The cold air bites, bringing with it a deep chill. As I stepped out on February 6th, the snow lightly drifted across my leather boots. Ascending the steps from the front door to the driveway, I gingerly held the side railing to keep from slipping on the freshly formed ice. With my head held high and my excitement brewing, I was off to ‘Style Plate’, a Toronto Fashion Week event hosted by Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville.

Arriving at Hazelton Hotel brought with it a welcome warmth. I removed my coat and settled in for an evening of food, fashion and a panel discussion including acclaimed Chef Mark McEwan hosted by Toronto Life magazine publisher, Ken Hunt. I was invited to take a seat at the ONE Restaurant bar. Exhale. I had arrived. I sat to the far left melting comfortably into the bar stool. A glass of Pinot Noir was served and I gave a quiet toast to fashion, food and how they inspire greatness in each other.

Moments later, Hani Roustom, General Manager of the Hazelton Hotel, introduced himself. He was impeccably dressed and impossibly polite as he led me to one of the tables set for two. After ordering an espresso, we began to discuss the inspiration and origin behind ‘Style Plate’. Yorkville is viewed as the epicentre of fashion for Canada. ‘Style Plate’ was born based on an enthusiasm to partner with Winterlicious and bring Toronto Fashion Week to Yorkville. Roustom comments, “The neighbourhood speaks to fashion, luxury and fine dining – that is why we wanted to host Style Plate at the Hazelton Hotel. Style Plate promotes innovation, Canadian fashion and support for the community. As a business operating in Yorkville, we aim to engage the neighbourhood businesses and host events that support the core of who we are.”

‘Style Plate’ is an innovative way for Yorkville restaurants to showcase their personalities. It invites the eleven participating restaurants, which includes Bar Reyna, ONE Restaurant, Sofia, STK, Kasa Moto, Cibo Wine Bar, Sassafraz, Trattoria Nervosa, Amber, The Oxley and Planta, to create menu items based on the Toronto Fashion Week designer that most inspires them.

The inspired menu items are captured in a photo shoot to showcase the unique style of each restaurant. The playful photos create interest in the designers and the menu items, driving traffic to the restaurants and ultimately, the neighbourhood itself. Roustom remarks, “Restaurants come up with a concept that best represents who they are. We send a photographer to capture the energy and essence of their vision. There is no direction given from myself or the Style Plate team. This year the results were truly remarkable. The photographs were magnificent, beyond expectation.”

I was in awe of the creativity surrounding this event. I quickly understood that the design process starts deep within the imagination. In both food and fashion, it is something you feel rather than something you do.

The ‘Style Plate’ panel was to begin shortly. Roustom explained, “The themes of the panel discussion can be broken down into 4 main parts – how design affects food, how media affects food, you are what you eat and chefs doesn’t finish well, neither will you.” Presentation is important, but the ultimate goal is taste. Chef McEwan adds with a smile, “For a Chef, the best Instagram photo is an empty plate.

Hunt makes comparisons about food and fashion based on their parallel in quality. The food itself doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to leave a lasting impression. Having an understanding of how flavours work together is not dissimilar to understanding how fabric and colour combinations influence design. In each case, you have to know how to maximize the experience for the consumer. McEwan remarks, “Food needs to be clean, well constructed and professional, as does fashion.”

As the discussion continued, I was struck by how important it is to have a love for your craft. The dedication to craft, design and visual appeal are all part of the creative process. Chefs spend years perfecting their palates and presentation skills, and fashion designers spend equal time studying thread, movement and fabric choice. The ‘Style Plate’ event taught me how mastering any discipline comes back to the dedication, hard work and passion for what you do.

As the discussion was winding down, I took a minute to take in the crowd. This intimate group was equally composed of men and women who were in all manner of dress. There were jeans and suits, sneakers and heels, and an array of every colour in the rainbow. I concluded the yearning for impeccable style is universal and can be appreciated by all walks of life. The applause ended, I gathered my things and thanked the event planners for their efforts. Walking out of the room into the quiet elegance of the Hazelton Hotel, a feeling of joy bubbled over within me. I felt privileged to have witnessed such passion for creating beautiful things. As the guests shuffled out, the fourth ‘Style Plate’ event came to a close. Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville will once again host ‘Style Plate’ in February 2020. I will be there, front row centre to once again drink in all the magnificent style.