Located in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood, near the Leaside Village Shopping Centre on Laird, Grilltime offers gourmet cuts of meat, side salads to go, catering services, and grab-and-go cottage packs. For co-owners Andy Elder and Peter Ramirez, great food and friendly customer service is what it’s all about.
“I have a passion for entertaining and grilling and breaking bread,” says Andy Elder, co-owner of Grilltime, along with Head Chef Peter Ramirez. After 25 years on the corporate management side of the food industry, including VP for a chain of restaurants, Andy left “the comfort of the corporate world” and opened Grilltime Gourmet Meat Shop in 2008.
Andy Elder, “Grill Guy” and co-owner of Grilltime and Peter Ramirez, left, Head Chef and co-owner.
Grilltime is a successful hybrid that combines traditional retail food sales with prepared foods and take-out meals. As well as their cuts of beef, Grilltime also serves chicken, seafood, lamb, and Ontario pork. You can enjoy their food in a take-out meal, made fresh to order, or put it on your shopping list for home cooking or grab-and-go cottage packs. “We also make beautiful sides and salads, to serve cold or at room temperature, or reheat at home,” says Andy, a Ryerson hospitality graduate. “We have root vegetables that we roast with garlic, honey and thyme. Lots of people like them cold, but I prefer them warmed.”
Born and raised in Scarborough, Andy has made his home in Leaside for almost 30 years. He loves the neighbourhood and it’s important to him and Peter, a graduate of George Brown’s culinary program who became co-owner with Andy in 2018, to give back to the community that has embraced their business and helped make it such a success.
“We are huge believers in the power of community. We are very active in our Leaside community, supporting various events. Schools, churches, fundraisers – whatever we have a chance to participate in,” says Andy. Grilltime, along with Chestnut Park and other local businesses, supports Laugh Out Loud in Leaside, the always-sold-out annual fundraiser comedy night. In 2020, all the proceeds were donated to Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), a national non-profit.
Grilltime also supports the annual Leaside toy drive. “We’re there every year offering a significant live auction prize,” says Andy. “This past year it was online but they raised more money than other years. We donated a backyard BBQ for 10 [the maximum number of guests allowed to gather, at that time, according to government health guidelines]. Hopefully we can do it later this spring or early in the summer. The winning bid was $2600. I’d said I would double it if they raised $2,000! I’m a small business owner so I can’t write cheques but I can leverage what we do, to help out. It’s a triple win,” he says, “the charity, the guests and me because I’m doing what I love to do and connecting with others.”
One of the ways Grilltime likes to connect with customers is through their catering services. “To me, grilling, or BBQ, is very much a casual food style. Grill cooking is not about multiple ingredients, it’s about a few simple but stellar quality ingredients,” says Andy, who refers to himself as “a grill guy. I’m not a cook or a chef. Peter is the chef.”
Whether it’s in their retail location or at a catered event, Andy and Peter believe in the value of good service and satisfied customers: “I say to people, I will compete on quality of product and customer service any time. The people I have the opportunity to work with every day share my philosophy.”
In response to the now-obligatory question, “how are you surviving Covid?” Andy says: “because of the hybrid nature of our business, and that we sell food, it has allowed us to stay open during the entire period. As stressful as it was at the beginning, serving customers, it’s nothing compared to the many friends I have with restaurants who have suffered greatly through this period. We know how fortunate we are.”
Most Grilltime customers come from the local Leaside neighbourhood, but, says Andy, “the appeal of Laird as a shopping destination with ample parking means more and more customers are coming from the Danforth, Beaches, Rosedale, Moore park, and Davisville as well.”
Written by Lesley Kenny