Gourmet lovers will be excited to know Bistro ’67 has a new executive chef.
The W. Galen Weston Centre for Food (CFF) recently announced the appointment of Colombian chef, Raul Sojo, to take over the helm after Ron Subden decided to leave the post to open a bed and breakfast in Port Hope. Sojo was formally the executive chef at The Oshawa Golf and Curling Club and taught at the CFF for a couple of semesters last year.
“He’s here, he’s here to stay, and he’s going to wow you!” said Kelly O’Brien, CFF general manager prior to the official announcement.
The new head chef originally trained as a lawyer. But Sojo (pronounced So-ho) knew his heart belonged in the kitchen when he worked his way through law school in restaurants.
Born and raised in Colombia, the 39-year-old emigrated to Canada in 2004 with his wife and two daughters.
“Colombia wasn’t the best place to raise a family back then,” said Sojo. The new head chef did not say this lightly. Sojo said his father, who was a well-known politician, was murdered by guerillas 25 years ago.
But it was his mother, who had her own culinary business, who bestowed the love of food preparation on him. She encouraged him to finish his law degree before helping him open a small restaurant on the day he graduated from law school.
“My mom was an awesome cook. We always were surrounded by good leftovers,” said Sojo.
Sojo went back to practising law after his second daughter was born. Soon after that the family decided to relocate to Canada and have now have a 13-year-old son.
Sojo followed his passion and enrolled in the chef school at George Brown College.
“If I’m going to have a second chance, this time I’ll get it right,” thought Sojo who did not speak any English at the time. “It was tough. I had a lot of support from my friends.”
Bistro ‘67 already has a distinguished reputation for fine cuisine, it is currently ranked sixth in the Tripadvisor’s top restaurants in the area.
“It’s a big challenge for me. I not only have to keep it (the reputation) but I have to exceed it,” said Sojo who holds the distinguished Ontario Red Seal Certification for excellence.
Bistro ’67’s field-to-fork philosophy is centred around the vision of creating flavourful dishes with fresh ingredients from CFF’s own gardens, as well as produce from local farmers and suppliers from across Durham Region.
“Ideally I want to partner with local producers, cheesemakers, winemakers and go from there,” said Sojo.
The Colombian knows a thing or two about crop cultivation as he spent his childhood on his family’s farm. What is more, he loves to grow fresh produce in his own back yard in Whitby. Specifically, delicate herbs, potatoes and corn.
“His knowledge was one of the things that impressed Shane Jones, the faculty co-ordinator of the Food and Farming program,” said general manager O’ Brien. “He knew how to grow things and how to nurture food.”
Sojo, who will have the title of executive chef, said he puts a lot of emphasis on the presentation of the food of the plate, but added the focus of the meal should be taste.
“You eat first with your eyes,” said the Colombian. “The staff is getting to know my style. We are going to get a unique identity.”
Restaurant goers will be able to sample Sojo’s new menu in mid-February.