fred vanvleet

Fred VanVleet visits two Toronto area restaurants in his new docuseries and it gets emotional

The Toronto Raptors’ own Fred VanVleet is turning the spotlight right back onto the fans with a new docuseries that premiered this week featuring favourite community restaurants from across the country, including two Toronto area restaurants.

VanVleet launched the five-part docuseries called “Made for This” in partnership with DoorDash and Uninterrupted, the athlete empowerment brand founded by LeBron James & Maverick Carter. On this cross-Canada culinary adventure, VanVleet brings viewers along with him to Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver to visit many beloved community restaurants, highlighting how they’ve been able to thrive despite the various challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.

You may recognize some of the Toronto and GTA-based businesses he sits down with, including Black-owned Aunty Lucy’s Burgers, the COVID-era pop-up turned Annex neighbourhood mainstay that offers classic comfort foods like juicy burger combos, fried chicken and grilled cheese in addition to Ghanaian faves like joloff rice and fried plantains.

VanVleet also ventures just outside of the city to introduce viewers to 12-year veteran of the Whitby food scene, Signature Indian Cuisine. This spot offers hungry patrons a wide array of aromatic Indian favourites like butter chicken, tender chicken tikka and a huge selection of vegetarian, vegan and dairy free options.

No stranger to overcoming challenges to achieve success himself, VanVleet aims to shine a light on local restaurants that have struggled over the past 20 months, navigating forced closures and capacity limits that have afflicted the restaurant industry for the better part of 2020 and into 2021.

You might get a little teary-eyed watching his interactions with owner of Aunt Lucy’s Burgers, Chieff Bosompra, and Signature Indian Cuisine owners Deepak and Diana Chadha. Part of the docuseries involves VanVleet donating $10,000 to each restaurant with Doordash, and Bosompra and the Chadhas are both floored to hear it.

“This was my way of giving back to my community and my country . . . it’s dope to kind of carry that pride around, especially through this business,” Bosompra tells VanVleet in the series, referring to the impact of opening Aunt Lucy’s after immigrating from Ghana to Toronto.

“I’m from a small town called Rockford and I wear that with me everywhere I go,” VanVleet shares. “It means a lot to me, kind of makes up who I am. To see that in somebody else, I want to give you respect and love for that, that’s dope.”

The Raptors point guard discusses working with family with the Chadhas, and their candid conversation is definitely inspiring. “The restaurant . . . requires a lot of time, a lot of effort, especially when you’re starting up from scratch, and the motivation and inspiration you get from your partner is what keeps you going,” Deepak Chadha says.

VanVleet congratulates the couple, and when he announces the $10k donation, his smile and laugh is pretty infectious.

The limited, five-part series is available to stream now on YouTube.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO