The man behind Fidel Gastro, a Toronto street food experience company, held a pop-up restaurant event at Prato Pizzeria on St-Laurent last Friday. Between serving foodies and the occasional exclamations of his catch phrase ‘Ole,’ Matt Basile took the time to speak to the Tribune about street food, making it in business, and giving in to your professional appetite.
Basile didn’t always dream of becoming a culinary sensation. He started off working as a copywriter in Toronto. Cooking was something he did with his family and to make a little money on the side. When he realized he wasn’t doing what he really enjoyed, Basile gave notice that he would be leaving his job at his marketing firm in order to pursue his passion for food. According to Basile, listening to Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Standford University on YouTube consolidated his new outlook.
“It was so much aligned to what I had just done moments earlier that it was like Steve Jobs was talking to me directly,” Basile said. “You know, people aren’t meant to be task-doers; they’re meant to carve their own way. That’s the human spirit—do your own thing.“
Basile has certainly trod his own path. In addition to doing pop-up food events, where he takes over a restaurant for a night to serve up his own food, Basile sells street-fare from his food truck, Priscilla, and runs his restaurant Lisa Marie in Toronto. These ventures are featured on Travel and Escape network’s television show Rebel Without a Kitchen, which he hosts.
Looking for a last-minute destination to pop-up in, a stop in the Belle Province was a no-brainer for Basile. One need look no further than the food trucks parked outside Leacock to realize that the street food movement has hit Montreal with full force.
“I’m not from here, but I definitely have a huge love for this city,” Basile said. “I [thought], how do we do something in such a short amount of time and still [do] Montreal justice?”
For his Friday night menu, he prepared two variations of Montreal-inspired poutine—if they can even be called that. The first dish incorporated Schwartz’s smoked meat into the classic Quebecois meal. Though smoked meat-topped poutine certainly isn’t unheard of, Basile made the Montreal experience his own by topping it off with Dijon honey sauce instead of the traditional gravy.
The second was a marinara poutine made with delicious local cheese curds and marinara sauce prepared by him and Prato’s owner, Rosa. It simultaneously delivered the standard Italian-style tomato, basil, and cheese trio and satisfied any late night poutine cravings.
“Smoked meat, poutine, pizzerias—these are all things that are near and dear to everyone’s hearts, so all I [had] to do [was] put the Fidel Gastro twist on it,” Basile said.
That “Fidel Gastro twist” is what Basile does best.
“Whether it’s in my restaurant or in my truck, or on a table in Montreal, in order to really make an impact in the food industry, you just always have to be different,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Although Basile’s job comes with reality television-esque drama, like issues with his deep fryer and Prato’s power on Friday, he said he feels incredibly fortunate to be where he is today.
“I love my job and I love doing it every day,” he said. “I’m very blessed in that sense.”