Celebrity chef Claudio Aprile set to open his new restaurant Copetin in time for summer
One of the city's most well-known and groundbreaking chefs, Claudio Aprile (Origin, Colborne Lane) has announced the next step in his culinary career with the opening of Copetin Restaurant and Bar, a Latin American word that translates to 'drop-in, aperitif, community and social.' The new restaurant is located at the corner of King and Church at the site of the original Origin that closed its doors earlier this year.
Copetin will feature a main dining room with an open kitchen, bar and patio serving an elevated menu currently in development in a more casual and relaxed environment. Aprile, also one of the star judges on the CTV reality-TV show MasterChef Canada, is hoping to have Copetin open by early summer. Post City spoke with Aprile about the new restaurant.
In the past, you've used your travels to South America or to Europe to inform and inspire your cuisine. What inspired Copetin?
Many things. I think our city right now is really starting to become a true culinary destination. Interestingly, I think a lot of the inspiration is coming from our neighbourhoods. We are so lucky to have all these little clusters and pockets of culinary destinations and any of them are from families, from very honest and very pure places like Little Italy, Little India, Koreatown. The direction we are going right now, we are taking a lot of the inspiration from all these different pockets. I remember as a very young person before I started to cook getting takeout Chinese on Sunday nights at home, and the excitement of experimenting with all these new flavours.
I’m going back to that and asking the really simple question: What excites you about food? Right now, it’s Toronto.
You are back in collaboration with Henry Wu, who you worked with at Senses, and this is where the city really fell for the cuisine of Claudio Aprile. How has the city's culinary landscape changed since then?
The city now is a completely new universe. Culinarily speaking, it is unrecognizable from what it used to be. It is very exciting. I was asked this question about a decade ago, and the question was ‘Why are we being ignored by the world?’ When I answered back then, I didn’t think we had enough chefs at that time, stepping out on their own and developing their own voices and their own cuisines. Lots of the restaurants a decade ago were owned by large companies and the chefs were really dictated to and told what to cook. Five years ago, all of a sudden you had dozens and dozens of very young people in their early 20s opening up restaurants on shoestring budgets, restaurants like Woodlot, Chantecler, Foxley, these are great examples of chefs that transformed the culinary scene in Toronto.
It seems the true Toronto cuisine is always multicultural, pulling from the myriad of flavours and traditions from across the region. Would you say the Copetin menu will be about experimenting with these various flavours, or will it be rooted more in one culinary tradition?
As a young boy, I was very rebellious and didn’t do well in school. Cooking was a great fit, there were no rules, and we can do whatever we want, whatever tastes good. I still feel like that’s true. There are no real rules. I don’t want to use the word experimentation, it sounds too much like a laboratory or playing games with food. I’m not really interested in that. At this point in my career, I’m not interested in trickery like transforming a tomato into a different object, not that there is anything wrong with that. But personally, I just want to cook food that tastes good. There is obviously a creative component to what we’re doing, but we’re not following any rules.
You've said Copetin is about coming back to the beginning. What do you mean?
I think sometimes when you have success in any field, I guess a good analogy might be film when an actor at the height of his craft now starts directing films, a guy that curates. And I decided that I did that for 10 years, and I’m really proud of all the lessons I’ve learned. Now, I want to get back into the kitchen and focus on cooking. I know a restaurant is a business, but I want to focus my energy and my excitement on cooking and food and building my team. That’s what I meant by returning back. At one point, I had four restaurants and 400 employees and you feel a certain disconnect when growing at such a fast pace. There is a great saying about momentum being a cruel mistress, and it’s true. Sometimes you need to slow down a bit and be true to yourself and what it is that makes you happy.
On that point, if you had to do it all over again, would you follow a similar path with Origin?
I don’t regret anything, it’s all a learning process. I made very calculated decisions to open up Origin at Bayview Village. Do I regret it? I learned a lot from that experience. It was a very tough challenge. But I’m proud to say that I survived, stayed positive and held my head up high. Now, I’m in a really great situation where I’ve partnered with Henry (Wu) who I think is a true visionary.
Your mother came up with the name Copetin. Could you tell me what happened?
Well, ya, she came up with it. She called me up one day and said she had a great name for a restaurant. That was about five years ago and the name just stuck. It’s a cool name, and there isn’t another Copetin in North America as far as I know. And, it’s South American, that’s where I’m from, where my roots are, and I think it really captures the spirit of what we are going to do at Copetin.
Are we going to see any Master Chef talent in the kitchen?
It’s interesting, I’ve been asked that many times and I like to keep both worlds separate, to be honest with you. There are two different worlds for me: the television world and my culinary world. Sometimes they cross paths. But never say never. I gotta tell you, the home cooks that we’ve had on four seasons now are extraordinary. Talk about raw talent. It always excites me to see what they do, so you never know.