Mexican chef Francisco Alejandri at his eatery Agave y Aguacate in Kensington Market.
I don’t need another reason to rave about my favourite Toronto ‘nabe and longtime home: feisty, gritty and never-dull Kensington Market. But hey, now I have one.
Following a tip from my good buddy and fellow foodie Deborah Reid, a chef instructor and George Brown College, I ventured into the newish Pancho’s Bakery on Augusta Ave. in the heart of the market just north of Baldwin. That bakery reminds me of a visit some years ago to Acapulco where I spent a week that mainly consisted of lying on the crowded beach trying not to make eye contact with unsavoury characters and taking the bumpy bus (never sit on seats located over the back wheels) complete with music and kitschy decorations for about a mile to the main attraction of that locale: a giant Walmart situated atop a hill. Here, there was a pastry section that boggled the mind from plain sweet buns to donuts to all manner of cream-filled cakes. But I digress.
In the back of the store called Pancho’s Bakery where, among other confections, you can buy made-to-order, piping hot churros (sugar-dusted sausage-shaped doughnuts), is a sight to behold: Francisco Alejandri standing in front of a beautiful Mexican-themed orange mural cooking up a storm on small hot plates. Nearby are a couple of other vendors selling their Latino snacks, all freshly prepared to order – pupusas, arepas and empanadas, to name just three.
But Alejandri is the star of this show as he meticulously prepares authentic Mexican fare at his nifty little food station called Agave y Aguacate (Cactus and Avocado).
Francisco comes from central Mexico where he studied and graduated in hotel management. Then it was on to the Stratford Chefs School in Ontario’s Perth County where he honed his skills as a chef at Rundles and The Church. In Toronto, he has worked in the prestigious kitchens of Scaramouche and Sassafraz, among others.
Now, those who know about this terrific food find can sample his wares for less than $5 a pop – flank steak salad, Green Tostada, Pinto Bean Soup and a Meatball Sandwich washed down with a tasty hibiscus drink – at the back of Pancho Bakery.
You heard it here first!