GBC alum Ravneet Johar enjoys success with new restaurant Barkat in downtown Toronto

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Ravneet Johar (centre) with Barkat staff outside the restaurant

With the skills he developed at George Brown College’s Chef School, Ravneet Johar delivers a modern Indian fine dining experience at his chic new restaurant in downtown Toronto.  

Johar, a 2017 graduate of the Culinary Management program, opened Barkat this summer. The Queen Street West eatery continues to generate buzz earning online features in Streets of Toronto, BlogTO and more. He came up with the concept for Barkat during the height of the pandemic and says he took inspiration from his time working at legendary Toronto eatery Lee Restaurant, owned by the famed Chef Susur Lee, as part of his GBC culinary program externship. 

Johar cited Chef Lee—a pioneer of French and Asian fusion cuisine—when asked how he settled on the Barkat menu. “Maybe because I saw something from Chef Lee that I was very inclined towards,” he said. 

He described his training at GBC and his student work experience at Lee Restaurant as a defining moment in his culinary journey.  

“When I went to the kitchen the first night of my service, it gave me an idea of what I want in my life,” he said.  

Johar is using his success to help others by participating in the upcoming Food Court Social, happening on October 5 at GBC’s Waterfront Campus. The annual event features offerings from top chefs and a selection of cocktail, beer and wine pairings. All proceeds support GBC’s Augmented Education—free programs in construction and culinary skills for people with mental health and/or addiction challenges. 

The journey to restaurant ownership 

Johar’s journey with food began long before he passed through the doors of GBC. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2013, with the intention of running his own restaurant one day.  

His passion for food led him to complete a two-year culinary program in New Delhi, where he then began working as a chef. He built up his skills and experience and discovered new flavours working in hotels in India.  

“It was something in me that I wanted to learn,” he said. “So, I went to a couple of nice five-star hotels, tried different foods, different cultures. The good thing about India is that after every 100 kilometres, your curry changes.” 

He came to GBC to revisit the basics and absorb Western cuisine and culture. While studying, he used every opportunity to experiment with fusing Indian cuisine with ideas and influences he picked up in Toronto. He said George Brown College gave him a broader vision to innovate and experiment.  

After working in more than 20 restaurants, Johar burned out and almost gave up his culinary career. Luckily, his boss at the time had the perfect job to renew his passion for cooking. He was invited to become a film chef, hopping around cities catering film sets and creating prop food.  

Business slowed during the height of the pandemic, and he was stuck at home with a lot of time to think about what to do next. That’s when he decided to open Barkat.  

Advice for future culinary students and chefs 

Johar says the professional networks you start to build in chef school and develop in the field can help with career-changing decisions. And he reminds GBC Chef School students to keep an open mind. 

“You’re in a very good space. You’re in the middle of downtown Toronto. There are a lot of new things happening, so be very open-minded to all concepts,” he said. “Don't worry about your CV; worry about the skills you're learning.” 

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