Grey Goose Notable: Jason Dehni has partnered with Grey Goose, the World’s Best Tasting Vodka, to celebrate an exclusive series of Grey Goose Notables: young professionals and entrepreneurs who are influential taste-makers. For the next 10 weeks, we will feature two unique Notables who have made it – young professionals who have reached success beyond their years. We’ll show you how these Notables enjoy what they’ve earned – how they entertain friends, where they travel, what drives them from the office to the golf course – and how they celebrate life and all it has to offer. So, raise a glass as we toast to the Grey Goose Notables…

Jason Dehni is an accomplished young professional. As a VP at Scotiabank Group, this 38-year-old is a Toronto taste-maker, having become a leader in the for-profit sector and also, the not-for-profit sector with Artbound, a charity in support of Free the Children which he co-founded and acts as chair.

Jason left his native Lebanon around his tenth year during a time of civil war, and, after spending time in the US, made his way to Canada when he was 18. He studied political science at the University of Toronto before heading to Harvard Business School to round out his education. After five years in management consulting at Accenture – where he was the only one hired without a background in commerce – Jason joined the team at McKinsey & Company, a spot he credits with giving him vast training and exposure across many different industries. This laid the foundation for his current role at Scotiabank Group, where he has been for nine years. As Jason says, his career thus far “has been an incredible journey.” We couldn’t agree more.

Jason Dehni with children

But aside from his outstanding career accomplishments, Jason brought together an amazing group of people to form Artbound, a charity in support of Free the Children that believes “the arts have the power to help create real and sustainable change in the lives of underprivileged children.” Artbound – which was conceived one day around his mother’s counter during an introspective moment – works with the arts community to build sustainable infrastructure for children in developing countries, showing them how art can break the cycle of poverty and affect a pivotal change in their lives.

In February the members of Artbound – including Craig and Marc Kielberger, Seamus O’Regan, Dayle Haddon, Amanda Alvaro and Katie Telford, among many extraordinary others – traveled to the Maasai Mara region of Kenya to build an arts school at an all-girls high school. Jason says that the experience was profound, especially “being able to stand on the very ground where you get to make this dream a reality and shape the girls’ lives…helping give these girls choice where they have never had choice before. Helping them decide who they want to become.”

Jason Dehni building school

Jason Dehni is a Notable, and to him, notable is “Living in an extraordinary way. Living with passion. Living with a sense of unapologetic idealism, and making it happen. People who dream and do. Those are the people I like to surround myself with.” If there was one location that every person must see, what would it be? Why?
Jason Dehni: Of the places I’ve traveled, I’d say Kenya, for two reasons. The Maasai Mara for its beautiful everything – people, culture, mountains and wildlife; and Lamu, an island on the east coast for it’s awe-filled moments – swimming with wild dolphins, discovering sand islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean and just being still, staring out into purity.

jason dehni You have 3 weeks to vacation, cost is not a factor, where are you going and who are you taking?
JD: Travel to me is about experiencing different adventures. No better way to do this with than with my one and only Rani! First stop is the Amalfi Coast in Italy, making our way down the twisting shoreline in a convertible of some sort, stopping only for sandy coves, medieval towers and evenings with Brunello. After a few days the adventure turns to the 5000-year-old cultural smorgasbord, India. We’d start off in Delhi or Mumbai to indulge the senses followed by an escape into the serene mountains of Rishikesh, the holy city of the Hindus located at the foothills of the Himalayas. They say that each time you visit India you change in some way. A perfect place to reflect on that change and close the trip is at the secluded Taj Resort in the Maldives, where they say time is measured in sunrises and sunsets. What is your general life philosophy/What advice would you want to share with others?
JD: Get rid of the word “should.” You shouldn’t be doing anything or be anywhere for anyone. Your life is your own, so live out your passions – by your own rules. What is it about you that you feel attracts others to you?
JD: I think it’s because I’m genuinely interested in other people. I try to ask questions that matter. I listen. I wish for other people’s happiness.

jason dehni 3 Please describe what entertaining looks like to you? What makes the perfect host? When entertaining at your home, what is your one staple item that you must serve, and why?
JD: I love hosting dinner parties, with good company and lots of food and wine. When hosting, I think about putting the right combination of people together to create that chemistry you need for hours of great conversation and laughter. What is more important when entertaining: the space, or the people in the space, and why?
JD: Having the right space does play a role, but the right crowd around the table always trumps. There’s really nothing better than surrounding yourself with good people. I’ve been blessed. What is one of your favourite lounge/restaurants? Why?
JD: It really depends on my mood. Blowfish for sushi, Pizza Libretto for pizza, Origin for great tapas, The Host for Indian…Toronto is full of great restaurants. As for lounges, I tend to gravitate to the Spoke Club if I’m looking for some quiet time. But if the night calls for big plans, Maison Mercer is my preferred locale!