Summer Series at Toronto’s Legendary St. Lawrence Market

The Food Dudes team up with the Market for the two biggest food event experiences of the season

July 20, 2017

1803. It’s a year so far in the past, it seems almost like a fairy tale. Toronto (then the Town of York) was a speck of the expansive capital we know today, just beginning to stretch its legs, with Canadian confederation still over half a century away. But one pillar of the community was already establishing itself as essential to downtown life: The St. Lawrence Market.

It’s a stimulating exercise – heavy on romantic bursts of nostalgia – to imagine the towering metropolis growing around the Market as the years unfolded. From those humble first days to its current standing as the city’s most storied culinary institution, it has drawn urban dwellers and visitors alike to its majestic halls. “The Market has this life. A life that’s warm, and that attracts people to it,” explains Samantha Wiles, the Market’s Event Supervisor. “It also has the historical aspect. A lot of people whose parents used to bring them to the Market are our regular customers now, still coming every Saturday. I think it’s a really important component of the city’s history, and also of the city’s future.”

It was this significant pedigree and continuing vitality that, in 2016, drew The Food Dudes to an enticing event opportunity utilizing the Market’s wraparound patio. “It was the first time ever that we really used the patio,” Ms. Wiles says of one of the biggest outdoor dining spaces in Toronto. Inspired by The Food Dudes’ flagship Block Party events – which merge food, art and celebration to create unforgettable parties – Summer Series was conceived as a new way for regular patrons to experience and rediscover the Market, and the beacon to an untapped foodie audience in search of an enchanting experience.

The debut of Summer Series exceeded all expectations, selling out well in advance and finding ecstatic results in the collaboration between Food Dudes chefs and the Market’s merchants, as Ms. Wiles recalls: “That was a really cool process. The merchants are the experts in the raw ingredients and specialty foods that they carry, so having them pair with The Food Dudes – who are experts in creating dishes – it was a nice way to match those different areas of expertise to bring out the most delicious results.”

Some extra validation came via the Canadian Event Industry Awards, for which Summer Series was a finalist in the category of Best Public Entertainment Event or Festival. In complimentary contrast to Evening at the Market – a more formal, indoor chef-driven event – Summer Series offered a breezy, laid back night in the sun. Discussion soon turned to a repeat performance for this new yet already-heralded affair.

With the gang back together, this time for a pair of 2017 events to be held on July 20th and August 24th, Summer Series appears destined for longevity. “It’s so lovely to work with the same team that brought the first one to life with such great success,” Ms. Wiles relays proudly.

Building on the blueprint established in 2016, The Food Dudes’ menu creators and chefs will work closely with Market merchants to present original dishes unique to their collaboration, while a slate of musicians, artists and performers curated by Sole Power Productions dazzle the crowd. It’s a far cry from the tentative nascent days of the Market and the city that’s nurtured it. And it’s a sight to behold for those who carry the classical site forward into the future.

“The Market is at the heart of the city,” Ms. Wiles has a ritual of saying. “It exists in the same physical space that used to be called the Market Block, all the way back in 1803. In the 1800s, it was the centre of the town, the centre of activity, where people would come to get their food, and the community would join together. That’s still happening today.”

The Market’s rich legacy as a social nucleus shows no signs of easing off, with a surrounding neighbourhood that’s both implanted smack dab in the bustling nerve centre of the city, and also undergoing major changes at a near constant rate. New condos, young families and rapid growth inundate the regal Market building, where tradition meets innovation every day. The spacious patio, traversed by vehicles making deliveries in its original role as en elevated ramp until the 1970s, is set to come alive when Summer Series hits. For Ms. Wiles and The Food Dudes, it’s simply gratifying to look back on what came before in the Market’s fairy tale existence, as they write the next chapter in an ever-growing saga.