Grey Goose Notable young professionals and entrepreneurs are influential tastemakers who have made it beyond their years and, though their careers are still evolving, are now able to enjoy the success and life they have created. These selected individuals share how they got to where they are today, how they are able to enjoy what they have earned, where they love to travel, how they entertain and how they celebrate all that life has to offer. Entertaining is what Toronto’s Rob Banton does best. His newly-opened Japanese restaurant, Kanji Sushi and Sake Bar, has become a quick hot spot in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.
Rob Banton (pictured left-centre) is the next-up-and-comer to watch on Toronto’s hospitality and entertainment scene. A man of many experiences, Banton has held a variety of professions and business ventures. A self-proclaimed entrepreneur by nature, Banton studied pharmacology in university before going on to work at a pharmacy (while at the same time managing an import/export shoe company), owned a number of successful health food and supplement stores, dabbled in real estate and personal training, and worked as a concept development consultant for a selection of bars and restaurants. He was even a boxer on the Canadian boxing team before an injury caused him to stop before he was set to box professionally. Banton is now a co-owner of Nyood (a young professional hot spot for dinner, famous for monthly boozy brunches and a late night party place) and now full owner of the new Queen West Japanese fusion restaurant, Kanji Sushi and Sake Bar, which opened in August. So far, the response to Kanji has been great as it provides yet another reason to hit Parkdale.
If there was one location everyone must see, what would it be?
On the border of Monaco and Italy is the town of Ventimiglia, which has a famous Friday Market, a beautiful antique flea market that is rich with culture. The people who own the stands have such a great outlook on life. Instead of brown bagging their lunch, they bust out tables, white linens and wine and truly take time to savour the experience. Not to mention, it is located in a spectacular setting.
What is your general perspective on life? Advice for fellow young professionals?
Don’t get too hung up on dates and agendas. The most important thing is to keep your end goal in mind and to keep chipping away at it. So many young people are pre-occupied with timelines and find themselves chasing time. If you remain passionate, focused and diligent, everything will fall into place in due course.
What was your biggest challenge?
I think a non-Japanese guy delivering high quality Japanese food was probably a long shot for the skeptics, but myself and my chef have pretty strong beliefs that food is and should be global, and if you don’t dilute or compromise quality you can deliver the essence and be taken seriously. I’m proud to say the food speaks for itself.
Who do you admire most?
Arnold Schwarzenegger is someone I have admired since childhood. From the film Pumping Iron (a docudrama on the world of bodybuilding), you could tell he was someone who is very dedicated, disciplined and a hard worker. Aside from his physical endurance, he has a certain wit and ability to intellectualize the sport. Not to mention, he is an example of an underdog who has succeeded in living the American dream, making it as a movie star and even holding office as an Austrian.
Why were the early stages of your career worth what you are now able to enjoy?
I have held a variety of job titles and responsibilities and have worked hard at a few different things. All of that experience prepared me for the work I am in now. The restaurant business is multi-faceted, involving marketing, sales, service and design, among others, and I draw from the experience of my past – in business, travel and life.
What’s the best part of your success?
The best part is having people appreciate what it is you do. The biggest reward is positive customer feedback.
What makes the best host at a dinner party?
A host who is sensible and in-tune with subtle nuances, for example the volume of the music and the temperature of their home.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Kanji, if I do say so myself. I really do love the atmosphere, the crowd and the food. Other than that, I love the consistency offered by Terroni.
What’s your favourite drink?
It depends on my mood, but either a nice scotch or wine.
What can always be found in your fridge?
White wine and baking soda….if you must ask.
What’s your favourite thing to cook for yourself?
I make a mean stir-fry using a medley of vegetables and either chicken or beef.
How do you stay fit and healthy?
Reducing stress is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle so I do yoga a few times a week. I also still box twice a week and try to ride my bike whenever I can instead of taking the car.
What is your perfect Sunday?
Sleeping in, going for a late brunch and taking a long walk through a neighbourhood that is not my own.