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Toronto restaurant Windup Bird Cafe offers literary-culinary fusion

Sang Kim is an ambitious man of many talents and pursuits, including fiction writing (A Dream Called Laundry, Ballad of a Karaoke Cowboy, Woody Allen Ate My Kimchi, and the Gloria Vanderbilt  Exile Short Story Prize  winning “When John Lennon Died”), performing TEDx talks, and running his restaurants (Seoul Food Co. and Yakitori Bar). With his new endeavour, the Windup Bird Café at College and Borden streets in Toronto, he provides both locally sourced fine dining and extensive literary programming.

MM1_5351[4] The restaurant, named after Haruki Murakami’s novel The Windup Bird Chronicle, asserts itself as an arts and culture hub as much as a dining locale.

“I’ve owned a number of restaurants over the years – seven, in fact. I was getting really sick and tired of just opening restaurants for the sake of making business with food and beverage,” Kim says. “I’ve always had the idea of taking a restaurant format and really expressing all of my passions, which include not only literature, but the work that I do [in the areas of] childhood poverty and hunger and the culinary arts.”

In business for less than a year, the café has hosted authors such as Toronto poet laureate George Elliott Clarke, Anne Michaels, and Greg Gatenby, and become a go-to location for book launches: Karen Mulhallen launches Fishing Poems (Black Moss Press) there on Nov. 3, and Susan Swan will be celebrating the paperback edition of her novel, The Western Light (Cormorant Books), in December. Upcoming events include a night of readings with the four Italian-Canadian Bressani Prize winners.

Best Canadian Poetry reading seriesRegular monthly events (which offer a prix-fixe menu) include the Best Canadian Poetry Reading series; Parental Guidance Not Required, where “prodigies” ages 12  18 read their work to an audience; Writes of Passage, which teams writers 65 and older with writers 25 and younger to collaborate on a piece; Kid-chen confidential, where kids create recipes to eventually be compiled into a cookbook; and Cook/Book, where authors cook a dish of their choice while Kim interviews them.

Sang Kim and George Elliott Clarke

Sang Kim and Toronto poet laureate George Elliott Clarke

“Part of the really beautiful creative challenge for us when we generate these programs, and also when we do things like book launches, is we ask writers if we can excavate the work itself and come up with a format where the meal touches the content of the work, or the approach to the work,” Kim says. “It’s been beautiful; it’s been a great experience.”

Programming information can be found at windupbird.ca.