A prominent member of the Collingwood culinary community will be remembered for being a great father and making great food.
Gareth Carter, owner of Men with Knives Catering, died suddenly on July 1 at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto of a sudden medical emergency. He was 51.
“He laughed a lot. Food and family meant everything. Our whole world was the kitchen and what it brought to our lives and making it full of love,” said Julie Carter, Gareth’s wife and business partner. “Being a father was big for him. He was all about his kids. They defined him more than the food.”
Gareth grew up in Aurora, attending St. Andrew’s College and Aurora High School. His wife, Julie Carter (formerly McDonald), met Gareth at his 30th birthday party.
Two of Julie's three brothers went to school with Gareth at St. Andrew's, so she attended the party with them.
“The birthday party was the big moment. There’s a place (in Toronto) called The Matador which is an all-night place. We ended up there dancing to Brown-Eyed Girl,” she said.
Julie said when she first met Gareth, what drew her to him was his kind nature.
“He’s always sort of been out of the norm,” she said. “He was always a little rough around the edges, but so kind and so warm.”
When Gareth and Julie met, Gareth was working as a grave digger at Highland Memorial Garden in North York. Julie describes him as a storyteller, a family man and a bit mysterious.
“There was lots behind him that people never really knew about,” she said.
About two years after Julie and Gareth met, the duo was offered jobs at a youth hostel in Wales, where Gareth would be working in the dining program. As cooking was something Julie said always made him happy, the couple went to Wales together. Their son, Rhys, was born while the couple was living there.
“We took it. We wanted to see if this is something he would truly enjoy. It was the first time he ever put a chef coat on. After that, there was no turning back,” said Julie.
The couple travelled through the United Kingdom, eventually returning to Collingwood to be reunited with their families, who live in Thornbury and Duntroon. Gareth initially bounced around working at a few local restaurants including Boston Pizza, the Toronto Ski Club, Casey’s Bar and Grill and The North Lodge before deciding to open his own catering company in 2008, Men with Knives.
Four years later, Julie quit her job and the duo have run Men with Knives and their event space The Larder since.
“A lot of the people who work with us now are all from that past,” said Julie. “There were (others) he was looking at working with, but when it came down to it... he funded it himself. I would do all the bookings and the paperwork and he would do all the food and work with the menus. We had these pockets of what we did that complimented each other.”
While Julie and Gareth poured their passion into their business, they made sure to regularly take time for international travel as a family. Their last trip before the pandemic was to Greece.
“As sad as we are, we did a lot of travelling with the kids. There was no waiting for life to start,” said Julie.
When she looks back on their 18 years of marriage, Julie remembers Gareth for his curiosity.
“He loved people being together. It was constant. He had these scratch pads of notes from every restaurant we went to,” she said.
Over the years, Men with Knives supported many community non-profits, including the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle and Home Horizon.
Julie said Gareth’s family and friends are now in the process of looking into starting a non-profit in Gareth’s memory, to be called the Red Hat Foundation.
While the details are still up in the air, Julie said it will pay tribute to the things Gareth cherished most in life.
“It will have to do with food, the community and family,” she said. “He was known as the guy with the red hat.”
The Men with Knives team will continue the business in Gareth’s memory.
“That will probably be his main legacy. The food will continue. They’re a great team,” she said.
A celebration for family and friends will be held on July 29 at The New Farm at 4:30 p.m. More information will follow with consideration for COVID-19 protocols and with more event details including how to attend from a distance.
In lieu of flowers, a trust has been set up to support Gareth’ children, Rhys and Skye Carter, as they embark on their own paths of learning, adventure and love.
Friends may visit Gareth’s online Book of Memories at fawcettfuneralhomes.com.