Celebrity chef Vikram Vij is returning to his roots with the menu at Bombay Frankies, a new restaurant in East Gwillimbury, on the border of Newmarket.
Vij was born in India and grew up eating frankies, which are made with a variety of meat, vegetables and sauce, all wrapped up in a flatbread.
“Bombay frankie is a street food in India. What a hotdog is to a young kid in Canada or a taco is to a young Mexican kid, Bombay frankie is to me,” Vij said.
He grew up in Bombay, now called Mumbai, until he was 20 years old. Then he moved to Austria, where he trained as a chef.
Vij moved to Canada in 1990 and worked at the Banff Springs Hotel. He eventually moved to Vancouver and worked in high-end restaurants there before opening Vij's Restaurant in 1994.
He has since opened another restaurant, been a dragon on the Dragon's Den, and judged a number of TV cooking competitions, including Top Chef Canada and Chopped Canada.
When he got a call from Alex Gerzon and George Heos of Eat Up Canada about Bombay Frankies, he said he thought, "This is what I have been dreaming of."
The pair own the store and brought in Vij to create the menu. It is a fast casual restaurant, but is not considered fast food. Vij said throughout the pandemic they have seen a demand for this kind of establishment.
“We do realize there is a huge median of people wanting really good food, good quality food, well done, well-executed food but they don’t want the fast food,” he said. “They want a chef’s passion but just in a faster form.”
With Bombay Frankies, he said he has stuck with his core values of cooking delicious high-quality food, but now it's about simplifying and making it faster.
One of his biggest priorities while creating the menu of this new restaurant was using local ingredients. Vij said the all the vegetables and meats are produced in Canada, but the spices had to come from India.
"The idea is to be the perfect bridge between the two countries where I want to use as much local as possible, but obviously there are some things that are not available to me here,” he said.
Being that bridge is something he said he strives for personally, too.
"I want to be the best unappointed ambassador of Canada and best unappointed ambassador of India in the blending together, coming together," he said.
Bombay Frankies is located in the plaza at 200 Green Lane, just north of Newmarket. The official opening is on Oct. 18 but it opened to friends and family in the days leading up to the official opening. In that time, the restaurant collected donations for Blue Door, raising more than $1,500 for the shelter charity.
Emmy Kelly, chief operating officer at BlueDoor, attended an opening event at the restaurant to collect the donation. Members of East Gwillimbury council and Mayor Virginia Hackson also joined Kelly, the team at Bombay Frankies, and Vij for the official ribbon cutting.
“I know that our community will support it and embrace it,” Hackson said of the restaurant.
Bombay Frankies is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday to Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.