BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Bringing the style and flavours of the Caribbean, and attempting to translate them here in Toronto brings a unique challenge, fusing a modern dining experience with the casual laid-back vibes of the islands.
In Toronto, more Caribbean-owned restaurants have found themselves competing with the mainstream upscale and classy restaurants to make a name for their establishments and the island founded cuisine that they offer. Some of the most flavourful dishes can be found throughout the islands, and bringing it to North America has presented a world of opportunity.
Hailing from the beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Bryan Birch was immersed in the Caribbean culture of the islands from a young age. He grew up with the familiar taste and flavours of Caribbean cuisine, spending a lot of time in the kitchen with his grandmother. There, he learned much about preparing and cooking West Indian cuisine, helping while she fixed many curry filled dishes, and even offered a hand with the baking. Bryan would follow his grandmother around the kitchen, and she would provide him with knowledge of all the different types of spices, cooking and baking techniques, as well as insight into how dishes should be prepared so that they tasted just right.
As he got older, Bryan’s curiosity ventured into other kitchens, those of his friends and their parents to see how cooking was done from another perspective. For him, it was interesting to see the similarities and differences in the cooking techniques and he learned a lot about how to season, marinate, and experiment with different styles that would later reflect in his own preparation methods.
Bryan attended culinary school in Stratford, where he was able to expand on his knowledge and learn to apply them in a kitchen of his own. Upon graduating from culinary school, he set out into the world to forge a career as a chef.
Bryan has worked as a professional chef for the past 15 years, establishing quite the resume for himself internationally, cooking in cities like NYC, Montreal, Toronto, and even in Bermuda. His passion for food comes from his family, and through his own appreciation for the rich diversity of the Caribbean islands.
Having worked in fine dining before, Bryan was looking for something new, fresh and exciting that he could call his own. Always opening restaurants for others, he decided that it was time to do something that was a reflection of how he wanted Caribbean dining to be experienced in the GTA.
Located at 382 College Street in Toronto, Windup Restaurant is a tribute to Caribbean food culture, and the expression of the rich curries, with bold and spicy flavours. He wanted to do something more casual and laid back, but still offer that upscale and modern dining experience, and so he opened up Windup Restaurant, which is what he likes to call the Toronto version of a Caribbean restaurant.
Windup Caribbean Restaurant takes Trinidadian and Jamaican specialties, and infuses them with other exciting flavours from across the globe. The restaurant offers a wide selection of brunch, lunch, and dinner items with vegetarian and kid options, as well. Their eclectic menu features mouth-watering dishes, such as an Oxtail Benedict, which is a Caribbean take on poached eggs, braised oxtail, coconut bake and herbed hollandaise, or Spiced Rum-Soaked French Toast with mango, pineapple and almond coconut crumble. These unique creations awaken the senses, and take you down to the sandy shores of Maracas Bay all in one bite.
Windup Restaurant offers a modern and upscale feel, but keeps it casual with an open and inviting atmosphere that you could bring your friends and family to grab a bite to eat, or come get a drink after a long day at work. During the summertime, it’s a great place to come for good food, with Caribbean flair and culture, their bar is sure to keep the rum flowing.
They offer Caribbean classics like curried goat, and the ever-popular jerk chicken, however they are presented with a modern take, enticing to foodies looking to try different flavours fused with Caribbean food. Their Jamaican Oxtail Spring rolls are not for the faint of heart, and the Coconut Poached Kingfish will literally melt in your mouth. The menu is packed with so many exquisite items they definitely offer something for everyone.
Bryan says the most challenging part of owning your own restaurant is the time invested working and managing the restaurant. Everyday is a new experience and the restaurant business is a challenging one. Especially in a city like Toronto, where there are so many options, it’s all about getting people’s attention, keeping it, and offering them even more. In addition to the patrons that come to the restaurant from Toronto and the GTA, Bryan says that he finds a lot of people come up from the US and away to enjoy his food.
“People should come to the restaurant because the food is it’s own reward,” Bryan explains. “It’s a great place to come on a night out, with casual and friendly atmosphere; you come to enjoy to eat and drink and you’ll be taken care of.”
For Bryan, opening Windup Restaurant has been a reward. He has managed to create a group friendly environment that is casual and laid back, where people can enjoy a drink on the patio in the summertime, and also through the winter months inside their warm and inviting at home atmosphere. They offer family style dining options that are great to host large groups, because they provide a wide variety of favourites from their menu, while providing a fun and interactive dining experience for their guests. Their menus can be tailored according to your event to ensure that you enjoy the ease and comfort of dining while celebrating your event or special occasion.
“Here at Windup we understand the difference of fusing Caribbean cuisine and allowing it to stand on it’s own in a completely new and evolved version of itself,” shares Bryan. “We’re not trying to make Caribbean food different, just update it to something more modern.”