It was a few minutes after 11am and from the moment he walked in the door he was at the centre of it all. He approached me, extending his hand – and a warm smile – and invited me to take a seat in a booth next to the front window of his well-known Toronto restaurant.
I sat and marveled as he somehow – seemingly simultaneously – greeted his staff, seated a group of eager (and early) lunch guests, took three brief phone calls, checked in on the installation of a new awning adoring the entrance to his Danforth Avenue landmark, then arrived back at our table with a couple of fresh espressos in hand, all within a matter of a couple of moments.
And yet somehow his vigour and energy seemed dwarfed by the genuine enthusiasm and passion that lit up his face when the subject turned to his newest – and perhaps most ambitious – project yet.
John Maxwell has been a leading figure in the Toronto restaurant industry for decades. My Father and Grandfather speak fondly of the many meals and occasions they’ve enjoyed at Maxwell’s various renowned eating and drinking establishments over the years, including Joe Allen, Orso, P.J. O’Brien, Dora Keogh and, of course, Allen’s at 143 Danforth Avenue.
But today we weren’t meeting to discuss a new and exciting restaurant or pub – but rather a different kind of meaningful addition to the Toronto food landscape – my first introduction to Butchers of Distinction.
“We’re setting out to tell people – rather, to help people understand and experience the impact of breed and feed on taste,” Maxwell explained, highlighting the emphasis on “identifiability” as the key point of difference once will experience when shopping in this candy shop for carnivores.
Whether you’re shopping for beef, lamb, veal or pork, each piece of meat sold at Butchers of Distinction is identified by breed, farmer, feed and duration of aging. And while any proud business owner aims to tell their story with enthusiasm and conviction, it is immediately evident, when speaking with Maxwell, that his passion for this business is genuine.
“And our chicken – it’s sensational!” he exclaimed, “It actually tastes like chicken.”
Along with his partners, Steven Caldwell, Henry Traynor, and Ponniah Vijeyaratnam, John Maxwell is onto something here. Every steak and roast is cut to order, the meat they sell comes from happy and well cared for animals – and the service you’ll experience is second to none.
Here’s John Maxwell, introducing his newest venture – in his own words…
And how about a few tasty wines – perfect for your next BBQ: