Dustin Gilman got his introduction to the food business at Westmount’s Cavallaro restaurant in the same way as many teenagers do: with a part-time after-school job serving customers and wiping tables.
© Morgan Lowrie
Dustin Gilman, aka ‘Food Guy Montreal,’ at Cavallaro restaurant in Westmount.
But for Gilman, that first job spawned a passion for food that never waned. Today, as ‘Food Guy Montreal,’ he is one of the city’s top food bloggers, with 3,800 Twitter followers and thousands of monthly visitors to his web site.
He believes that the popularity of his blog, which features restaurant reviews, recipes and general observations on the food scene, can be attributed to his years spent in kitchens learning in the ins and outs of the industry.
“There’s a lot more to eating at a restaurant than what’s happening on the plate,” Gilman said. “There’s talking to the chef, learning what their background is, finding out why you’re eating what you’re eating, where it came from. There is a story to everything, and that’s particularly true of food.”
Gilman gives much of the credit for his love of food to his years working at Cavallaro for owner Tony Russo. There, he learned the basics of taste, starting with the difference between types of olive oils, vinegars, and deli meats, and evolving into a love of all things culinary.
He began the blog at the end of his tenure there, as he was finishing up a degree in marketing at the John Molson School of Business. A food marketing class inspired him to enter the blog world, partly as a way of impressing future employers with his web and social media skills.
“I had no idea at the beginning where it would go,” he said. “I knew I was passionate about food, and I knew I could cook. I did it for two reasons: to show my appreciation for the food world and expand my knowledge of it, and because I needed to get a job.”
Gilman, who now works at a marketing firm, dedicates several hours a week to his blog. He is most active on social media, and has become an established member of the food community.
He describes the food scene in his hometown of Westmount as “evolving.” “It’s always been considered a nice place to come for lunch, but places like Park and Brasserie Centrale are going to start the scene here,” he said.
He describes the food scene in his hometown of Westmount as “evolving.”
“It’s always been considered a nice place to come for lunch, but places like Park and Brasserie Centrale are going to start the scene here,” he said.
Despite the recent success of these two more upscale restaurants, Gilman believes that in the past, many restaurants in Westmount have failed by opening places that were too fancy or too expensive.
“A lot of places have made the mistake of trying to be like downtown restaurants,” Gilman said. “But Westmount is a neighbourhood place. It has to be welcoming to the community. Make it a simple, family-friendly restaurant with good value,” he said, citing Cavallaro and Toucheh as models.
Gilman says he is very satisfied with the way his blog has grown.
“It’s gotten to the point where I’m a bit of an authority, where people trust what I say,” he said. “And that’s more flattering than anything.”
In the future, he would like to expand onto other media platforms, and do more radio and television work. But for now, he is happy with the place he occupies in Montreal’s vibrant and welcoming food scene.
“The fact that Montreal is a small city means the restaurants are all close together, and that creates a kind of camaraderie. The chefs are all friends, and they all want to support each other,” Gilman said. “It creates a culture of friendliness in Montreal’s food scene. The city has its own vibe.”