Healthy food, fast! Zoomer ‘s Executive Editor, Vivian Vassos spoke with renowned Vancouver based Chef, Vikram Vij to discuss his new partnership with healthy dining spot Hopscotch, at the grand opening event in Toronto.

The foodies at Hopscotch, a healthy “fast-casual” concept counter-service restaurant has opened its latest location on Toronto’s Queen Street West. The founders, Wyatt and Aiden Booth, have enlisted the help of Vancouver’s own Indian food guru and Top Chef Canada culinary star Vikram Vij, to help spread the healthy-conscious word. Food can be fast and healthy, and chef Vij has created three flavourful, Indian-inspired recipes to celebrate the Queen Street opening of the advocate of locally sourced and sustainable ingredients from all over North America. The menu is rich with organic salads and rice- and quinoa-based dishes as well as smoothies.

The recipes, with such cheeky titles as Curry On, Beets by Vij (a vegetarian dish, above) and Butter Days (below), are inspired both by the superstar chef, who has a superstar personality to match, and the ingredients of the dishes, local and sustainable, for which Vij is renowned in his own cuisine. We spent an evening with chef Vij at the pre-party opening of Hopscotch, to talk healthy, sustainable food and how it should be part of our everyday diet.

But we’ve also discovered that Hopscotch is a high-flying business type’s a second act. After 30 years in big-brand food/retail, including most recently as vice president of operations for Starbucks Coffee Canada, Ward McKay has joined Hopscotch as its Chief Operating Officer. With three locations on the go here in Toronto, with more to come in Alberta, we spoke to McKay at the opening, (he’s here with me, below, and chef Vikram Vij) about this going concern, switching gears mid-career, retirement and the world of working with the millennial generation.

Vivian Vassos: Have you always had a career in the food industry?
Ward McKay: I have over 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry with a passion for world-class customer service and developing talented teams that deliver results.

VV:  You came from industry giant, Starbucks, to a family owned startup. What was the appeal of joining Hopscotch?

WM: The appeal of Hopscotch was the opportunity to join an exciting, health conscious and environmentally responsible startup that is poised for rapid growth. I also like the fact that Hopscotch is committed to giving back to schools in every community we are part of.

VV: Do you feel that the young founders are open to mentoring? Have you offered them any advice that might not be considered in your job description?

WM: From the beginning the founders, Wyatt and Aiden Booth, were open to any feedback and advice. This was very important to me. As a young growing company, we continually run in to situations that are not part of our job descriptions.

VV:  You’ve shifted gears from power position at a powerful, international brand at a time in your life when you might start to think about winding down. What pushed you to make a change?

WM: Working at a large international brand has its advantages, but the scale of any large organization can slow the decision-making process. With Hopscotch, we are able to put infrastructure and systems in place and yet still remain very nimble.

VV: Do you ever think about retirement? And if so, what does it look like?

WM: Retirement is still a long way off for me. I really like working in a young and dynamic environment, which in term keeps me feeling young and energized.