Sometimes the road home is full of zigs and zags; the most interesting trips usually are.
Chef Adrian Forte’s first home was Kingston, Jamaica.
Born on February 29th, 1988 – a leap year – and the year hurricane Gilbert slammed into Jamaica, seems to have foretold of an eventful and accelerated journey, starting with the split of his parents when he was just six.
His mom, a school teacher, knew Adrian’s future would be limited in Jamaica, so at 12, he was sent to live with his grandmother, a chef, in New York City. Two years later, her sudden death would leave him with few options: go back to Jamaica or head north to his dad’s home in Ajax, Ontario.
He chose Canada; his choice would prove to be the right one, but for a teenager missing his mom and grannie, fitting in with his father’s new family was hard. In fact, it just never quite gelled.
But he had a passion: football, and he threw himself into it. Big and strong, and good enough that he’d caught the attention of college level scouts, an encounter with a rival’s helmet shattered his wrist and his professional aspirations.
“I knew that dream was over. I sat on the sofa watching TV and getting fat.”
He was hooked on the Food Network. Soon he started buying cookbooks, and experimenting in his dad’s kitchen.
“I used to make all sorts of crazy recipes I’d see on TV or in books, and feed them to my family, but they just never really supported me in my dream, so I moved out, got a job and enrolled at George Brown College.”
Working full-time while studying full-time took drive, determination, and energy; good thing Adrian has plenty of all three. After graduating, Forte cut his teeth in some of this city’s top restaurants; now, he brings that same drive and quality of character to all of his projects: catering, consulting, or building his own hospitality empire.
As for his culinary style, Forte describes it this way; “Even though I was born somewhere else, I consider myself a Contemporary Canadian Chef who infuses my cuisine with Caribbean flavours…” and, because his maternal Grandmother called Venezuela home, “… a hit of South American flavour as well.”
It’s this mosaic of flavours, histories, and recipes that make him a contemporary Canadian chef in the truest sense; creating delicious harmonies with local ingredients, time-honoured techniques, and traditions from away.
At The Dirty Bird Chicken + Waffles, Adrian’s first restaurant in Toronto’s trendy Kensington Market neighbourhood, Canadian cuisine means perfectly crispy #NORTHERNFRIED chicken and waffles – dusted with salt, pepper, and maple sugar.
After hours, it’s always been his jerk chicken and pork that kept his friends well-fed and coming back for more. Jerk done right is Forte’s passion; his original culinary tradition, and that’s what called him back home, and what lead him to create AF1 Caribbean Canteen.
Adrian has appeared on Food Network Canada’s Chef in Your Ear, Chef in Your Ear Junior, Season Two of Food Network Canada’s Chopped Canada, Hogtown BBQ on Bell, as well as several noted national television appearances demonstrating his skill and creativity.
And now the media is finding even more to cheer about. The rave reviews are rolling in: Forte has been featured in Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Best New Restaurant Openings in Toronto on blogTO, Voted NOW Magazine’s Toronto’s Best Fried Chicken, named Best Sandwich Shop in Toronto by Notable.ca, and chosen as Best New Restaurant for Fried Chicken in Toronto by blogTO.
Adrian’s future is as promising and exciting as the future of Canadian cuisine; with his boundless energy, in this young place, alive with fresh ideas, and a unique and diverse bounty from every corner of the earth, the sky’s the limit.
Adrian is finally home – in this country, his city, and his kitchens – but the journey he started at the age of nine continues. Watch for more exciting projects from this culinary dynamo.