Photo courtesy of Ryan Thompson.

Anthony Rose is a busy guy. Since leaving the popular Drake Hotel in 2012 after a five year stint as the head of food services, Rose launched his own venture: Rose & Sons, a greasy spoon saloon undercut with just enough sophistication to make food critics swoon.

Fast forward three years, and he is currently overseeing four successful restaurants, the most recent of which, Swan by Rose & Sons, opened this past July. Along with the restaurants, Rose owns Schmaltz Appetizing, a shop dedicated to appetizers. He also intends to open a barebones cocktail lounge named Bar Begonia. The bar is scheduled to open this November.

With all this work, one could be forgiven for thinking that Rose would be exhausted, but talking to him over the phone, all I can hear is enthusiasm. Rose loves his job and it shows. “Everything that I’ve ever done has simply been from the heart,” he tells me. The sentiment extends to how he treats his staff and the relaxed atmosphere that they all aspire to maintain across each of his establishments.

Rose could be considered the antithesis to Gordon Ramsey. “We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take what we do very seriously,” he said, adding, “It’s suffusing that simple atmosphere with quality everything, whether it’s the cocktail program, the ambience of the environment, or the food. But the service is what matters.”

Come closing time, the only goal for Rose and his tightly knit team is to make sure that customers are going to come back, and hopefully prompting them to try out some of their other offerings, many of which are located on Dupont Street.

Rose & Sons, Toronto by jennifer yin is licensed under CC BY 2.0​.

Rose & Sons, Toronto by jennifer yin is licensed under CC BY 2.0​.

Swan by Rose & Sons, the youngest of the Rose & Sons family, is the first to step away from the Dupont area. It moved into a space once occupied by a popular diner in the Trinity Bellwoods area. The retro cherry booths and vinyl-topped stools have been left just as the residents remember them. “We try to do as little as possible and preserve the history that’s already there,” Rose says. “If you’d been going there for a long time and sat down right now, you wouldn’t notice much difference.” Well, maybe not, except for the giant standing surfboard from Danny Hess.

Swan’s menu emphasizes the simplicity and freshness of Californian dishes, with a focus on vegetables and a notable influence from Spanish cooking (or “meals your abuela would make”). The restaurant is influenced by the several years Rose spent learning at Le Cordon Bleu and cooking around San Francisco, which he remembers as one of those character-building, before-and-after experiences. “It was nice to be so far away from home and be totally self-reliant and undertake such a huge adventure like that,” he says. “I loved that one could be living in the city of San Francisco but you could get to the ocean in ten minutes; hop across the bridge and be in the mountains in twenty minutes; cruise through Nappa Valley in an hour. It was fantastic to be in that kind of habitat.”

The way Rose puts it, becoming a chef was always the only option. Brought up Jewish, food was a relevant part of his life from day one. He was raised on the fattoush and kishka of Eastern Europe, feasting on meals cooked lovingly by his mother and grandmother for the Sabbath. Like everything else Rose has created, these culinary appetites would find a place in the selection on offer at Fat Pasha, a synthesis of Middle Eastern culture, Israeli street food, and the Grateful Dead. He lingered in academia for a while before being kicked out of university for cheating on an exam — “I hated school,” he says, laughing — and because he was already cooking plenty, the decision came naturally. He applied to Centro in the ‘90s, settled on San Francisco for the next chapter of his life, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So what’s next for Rose? In the coming year, a much needed retreat to the cottage with his family, yoga sessions, and exploring new work opportunities in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. “At the end of the day,” he explained, “we want to collaborate with amazing and talented people who are passionate about what they do and continue to do things our way.”

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