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Bolete: The Hidden Mushroom Downtown

By Chris Illich

After a year and a half of trials and tribulations, award winning Niagara Chef Andrew McLeod’s dream has finally come true – the opening of his own restaurant, Bolete.

Taken after the Latin name for a type of mushroom, Bolete offers a modern dining experience. It consists of a beautiful white room with hardwood floors, exposed brick and an open kitchen that the chefs will be able to interact with the guests.

Serving local wines and produce and sustainable proteins, McLeod stated that Bolete will give guests the opportunity to purchase high quality food and service for a reasonable price.

“We are aware of where we are in St. Catharines. We’re right on St. Paul St., we’re not in Niagara on the Lake,” said McLeod.

“I really want Bolete to be a place people are able to come to on a regular basis, instead of it being a place where you would go for your anniversary or your birthday.”

Not that McLeod suggests that he wouldn’t want guests to come in for their birthday, because for him, it was a birthday party at Canoe in Toronto that sparked his passion for cooking.

“I was 16 or 17, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time. The open style of Canoe with these chefs in their amazingly starched white jackets was the coolest thing I had seen. It was like a ballet watching them work in the kitchen. I ended up just being totally focused on what was going on in the kitchen,” he said.

From there, he went to George Brown and started moving up the ranks as a chef. After working in Toronto for several years, he accepted a sous chef position at Peller Estates Winery which he worked at for six years, moved to the head chef position at Edgewater Manor in Stoney Creek, and then ended up at Spencer’s at the Waterfront in Burlington until he realized he was ready to open his own restaurant.

During the construction of Bolete, McLeod has kept busy, creating pop-up restaurants, and over the past two years, he has competed in the prestigious PEI International Shellfish Festival, in which he placed as a runner-up the first year, and won this past summer, with his Japanese-style dish.

“I did a rice bowl with soy, sesame, coriander and ginger. I took a lobster and quickly blanched it and did a salt/sugar/citrus cure with coriander and fennel with some pickled mussels and some panko-fried oysters for some added crispiness,” he explained.

“I went up there with Adam Hynam-Smith (El Gastronomo Vagabundo) and Niagara really shined at the festival. It was amazing. It’s the freshest seafood you’ll ever have in your life. The competition was very hard as far as the caliber of the chefs and everyone did a stellar job at showing what they had to offer.”

After a year and a half in the waiting, Bolete is now open for business. They hosted a series of soft-openings and are now open to the public, serving both lunch and dinner. When asked if there was any other way he would have done things, McLeod answered a stark “no.”

“It’s been a lot of trials and tribulations and my family has been very patient with me and my wife has been unbelievably patient with me, but if I had a chance to do it all over again, I’d be in the exact same place I’d be right now.” [S]