“I am sometimes like a little boy with a big mouth—when I am angry, I talk too much and it comes back to hurt me,” admitted Hans Fread. While his opinionated nature could backfire on him, it also provoked admiration and amusement. As Canada’s first celebrity chef of the television age, Fread took advantage of a growing postwar audience for gourmet food, especially if it involved slabs of meat.
Fread offered his definition of fine dining during a 1958 interview with the Globe and Mail:
I firmly believe there is a great difference between eating and dining. When I think of eating that means a quick meal, over which there is no time to reflect or enjoy good company. To these meals cater the majority of our eating places. But dining, that is something else entirely different. To me, that means not the time of eating but the manner in which it is done. It is done leisurely, and almost inevitably means good conversation. To dine well, you must be a good conversationalist.
Born in Germany at the dawn of the 20th century, Fread trained as a lawyer and practiced in Leipzig. When the Nazis assumed power in 1933, a friend advised Fread, a Jew involved in anti-Nazi groups, to flee the country. His escape route involved a train to Berlin, followed by combination of car and foot until he reached the Swiss border. Arriving in Montreal with only $63, Fread was hired as a dishwasher. He advanced up the restaurant ranks one position at a time, and was a chef by the time he moved to Toronto in 1944 to work at the King Edward Hotel.