Here's What It's Like to Open a Restaurant with Drake
Along with close pals Nessel “Chubbs” Breezer and chef Antonio Park, Drake has officially opened Pick 6ix in the buzzing core of Toronto’s financial district. The restaurant name and meaning is twofold; according to chef Park, the name draws from both American football, when an interception is returned for a touchdown, and the unofficial name for Toronto popularized by Drizzy himself.
Park met Drake through his best friend P.K. Subban, who invited the duo to LeBron James’ birthday bash with Maverick Carter (his business partner and close friend) almost two years ago. Chef Park cites their mutual love of gastronomy and Toronto as why they made the perfect fit.
“Although I could have opened something on my own, this opportunity really spoke to me," says Park. "Drake represents Toronto in the best way possible. He’s the city’s unofficial ambassador, so how could I refuse to partner with someone who’s so excited about the city and celebrates it wherever he is in the world?”
Park also mentions a je ne sais quoi element to their relationship. “Drake’s a visionary but he’s also incredibly humble and a super nice guy," he says. He’s down-to-earth and doesn’t have to be, especially in light of his status as a mega-celebrity. He can’t be on the street for more than 30 seconds without getting ambushed by practically every paparazzi on the planet.”
During the restaurant’s soft opening on Wednesday night, chef Park explains that the posh and modern space reflects the trio’s desire to showcase the diversity of Toronto. “Drake, Chubbs and I want it to be a special place for everyone to go to. It’s a blend between a restaurant, a lounge, and a sports bar that celebrates multiculturalism.” Along with a Champagne (papi) wall, there are bespoke cocktails by Lawrence Picard, sakes with a cult following such as vintage Kuheiji and robust wines including Frédéric Magnien Meursault Burgundy and Limerick Lane Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley.
The 178-seat operation and outdoor terrace, which accommodates over 100 guests, offers fare that pays tribute to chef Park’s roots as a South American (living in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay from birth to age 15), Korean (ethnic background), Japanese (working in Michelin-starred restaurants and earning his degree at the Culinary Institute of Japan) and Canadian (living in Vancouver and then Montreal, the latter is his current homebase). Chef Park positions Pick 6ix as a welcoming, family-oriented spot that straddles the line between casual sports bar and upscale restaurant—yes, that's possible.
Even with the energetic pace, there are still nooks for those who seek refuge and solace; this includes Drake’s private room (which you’re welcome to rent if he’s not present) in the back and a VIP room in front where you are sheltered by beautiful bottles of Rémy Martin Louis XIII cognac.
The eclectic, playful menu is inspired by Park’s heritage. “I’m diverse and so is Toronto," he says. "This menu is a reflection of both those aspects. But just don’t call it fusion food." The dainty open-face gyoza, for example, eats like a crunchy taco brimming with Argentinian flair, which Park says pays homage to the empanadas he grew up on. Also close to his heart is Lobster Spaghetti à la Montréal Style: a butter-poached lobster is draped over a veal-beef bolognese and topped with ample shavings of Grana Padano. Equally decadent is the 8-Hour Braised Kalbi Style Short Rib that yields like soft butter with your fork. The layers of sweet fat interspersed with tender flesh is the stuff of dreams. (It was Park's great-grandmother's recipe.)
Undoubtedly, masses will flock to Drake’s hotspot, but Park isn’t stopping here. All fourteen of his Montreal restaurants currently source produce from his nearby three-acre farm; he plans to do the same in Toronto and become a farm-to-table operation in the future.