When I heard the news this morning that John Bishop had made the decision to close his eponymous Kits restaurant on August 1st, I felt a tiny bit sad. For starters, restaurants like Bishop's don't exist anymore—elevated spots with serious art on the walls and a lightness in their step as they go about their way. Now everything has to be a category: chain, chef-driven, vegetarian, locavore. But what made Bishop's special is that John was able to always take the best of any given genre and adapt it to what became our city's definitive neighbourhood restaurant.
But I was also thinking of the relationship this magazine had with John. He's the only person to ever be honoured with two lifetime achievements awards (1997 & 2016) as well as a mentorship award (2013), making him the most lauded individual in Restaurant Awards history (and that's not even including all the accolades Bishop's racked up—still placing high in the past few years, well into its third decade). We ran several lovely profiles of a the lovely man over the years (in addition to the above links, this one from 2007 merits rereading) and when I punch his name into our article database there comes a flood of hits: not just about Bishop's, but about the legion of chefs who spent time under his tutelage and who went on to do great things in their own right: Andrea Carlson, Jack Chen, Ron Shaw, Rob Feenie, Adam Busby, Dino Renaerts, Vikram Vij, Scott Kidd—to just list the names that pop up on our site.
But looking back on one of the greatest runs of a restaurant in the country, the sadness turns quickly to gratitude. For helping bring the city from one where the Keg was the pinnacle to a place where average diners talked about gooseneck barnacles and Jerusalem artichokes. For always seamlessly making diners feel like they were the most important people in town for those few hours became the standard for hospitality.
John Bishop will be organizing some special nights before closing and one imagines the demand will be fierce once people realize that this institution soon won't be around.
"I want to find some special ways to celebrate and thank our customers," he said. To use an antiquated term for a man and restaurant that never let itself be antiquated: John Bishop was the consummate gentleman.
I thought it fitting to sign off with the three words we used to describe Bishop's in our 2011 Restaurant Awards: "It never falters." And it never did.