A fascinating change of personnel is taking place at Langdon Hall, even as we speak. The great Jill McGoey, who has been General Manager at Canada’s best hotel (just ask Conde Nast) for a decade, is moving on. I wish I knew where, because I’d immediately make plans to stay there. Most guests who stay at a great hotel have no idea that a general manager even exists – which, of course, is the point. Jill McGoey was the best.
Executive Chef Jonathan Gushue is also leaving. To say his tenure at Langdon Hall was successful would be the understatement of the year. He upheld the CAA Five Diamond award, became a Relais & Chateau Grand Chef (the equivalent of 2 Michelin stars) and bounced Langdon Hall on to the San Pellegrino list of best 100 restaurants in the world. He is also a man of rare kindness, charm and intelligence and has been a great mentor to many young cooks who have passed through his kitchen. I don’t know where Jonathan is headed, but I shall find out, tell you, and we can all go there and have dinner. You will not be disappointed.
Who could possibly fill these two very large pairs of shoes?
Taking over as General Manager of Langdon Hall is Christophe Le Chatton, a man I have known my entire professional life. He started out at the Inn at Manitou, recruited by the late, great Ben Wise, just when I was starting out at Toronto Life. He was the first sommelier I became aware of in Toronto, after he moved to the Four Seasons, and, in my opinion, he was the best there was in the early 1990s. I invited him to write a column we called “The Matchmaker” in Food & Drink magazine, and he did a great job – smart, erudite, unexpected – just what you want from a sommelier. Then off he went to manage huge, world-famous hotels in New York and Shanghai. And now he comes back to Ontario. I am very very pleased.
How do you find a chef who can guide Langdon Hall forward from the exalted latitude it already occupies? The hotel’s owners, Bill Bennett and Mary Beaton, have been rather brilliant, I think, in hiring Jason Bangerter. His curriculum vitae sparkles and glimmers in the sun. He’s originally from Milton, Ontario – a stone’s throw from the hotel. He went to George Brown and apprenticed under John Higgins at the King Edward Hotel until John sent him off to Europe to work with Anton Mosimann. He stayed for years, gathering knowledge in a number of cherished, esoteric kitchens, polishing his techniques, at which point the Oliver Bonacini group brought him back to Canada to helm Auberge du Pommier, building him one of the best-endowed kitchens in the country, in which to play. Bangerter performed dazzlingly well there. I wrote a story some years ago, speculating about which restaurants in Toronto might win a Michelin star or two if the pneumatic Guide ever came to Canada. My conclusion was that only three were guaranteed a place in that exclusive, stubbornly Francophone constellation: Scaramouche, Avalon and Jason Bangerter’s Auberge du Pommier.
So he has the chops. I’m not sure they were immediately apparent when he came downtown to helm the OB presence at Luma and Canteen in the TIFF Bell Lightbox building. I think he will find the more rarified air at Langdon Hall more to his liking, especially since he will be inheriting a spectacular brigade from his predecessor. I’m going to Langdon Hall for Thanksgiving, as luck would have it, so I will have a golden opportunity to see how things are working out in the first, crazy, back-seat-of-the-car embraces of the new relationship. Watch this space.
To close, let me turn away from the future to the past. As he marches off, I shall proudly step forward and pin my posey to Jonathan Gushue’s lapel. Some of the dishes you have cooked for me, Jonathan, will be forever etched onto the ten stone tablets of memory. That incredible salad that won you the Gold Medal Plates gold medal, for example! So courageous! So gobsmackingly scrumptious! Even more than that, however, I remember you coming to the Stratford Chefs School to teach a masterclass at the Old Prune, at the same time that I was at the school as Writer in Residence. You were such a superstar that the students could barely function, but you patiently helped them do the best they could do and I watched each one of them grow two inches taller because of your gentle candour and generosity of spirit.
Nothing stays the same – however much we might wish it did. My favourite hotel in Canada bounds ahead with a new energy. Who knows what the future will bring?