What started off as people asking me “what’s next?” became me looking for a new commissary kitchen, which then became Lisa Marie.
Over the past three months I’ve seen the business hit some major firsts. From taking over a space, developing an extension of the fg brand, hiring staff like my new chef, Kris Topping (formerly of Fabrika and McEwan) and building on partnerships with my business partners Ky and Dom- it became very clear to me that in order to grow Fidel Gastro’s I really had to trust in others and be more strategic with how things were done.
Here’s what we’re up to…
Firstly.. the space. what is Lisa Marie? In my opinion, she’s the next spoke of the Fidel Gastro brand. A hub for all things fg; catering, food truck, a restaurant with a market, and serving lunches, brunches and dinners.It allows me to bring the pop up business model, streetfood-ish experiences and the FG mantra, food is fun, all under one roof. Taking over the old Prague Deli was obviously sentimental in that the name had been around since the 60′s. It was a Queen West institution. and now the “Rebel Without A Kitchen” decided to move into one of Toronto’s most iconic kitchen spaces. It actually became the perfect cake mould , all I had to do was pour a little bit of FG.
Smoked bacon chili and a side of homemade hotsauce. Available in The Market at Lisa Marie.
And if this little project wasn’t enough, “Rebel Without A Kitchen” is set to air April 9th on Travel + Escape. It’s been a wild ride to say the least. And it’s only just begun. Thank you and ole to everyone involved. See you in a couple weeks when Lisa Marie is set to open.
Viva la revolucion!!!
All photos are produced by Kyla Zanardi
APPLICATION DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8TH! ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
On February 10th I am co-hosting an Insight Project food entrepreneur workshop. I will be there along with the Insight project creators, Ayah Norris and Kyla Zanardi as well as guest speaker and Toronto Underground Market founder, Hassel Aviles. All the information about this event can be found below. This event is limited to only 10 people so hurry
Don’t forget to visit http://insightproject.tv/ to see these inspiring stories or visit their Facebook page for updates on new stories. For more details, including what’s covered, see: http://community.socialinnovation.ca/node/32646
The Insight Project hosts: Hacking into the food industry with Matt Basile
Forget culinary school. Forget 10 years of working in someone else’s kitchen. Get ready to break into the industry and turn your food idea into a food business.
Matt Basile, Creator of Fidel Gastro’s, hosts a one-day intensive workshop for budding food entrepreneurs. Matt ditched the cubicle to launch his food business a year and a half ago, quickly becoming one of the leaders of Toronto’s exploding underground food movement. Since his launch, Matt has hosted sold-out pop-ups, launched a food truck, catered exclusive events, landed a his own television show, and most importantly, made his food idea into a full-time profitable business.
If you’re ready to follow in Matt’s footsteps and build your business in the food industry, this workshop is for you. Save 6 months worth of time, money, and mistakes, and learn by doing.
Ready to go? Here’s the scoop:
When: Sunday, February 10 - 10am – 6pm
Where: CSI Annex 720 Bathurst Street
Cost: $95 (Includes coffee, snacks and lunch for the day)
How: By application only – limited space available.
- Live feedback:
Learn from and build your idea with Matt and a small group of fellow food
entrepreneurs. Lots of time for Q&A and discussions after sessions and
Video, Audio, and PDF recordings of full workshop
- Community Support: Access to online community of budding food entrepreneurs to
bounce ideas off of and support each other
- Gold Sheet:
resource sheet of books, models, blogs, and more, from veteran underground food
Send a written application (max 200 words/question) or video answers (max 2 min/question) to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details, including what’s covered, see: http://community.socialinnovation.ca/node/32646
Applications deadline is extended to Friday February 8th, 2012. (ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT)
- What’s your story?
- Where are you in your food idea (just an idea, or already started?)
- What are you stuck on? How can this workshop help?
Not many people can say they lived 3 blocks away from their hero. I can. To me, Albino Palladini was that person. And fortunate for me, notonly did I live close to him, I was related to him, raised by him, and watched him day after day, year after year set an example that I always admired. He was the type of hero that made me who I am today. January 8th 2013 was devastating. I didn’t just lose a grandparent. I lost the most important relationship I’ve ever had; the most important person in my life. I lost my nonno, my hero.
Born in Prossedi, Italy and raised on a buffalo mozzarella farm, my nonno left it all to start a new life for his wife, two daughters and himself. Leaving Italy meant leaving his family for new opportunities. And like many other Italian immigrants, eventually found his way to Toronto. No English. No money. No real plan. However, he did come wearing his heart on his sleeve and to boot he was ready to roll up those sleeves and work, work, work until he was ready to bring his family as well. 4 years went by and finally my nonno had purchased a house with the money he saved and brought over his wife and two children.
Fast forward to July 6th 1984. I was born. And little did I know at the time that this man who sacrificed so much for his family would now look at me with love and compassion and proudly say (over and over for 28 years), “that’s a my grandsana!” I hadn’t even done shit yet… well maybe I had done literal shit but beyond that not much else, and it didn’t matter.
This man taught me everything. He taught me how to ride a bike at the age of 3. He taught me independence and respect. He taught me the value in being self-sufficient. For Christ’s sake, he baked his own bread, made his own wine, made pasta from scratch, tomato sauce by the gallon, and converted what Canadians called a back yard into a full-fledged fruit and vegetable garden. And I’m not talking an apple tree. He had everything: apples, pears, wine grapes, zucchini, salad, tomatoes, green beans…. I’m pretty sure he invented organics. Just sayin’. I even remember telling him that one of my mangia cake friends had a pool in their back yard. That shit made him laugh. The idea that someone put thousands of dollars to dig a whole and fill it with water just didn’t make sense, especially when his “backiyardi” put Longos produce department to shame.
That’s just the kind of guy he was. I grew up watching this man work all the time, not because he absolutely had to, but because he felt anyone capable of doing must do and those that didn’t were lazy and he had no time for them. This is the man that raised me. Both my parents worked jobs so my nonno and nonna were my caregivers. I attached myself to him. Every single day I followed him and he followed me. Together we made a pretty good team. We’d go bike riding and then I’d watch him work. We’d go to the public pool and then I’d watch him make food from scratch. It’s actually how I fell in love with food. When my friends ate pb&j and kraft dinner, I ate penne with homemade sauce, roasted artichokes and red peppers drenched in red wine vinegar. Can I get an OLE!?!
This is what I thought growing up meant. The more capable I became the more I had to do. I actually started my first business at the age of 12: Snow Angels. I shovelled driveways for seniors in my area.. except for his. God forbid. He work ethic also meant extremely stubborn. He was still shovelling his own driveway up until this past Boxing Day’s snow storm.
I was the eldest grandchild and we saw each other so much he felt that I was ready for these Don Cherry like daily pep talks. “Matteo, fatte bravo. Work hard and be smart” (he would literally point to his head 3 times when he said be smart) followed by… “and save you money” (that same hand would then dramatically go into his pocket). And here’s the thing about advice like that, how the fuck can you argue with it? Pretty basic shit. The opposite would be lazy, dumb and broke! So how could I argue? My goal in life was to make him proud and always let him know that I was indeed working hard and being smart.
Years later I started Fidel Gastro’s. He was the last person I told. To be honest I was terrified of his reaction. How would he react to me flushing my weekly pay cheque down the toilet? Was this working smart? Surprisingly I got his approval (which actually meant everything). It might have helped that I coupled the new business idea with the fact that I was also in a new relationship with a “bella femina”. How could he hate me now? I was happy.
Last May was a Godsend, my nonno was able to come to one of my popups and see what my business was. It was hot. It was busy. And he loved it. The picture at the top of this blog is him sitting behind me just off to the the right. I looked back at him and was concerned because it was so hot outside. I wanted to make sure he was drinking water. I yelled, “nonno, tutto posto?” he put his non-sandwich hand up near the brim of his cap and smiled his face off. He was great. On his way out he even called out to me… “Matteao, Ole! I was so choked up at this point. The man I looked up to understood what I was doing with my life and he embraced it because he knew I was happy. I quickly yelled back Ole and in turn so did my line.
Unfortunately things got worse for my nonno. He looked and acted less and less like the man that raised me which wasn’t easy to watch. I remember getting ready to leave his house after lunch on Christmas Eve. I hugged him, looked him in the eyes, kissed his big bald forehead, looked him in the eyes again and said I love you, Nonno. He looked back at me and with tears in his voice and said back, “Mattaeo, I love you so much.” I had never heard anyone say those words and mean it so whole-heartedly. This was the last time I saw my grandfather. These were the last words I heard from my hero.
Today we buried him. I cried uncontrollably. My life teacher passed away and now I had to be on my own without his words and wisdom to fall back on. Not only that but I wanted him to see so much more. I wasn’t finished yet. I can’t ever get that bond back. All I can do is live keeping his voice always in the back of my mind. And although the living relationship I had with my nonno is over, now I can’t wait for the day that I have grandchildren of my own so I can tell them the amazing stories of my Nonno Albino.
To the hardest working man I have and will ever know; beloved father, husband, nonno, baker, wine maker, amateur engineer, wannabe dentist, buzz cut stylist to the stars, gardener, saucier, and in my opinion the original hipster…. to my loving nonno Albino, I promise to always cherish our relationship forever, to always make you proud and to always work hard and be smart.
I love you so much.
It was just before last Christmas when I ate my Mac n Cheese sandwich with Renee Suen of Toronto Life. We stood at the window of The Butcher’s Son and we talked about Fidel Gastro’s, where I had come from, where I was in that moment and where I wanted to go. A lot has changed and happened since that day but I do remember telling her that 2011 was the year of getting shit done (ie take a business plan and make a business) and 2012 would be the year of Fidel Gastro’s.
Now although my 2012 might have been irrelevant to 98% of the people in Toronto, 2% of you followed my journey, yelled ole with me, waited in lines for food, and have been an integral part of my growth and development. Simply put there is a very small part of this city that has made a huge difference in my life. I even think about how impossible my business would have been in so many other cities after doing some travelling. Toronto, for all of its faults from a food legislation standpoint has surpassed most other cities when it comes to how the people celebrate good food ideas.
TUM events, popups, food truck weddings, collaborations with well-known chefs, a reality tv show…. Only possible because of this city. My city. Your city. Toronto.
This is not a post about what I’ve accomplished over the past year; instead it’s a post recognizing how much cooperation and support you need to have from he people around you in order to have the year I had. I am not a 1 person company, instead 1 company made up by thousands. You are all why I am here today. Tomorrow. And hopefully for some time to come.
I can only hope I’ve given you a little bit of optimism about your own future. Embrace your passions and ideas and recognize that you really do only have one life and that if you’re not entirely happy with it, you have the power to change it. Be the entrapraneur you always wanted to be and respect the role small businesses play in an economy. I used to look at time as something to fear. It was and is the only true unstoppable force. No matter how hard you push back you cannot slow time down. Now I look at time and smile, because with more time spent doing what I love I’ve been able to be a happier person.
Since hosting the #FG1yr back in November, folks have been asking me what’s next? Huge question. I actually didn’t really think about it in full detail until recently. Now 2013 is here I promise you that there will be a “next” and it will be big and it will be different. So what exactly is 2013 to me? Be Toronto’s voice for small business success. Ole!!!!!!!
Thank you a million times over – POWER TO THE POPUP! FREEDOM
TO THE FOODTRUCKS AND VIVA LA REVOLUCION!
Despite what Toronto Star reports, my food truck arguement goes beyond “just wanting to sell sandwiches”
A few weeks ago I gave my first ever deputation at city hall in front of councillors and members of MLS. I was excited, full of energy and ready to approach the stalling street food movement as a comitted business owner and not a foodie.
The deputation actually went well and quite a few members actually left me feeling generally possitive about the direction of street food in Toronto. You would never know any of this unless of course you were there that day. Especially because an article done by the Toronto Star actually left out my entire arguement and instead decided to quote one simple statement. “I just want to sell some sandwiches”. Reading this and this alone you might actually think I’m a dumbass, with no arguement or any real business sense at all.
I’d like to think this is not the case.
So if case you are curious, here was and is my arguemnt regarding food trucks in Toronto. I stand behind this movement 100% and will do anything and everything to make sure that the business of street food is taken seriously by politicians and larger media outlets alike. My business quite responsably looks at collaboration over competition. My goal is not to drive business away from brick and mortare restaurants, rather work congruently with them to build a 360 food industry in this city.
The following is essentially the deputation I presented minus some important last minute additions and the question and answer period. I hope to post the full video shortly:
Proposed Amendment to Municipal Code 545,
Section 269 G, to Improve Opportunities for Mobile Food and/or Refreshment
Vending (Ward All)
Hello panel – firstly I’d like to thank the Municipal licensing
and standards committee for agreeing to listen to this motion. I’d also like to
state that my being here is out of love for this city and not resentment.
My name is Matt Basile. I am 27 and I am the creator/ owner
of Fidel Gastro’s- rebel without a kitchen services.
About 2 years ago I worked in marketing as a copywriter for
a company I didn’t care about, for people that drove me insane and in pursuit
of no joy, no happiness and merely a pay check. It was at that
point that I knew I had to put my long time passion for food and my dream of
being self-employed first.
I came up with the idea for Fidel Gastro’s – a small sandwich shop that constantly defied traditions and brought an energetic and rebellious approach to quality costeffective food.
I wrote a business plan and a year later I thought I was ready to start a new journey by opening the doors to a fidel gastro’s location. But a few bank meetings later and it became obvious to me that Iwas financially not ready for this kind of venture.
I was left with 3 options: complain because I failed, take on the massive debt knowing full well Iwasn’t prepared for it. Or adapt and make sure that the idea was strong enough to work on a simpler level.
Fidel Gastro’s,the rebel without a kitchen was a born. A pop-up sandwich shop. A nobody in Toronto’s food scene showing up and trying to convince other chefs and venues etc to collaborate with me. Somehow it’s worked. And the people of Toronto have supported it.
I held my first fidel gastro’s popup on oct 27 2011, and can now say HAPPILY that fidel gastro’s has worked over 50 events with reputable organizations and brick and mortar establishments such as the Friday Night Live series held at the Royal Ontario Museum, brand collaborations with Steam Whistle brewery,working with like-minded street food advocates at the monthly Toronto Underground Market and cooked with some of the very best in Toronto’s culinary scene like Celebrity Chef mark McEwan. Did I mention I’ve done all this without having a fidel gastro’s location?
Food is an industry. Therefore in order to have success stories we must have operational tiers. This is standard business practice. We see it in financial services, sports and even…politics.
Fine dining should not be the only option for a young food entrepreneur. I love Toronto and I’m tired of making up excuses for it. I really don’t know what to tell people when they ask me my thoughts on the red tape surrounding Toronto’s street food by-laws, especially in relationship to programs in Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton, Buffalo, New York and… and… and… you get the idea.
If Toronto claims to be a world class city with some of the very best in culinary offerings, then why not take a 360 stake in that claim. From innovative new restos, fine dinning and variations of street food.
The company Fidel Gastro’s has experienced some growth recently and will soon operate as a food truck. I’ve successfully tested the market place, tested my product and tested my brand and can say I’m making a strategic move to the next chapter. After all this work it would be a shame if accessibility and freedom to operate as a business is hindered by bylaws that prevent positive growth. On top of that, some of the fees associated with “the cost of doing business” seem borderline Ludacris. $380 per person per year to work in my truckin addition the $1200 per year per person and per liscence to also work in the truck. In a new industry that deals with considerably lower margins than a restaurant,instilling this kind of fee just doesn’t seem fair. In fact in almost seems like a penalty for operating a street food business.
My fear is that the city love and the city I live in is resistant to new thinking and new businesses. I ask you what harm can be done by approving this motion. I just want to sell some sandwiches. Make people happy. Be a part of Toronto’s vibrant food community and be an advocate for young aspiring entrepreneurs.
Imagine a city full of passionate and successful self-sufficient professionals.
As a citizen of Toronto, a young business owner, and one really happy person, I ask you to consider the recommendations put forward by the Toronto Street Food Project. Thank you for your time today
and Viva la revolucion!
Ole!!! to all.
June’s installment of The Toronto Underground Market is just around the corner. I couldn’t be more excited. This will be my 5th TUM to date. All the volunteers and organizers especially Andrew and Hassel have been massive supporters of me, the company and new food entrepreneurs in general.
To the hungry TUM goers who have waited in my line, ate my food and yelled Ole with me, I thank you.
FG will be taking some time off TUM after this Saturday night so I wanted to do a couple things as a token of my appreciation.
Firstly, I’ll be debuting a new sandwich called la cheekita! It’s a beef cheek sandwich marinated in coconut milk and topped with pineapple salsa.
Secondly, I’d like to give away some prizes to the hungry street food enthusiasts that have supported Fidel Gastro’s.
I’ll be giving away 2 Steam Whistle Brewery prize packs, 2 Queen Mary mustard prize packs and 2 gift certificates to The Butcher’s Son.
Here’s how to play:
Come to the FG table at TUM this Saturday and take a picture of the famous Elvis head that rests on my table.
The best 6 photos win a prize. I’ll notify the winners on Twitter that night at the event. It’s just that easy.
You’ll also notice something else completely unrelated going on at the FG table so make sure to yell ole into the camera when you see it.
Until next time, thank you all and Viva La Revolucion!!!
Thankfully I do enough of these revolucion gigs to warrant a weekly schedule. Would not be possible without the help of a street food army so OLE to you Toronto!
Thursday June 1st: Lunch pop up at The Butcher’s Son.
Every Thursday I do a mini pop up out of The Butcher’s Son (2055 Yonge St. Yonge and Eglinton). I do all my FG prep and cooking there so we decided to do a weekly lunch one-off every Thursday until July 5th when we unleash a full stop butcher shop (and FG birthday) pop!
Friday June 1st: Friday Night Live at The ROM
#FNLROM Friday night live at the ROM has been an awesome weekly popup party. This week is an Oh Canada theme where they will be showing a massive digital viewing of the classic paul henderson game winning 72 summit series Canada vs Russia Game.
As always there will be bars, DJs and Ole-s!
Saturday June 2nd: Riverdale Street party 1-7pm
The Riverdale BIA (cough cough city council) has invited me to do a pop up alongside a local riversiude DJ, among other BRICK AND MORTAR buisnesses. Queen E (Queen and Coxwell)
Sunday June 3rd: Leslieville brunch patio pop-up at Nathalie Roze and Co
FG returns to Leslieville with a patio brunch pop-up this Sunday at Nathalie Roze and CO. Sick store and sicker patio host my breakfast inspired extremo sandwiches from 11am until 2pm 1015 Queen St E. (Pape Ave) Free Sandwich twitter promo coming to a Twitter near you!
Viva la revolucion!
Fidel Gastro’s will be popping up at the ROM every Friday night until June 22nd as part of their Friday Night Live entertainment series.
Every week the Rom will host a party stocked with multiple bars, some of Toronto’s best DJs and extremo sandwiches!!!
PLUS!!! this week as an added bonus I’ll be giving away a pair of Toronto Street Food Block Party Tickets! TUM and Food Truck Eats all rolled up into one. All you have to do is buy an extremo sandwich from FG and you’ll be entered in a draw.
Come party with Friday Night Live at the ROM ft Fidel Gastro’s…. Viva la revolucion!!!
Click here for the offical facebook invite: http://tinyurl.com/csu5nbp
Fidel Gastro returns to Steam Whistle brewery for a popup on April 14th from 12-4.
If you’re going to the ball game… if you’re not going to the ball game… swing by Steam Whistle for $4 bottles of Toronto’s best beer and $5 extremo sandwiches from the El Presidente of the popup, FG! (Take that Rogers Centre $42 combo meals!)
Fidel Gastro along with a lot of other great street food vendors will be at Steam Whistle on April 23rd for “The Next Food Truck” event. Some tickets are still available… Check it out! http://thenextfoodtruck.eventbrite.com/
See you April 14th and viva la revolucion!