(By: Hilary Punchard)
R&D is a modern Canadian Asian styled restaurant located in the heart of Toronto’s Chinatown.
The name of the restaurant stands for the Rebel and the Demon, after the two masterminds who opened the restaurant.
Eric Chong is named the Rebel, after becoming the first winner of MasterChef Canada. At 22, Chong changed careers from chemical engineering to compete as a chef on the hit television cooking show.
The Demon is for the “Demon Chef” himself, Alvin Leung. He became Chong’s mentor after they met on MasterChef Canada.
“Alvin, he’s one of a kind, you are never going to find anyone more eccentric than Alvin that’s for sure,” said Chong.
Leung is a world-renowned chef with multiple restaurants around the globe, being most known for his three Michelin star restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
“I always wanted to be a cook but could never really see a sustainable future in it until MasterChef came to Canada,” said Chong. “I always watched the American version so it looked like a really really good opportunity. I had just graduated, just started working as a chemical engineer and then I thought… I might as well try. I didn’t even think that I would win.”
The R&D embodies exactly what you would think a Toronto industrial hipster restaurant in Chinatown would look like. Emptied oil drums hang from the ceiling while graffiti pictures cover the walls.
“Having a restaurant is really fulfilling, it gives my life a lot of satisfaction,” said Chong. “Alvin was a big part of helping me realize my dreams because without him none of this would be possible.”
Chong wore an apron as he cleaned up the restaurant before the lunchtime rush. Everything about him shows how hard of a worker he is when it comes to his restaurant.
“Typical day, wake up, eat, come here, cook, and then get home at like 12 or one in the morning; five or six days a week,” said Chong.
Being in his early 20s, it hasn’t been long since Chong was in university. He explains that in order to experience the culinary culture in Toronto, Ryerson students need to eat out.
“I try a new restaurant every week with my girlfriend to try and stay up to date with the Toronto food scene,” said Chong. “When I was in university I just ate everything that was on sale and I would just go from there. That was my inspiration. I never planned out my food, I just planned it around what I could get.”
Chong encourages students to make sure that they follow their dream careers: “I think you are always more likely to succeed in something that you are passionate about, if you follow what society thinks you should be doing you will only be giving 90 or maybe even 100 per cent, but if you do something that you are passionate about you will always be giving 110, you give it everything you have.”
R&D is located at 241 Spadina Ave. and their menu is on their website, linked below.
All photos by author.