Chinese Fine Dining Concept ‘Mott 32’ Expanding into Toronto Market with 1st Location [Interview]

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After opening a flagship location in Vancouver several years ago, the Mott 32 global luxury brand for Chinese fine dining has its sights set on Toronto for its next venture into Canada.

Co-founder Malcolm Wood said the brand currently has eight locations worldwide. 

The Vancouver location was the first franchise for the brand about seven years ago.

Wood said the company expects to open a Toronto location in the third to fourth quarter of this year. 

Mott 32 Vancouver (Image: Mott 32)

Retail Insider confirmed that the new location will be at the vacated Momofuku Toronto restaurant inside the Shangri-La hotel at 180 University Avenue. The David Chang-owned restaurant opened in 2012 at the University Avenue hotel and shuttered on December 23rd, 2022.

“I’ve got a strong connection to Canada. A lot of my family are here. I never actually lived in Canada but my two brothers did. I’m actually the only one of my immediate family that doesn’t have a Canadian citizenship. I was the oldest one so I had already left home by the time mom moved here for a number of years.

“I’ve spent a lot of time here. I absolutely love the outdoors. I’ve got a fishing business up in Terrace (BC), Skeena (Spey Lodge). I really fell in love with the Canadian wilderness. And as someone who is passionate about food the thing that really draws me to BC itself is the abundance of great qualities – fishing, the coastline, the Pacific Ocean, all the mentality towards farming, sustainability and produce out of the Fraser River where we get a lot of our products. Even the wine scene here is great.

“So naturally Vancouver was the natural move to make our first international franchise and it also had a strong connection to Hong Kong. So we knew if the product was well received in Hong Kong it would be well received in Vancouver because it’s kind of a like-minded population.”

Mott 32 Vancouver (Image: Mott 32)

Wood said the brand would love to have a Mott 32 in Toronto, Montreal and all the major gateway cities in Canada. 

“We don’t necessarily go and find locations and then put one there. We wait for the right opportunity to come and then we explore it. I think that’s been one of the successes of Mott 32. We’re not trying to expand. We are presented opportunities and we take the ones that are right, the locations that are right, the spaces that are right,” he said.

“I think a lot of restaurateurs force their concepts overseas . . . One of our strengths is waiting for the right partners, waiting for the right locations and that gives you a more robust restaurant when you do it that way.”

Wood is a leading influence in the food and beverage industry and has been a driver for change in the food and hospitality sector. He co-founded the multi-award-winning Maximal Concepts, which began in 2011 and has been responsible for over 40 different concepts but is best known for its flagship restaurant brand, Mott 32. 

Mario Negris and Martin Moriarty of Marcus & Millichap Canada negotiated the lease deal on behalf of Mott 32. The duo are also representing the brand nationally for any potential future location expansions.

Mott 32 is the most awarded Chinese restaurant in the world and is the first Chinese restaurant brand from Asia to be franchised internationally in eight key gateway cities around the world such as Vancouver, Dubai, Las Vegas, Cebu, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Seoul. 

Mott 32 (Image: Joyce Wang)

The first Mott 32 opened in 2014 in Hong Kong.

“It was one of the boldest concepts we created. We saw a lack of fine dining Chinese in a way that we liked to enjoy it. What I mean is at the time when we opened Mott 32 in Hong Kong, to get a very high calibre Chinese meal, you would end up going to a white table cloth restaurant most likely in a five-star hotel,” said Wood.

“We like lively music. Dark atmosphere. Candle lights. Having a bar is a central piece in a restaurant and we liked different dishes. Different regions of China.”

Wood said Mott 32 broke the mold by applying all those different dining experiences into one place. The company made the move to disrupt the space and it received the buy in from the local community in Hong Kong but he said even more important he got the buy in from his Chinese mother and grandmother.

“Created in Hong Kong, “Mott 32” pays homage to 32 Mott Street in New York, where the city’s first Chinese convenience store opened in 1891. The store served as the nucleus for what is now a vibrant Chinatown in one of the most dynamic cities,” said the brand on its website. “Our Vancouver restaurant is located at the base of the famed Arthur Erickson-designed tower in the Coal Harbour district.

“The provenance of our ingredients is of paramount importance to us as we embrace unique flavours discovered globally. We practice ethical sourcing by using organic and sustainable ingredients, wherever possible, while also working closely with farms to ensure the uncompromising quality of the food our culinary team prepares.

“Our chefs utilize the latest in modern and innovative cooking techniques from around the world to create our dishes, which are principally Cantonese with some Beijing and Szechuan influences. Our food aims to bring the best out of time-honored recipes passed down from generation to generation; it is this particular level of modernity, combined with a respect for tradition, that makes Mott 32 so spectacularly unique.”

Future Mott 32 at the Shangri-la Hotel in Downtown Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Wood is a passionate environmental filmmaker and social entrepreneur, who is involved in multiple marketing and production initiatives through environmental film and media. This includes the world-renowned production “A Plastic Ocean”, one of the most awarded environmental documentaries in 2017, and was described by Sir David Attenborough as “the most important film of our time”. 

His goal is to work on a set of environmental films that will be released over the next few years to highlight the global issues we are facing as well as the solutions. His latest film “The Last Glaciers” co-produced by his media company, Far North Productions, tackles humanity’s greatest challenge, climate change, and was supported by some of the most highly respected scientific institutions globally, including NASA, MIT, INAIGEM, ICIMOD, Arctic Basecamp, GLACIOCLIM, Oxford University, and Climate Outreach.

Awards he has received include the top “40 Hong Kong under 40’s” by Prestige, “Top Financier” by Money Asia, “Hong Kong Living Influencer Award” from Hong Kong Living, and the “Green Warrior Award” from Green is the New Black. He was also selected as an ambassador for the United Nations as the first paraglider, speed flyer, and filmmaker to join UN Environment’s campaign ‘Mountain Heroes’. 

“Due to his passion for the environment, Malcolm has been on the board of several charities. He is actively involved in their various projects, including Plastic Oceans Foundation, Hong Kong Shark Foundation and Skeena Wild. He also founded Meru Projects, a foundation and green fund created to support charities, NGOs and research around technologies that will create a better and greener environment for children with a focus on environmental education,” according to his bio.

“As an avid outdoor enthusiast and conservationist, Malcolm can be found in his spare time scaling mountains or flying from them. He enjoys exploring the mountains with a range of outdoor mountain sports including Speed Riding, Paragliding, Mountaineering, and Para-Alpinism.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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