Toronto restaurateur Peter Oliver, who started with a sandwich shop in midtown Toronto in the 70s and went on to become a recognizable name around the city’s restaurant scene, has passed away.
Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality, the company which bears his name, announced Oliver’s death in an online post Thursday.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved leader and co-founder of Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality (O&B), Peter Oliver,” the post read.
The company said Oliver was diagnosed with late-stage cancer over a year ago in May 2021, “a challenge he faced head-on with strength and grace.”
“Throughout his treatment, he maintained a positive spirit for which he will be forever remembered. He died peacefully and with a grateful heart on Wednesday, September 21 with his children and wife Maureen by his side.”
Oliver was born in Cape Town, South Africa and moved to Montreal in 1967 to attend McGill University.
He had a successful career as a stockbroker and in commercial real estate, but decided to make a career change in 1978.
That was when he opened his first restaurant in midtown Toronto, a small sandwich shop called Oliver’s Old Fashioned Bakery, located at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.
He began a partnership with Chef Michael Bonacini in 1993 with the opening of Jump Restaurant in the Financial District. The partnership became Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality.
Today the company has restaurants all over Canada — including the Oliver & Bonacini Grill locations — and some of Toronto’s best-known venues, as well as a catering business.
Restaurants in the company’s portfolio include Canoe, Canteen, Babel, Luma and R&D.
“Peter always recognized and appreciated his collaboration with Michael as being fateful. They were a team that worked well together, each bringing synergistic contributions to the company,” Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality said in its post.
In addition to the hospitality business, Oliver also founded The Leacock Foundation in 1992 after meeting Nelson Mandela in Toronto. The foundation raises money to help disadvantaged kids in Toronto and South Africa.
Oliver is survived by his wife, Maureen, four children and nine grandchildren.