In February 1999, Executive Chef Brad Long and his staff opened one of the most exciting and complex foodservice and hospitality operations in Canada. The Grand Opening of the ACC, inaugural functions for the Leafs and the Raptors and some black tie dinners ….all in a day's work for one of Toronto's top young chefs and his hand picked team.
But it was this kind of demanding schedule and the opportunity to influence the development of one of Toronto's greatest sports and entertainment venues that convinced Brad to join the Air Canada Center after a successful stint at the CN Tower. Brad said; "The main thing about joining the ACC was the huge challenge of developing a full program, it's got everything from suites, clubs, catering and concessions, including the classic Hot Stove Club."
The Hot Stove Club is a landmark of Toronto sports history and the Maple Leafs. The Club was moved from the old Maple Leaf Gardens and opened in the ACC on September 25 th , 1999. Brad's challenge from a menu point of view for the new Hot Stove was to bring over that historical presence and the "clubby" feeling that was associated with the old Maple Leaf Gardens. The result was an "old style – updated" menu. Brad defined it for us; "The Hot Stove is a classic chop house, we feature veal chops, steaks and the best of Canadian and American beef."
Brad has a separate vision and "feel" for all the food operations in the ACC and he is working through building a unique environment in each of his operations. Brad loves designing kitchens, taking the equipment and moving it around until it's perfect. In Brad's words, "The whole thing has to fit and flow, so that we have the perfect mix of creativity, productivity and comfort in the kitchen. I want to make them sexy to work in – this is where we have to create, it's not a stainless steel laboratory."
This need to design and work with a familiar brand of equipment led Brad to install Garland and Enodis equipment in the Hot Stove Lounge. "I've had great experience with Garland and when I had the chance to equip this kitchen, it was a natural choice for me." The secret is, "Garland has always been receptive to my critiques on equipment and its needs." Brad has always felt that equipment needs to be flexible and supple, simple to operate, and able to meet with the changing demands of a modern kitchen. One of his current favorites is Garland induction, the latest in extreme heat and precise control. " I need induction here in the Hot Stove and when we are ready for some additional equipment, you can be sure that we'll have it."
Brad's cooking style can't be pigeon holed. "I believe in the classic rules and having a firm grounding in those traditional boundaries. You develop a personal style by experimenting and bending some of those classic rules until you get something that works for you and for your customers." Brad acknowledges that he relaunched his career at the Pronto restaurant and was influenced by some key industry chefs and mentors, Mark McEwan, Martin Kouprie and Dale Nichols. "They taught me that you can be whatever you want to be, you can go right off the planet if you want, but you have to give the guest what he wants. Not only do you have to give them what they want, you have to exceed their expectations."
While the Hot Stove Club is billed as a Members Only Club, it is open to the public for lunch and Chef Brad invites you to come down to the ACC and enjoy some unique sports history and some of his "old style – updated" menu selections.