Toronto’s Cheesewerks opens with free grilled-cheese

Opening-day freebie: Aged and smoked Balderson cheddars are grilled on cracked-peppercorn sourdough and served with roasted-garlic-red-pepper ketchup.

Toronto has more than one steak house, more than one seafood place. Next week, Toronto gets its first cheese house.

Cheesewerks, which bills itself as Canada’s first and only restaurant totally dedicated to placing artisan cheese at the centre of every plate, opens Friday, December 16, at 56 Bathurst Street, at the corner of Bathurst and Wellington.

Free grilled-cheese sandwiches will be served from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on opening day.

Cheesewerks is the brainchild of Kevin Durkee and Tom Douangmixay, partners in life and business.

Kevin and Tom are clearly foodies, with a love for honest, nostalgic comfort food, especially cheese, especially Canadian cheese. Cheesewerks will be a restaurant first but also a retail shop for cheese, charcuterie and other edibles. The restaurant will be licensed, serving Ontario craft beer and wine.

Partners Kevin Durkee (left) and Tom Douangmixay with daughter Taylor.

Here’s a brief Q & A with Kevin who has a background in marketing—which clearly shows in the eye-catching materials and hard-to-miss promotional campaign that have emerged in the run-up to the opening.

Q} What is your philosophy when it comes to food?

A} “Food is all about sharing. Getting someone to try something for the first time. Or reaching across the table to sneak something from a friends’ plate.  Food is what fundamentally connects us all.  The food at Cheesewerks is really about ‘comfort shared.’ Easy to understand, easy to enjoy and incredibility satisfying.”

Q} What role will Canadian cheese play in your operation?

A} “The biggest role. We support 100% Canadian cheese, using Canadian artisan products throughout our menu and retail offering. In fact, we are recognized and endorsed by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Having the little blue cow as part of our credentials is amazing. The DFC designation is typically offered to producers and retail brands, to showcase their use of 100% Canadian Milk.  I’m not familiar of another “restaurant” that has been awarded this designation. We are very proud of this designation.”

Q} What is your background?

A} “I’m a natural-born foodie. My mother ran a bakery, then a Tea Room in eastern Ontario for over 25 years while I was growing up.  I was her ‘sous-chef’ helping out everywhere could.  It was my after school, summer and part-time job while I was at home.  Leaving for the big city, I entered into the marketing industry but quickly found myself marketing consumer packaged goods and lifestyle brands, many of them food brands.  Over the last few years, the restaurant foodie bug was back and I began to build the Cheesewerks brand.”

Editor’s note: There are two eateries with a cheese-focused mission in the West: The Grilled Cheese Bar located in Janice Beaton Fine Cheese in Calgary and especially outstanding Au Petit Chavignol in Vancouver. If you know of any others, let us know via the comments form below.

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