Splendido changes hands – kind of

All things must pass. I heard today that Yannick Bigourdan and David Lee are stepping away from Splendido after eight years as owners. They are selling the restaurant to Carlo Catallo, who was the restaurant’s sommelier for many years and is now its manager, and Victor Barry, longtime sous in David Lee’s kitchen and now chef de cuisine since the departure in December of Brian Semenuk.

“It was obviously an extremely amicable deal – a family deal almost,” says Bigourdan. “It will be hard to leave Splendido, of course, but we’re leaving it in very good hands. Carlo has been with us since the beginning. Victor is still young – barely 27 years old – but he’s going to be one of Toronto’s best chefs.”

One reason behind Bigourdan’s and Lee’s decision is the great success both of Nota Bene and of their relationship with Franco Prevedello, their partner in that venture. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear they are undertaking another project together soon.

And it will be interesting to see what Catallo and Barry do with Splendido. Will they sustain the current levels of refinement or take it down a notch? The present dynamic of the industry in Toronto seems to be slightly towards simplification and away from formal fine dining. But that might change if one or more of the rumoured big-shot arrivals turns out to be true in the next year or two – Jean-Georges Vongerichten coming to the Shangri-La or Wolfgang Puck to the new Four Seasons or a branch somewhere of Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro. And I suppose the Ritz Carlton will need a restaurant…

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