Queen St. E
Mambo Lounge 120 Danforth Ave
Mercatto 330 Bay St
Mercatto (MaRS) 101 College St.
Mirto Italian Restaurant 25 Toronto St.
Mitzi's Sister 1554 Queen St. West
Mt. Everest Restaurant 469 Bloor St. West
OverJoy 884 Queen St. East
Pan on the Danforth 516 Danforth Avenue
Pear Tree Restaurant 507 Parliament St.
PicNic Wine Bar 747 Queen St. East
Pi-Tom's Thai Cuisine 235 Jarvis St.
Pop Bistro 686 Queen St. East
Queen Mother Cafe 208 Queen St. West
Salad Creations 433 Yonge St.
Sambucas on Church 489 Church St.
Sassafraz 100 Cumberland St.
Sit In Bangkok 713 College St. West
Slack's Restaurant & Bar 562 Church St.
Southern Accent Restaurant 595 Markham St.
Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill 100 Adelaide St. East
Swan Restaurant 892 Queen St. West
Taste of the Silk Road 341 Danforth Ave
The Bloor St. Diner 55 Bloor St. West
The Boiler House 55 Mill St.
The Grand Hive Honey's Bistro & Bar 504 Jarvis St.
The Indian Hut 636 Church St.
The Lakeview Restaurant 1132 Dundas Sreet W
The Palace Restaurant 722 Pape Ave
The Queen and Beaver Public House 35 Elm St.
Village Rainbow Restaurant 477 Church St.
Voglié 582 Church St.
Zelda's Living Well 692 Yonge St.
Zemra Bar Lounge 778 St. Clair Avenue West
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