BY CLAIRE ZULKEY
After Antoine Mindjimba, ’12 (EXP-17), traveled the world playing professional hockey for French, Canadian, and US teams, he found Toronto an easy place to land. “Toronto’s a really international city, extremely welcoming. If you want to have a really good experience in a large North American city, with the dream of North America and the flavor of the world, move to Toronto,” said Mindjimba, who is an associate partner at Ernst and Young.
Mario Schlener, ’09 (EXP-14), is originally from Austria, and finds Toronto diverse in spirit as well as in population. “It’s not, ‘You have to adjust to my cultural environment,’” said Schlener. “Here you don’t feel that. Everybody speaks English, but nobody cares if you speak perfectly or not; everybody’s an immigrant.”
The Toronto Experts
Tatenda Manjengwa, ’16 (EXP-21), Vice President of Global Investment and Corporate Banking Strategy and Business Management, Bank of Montreal
Antoine Mindjimba, ’12 (EXP-17), Associate Partner, Ernst and Young
Mario Schlener, ’09 (EXP-14), Partner, Ernst and Young
Jessica van der Vooren, ’14, Manager of Strategy and Operations Consulting, Deloitte Canada
Nisha Wadhwani, ’15, Associate Partner, Bellwether Education Partners
Tatenda Manjengwa, ’16 (EXP-21), vice president of global investment and corporate banking strategy and business management at the Bank of Montreal, relocated to Toronto to explore new opportunities. “When I first moved here, it was incredibly difficult to build a network from scratch. The alumni were essential,” he said. He landed his role at the Bank of Montreal after reaching out to a Booth alumnus he had met for coffee to hear more about the financial services landscape in Toronto. Manjengwa continues to socialize and work closely with his Booth network.
Jessica van der Vooren, ’14, manager of strategy and operations consulting at Deloitte Canada, also found the Booth network key to getting oriented in Toronto—while she grew up near the city, she only recently moved to Toronto itself. For example, she has stayed in touch with some alumnae she met at a women’s tea at the Fairmont Hotel.
You have a tremendous amount of new research coming out of Canada focusing on A.I., which drives the economy dramatically. That touches every industry.
The vibe at recent Booth alumni events, which have included drinks at local hot spots, ugly-sweater holiday parties, and a performance at the Opera Pub, is friendly and low key. Nisha Wadhwani, ’15, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, said that even her husband, who didn’t go to Booth, enjoys the club’s events. “For Michael, it’s nice to have a conversation with smart, ambitious people—and it doesn’t all have to be intellectual conversation. It’s an easy night out. You don’t have to be ‘on.’” That lends itself to more laid-back events. “It’s not about demonstrating that you’re super smart; it’s genuinely sharing information,” said Mindjimba.
Finance and consulting make up the bulk of the business world in Toronto, although tech looms large, said Schlener, who is a partner at Ernest and Young. “You have a tremendous amount of new research coming out of Canada focusing on A.I., which drives the economy dramatically. That touches every industry.”
No matter the industry, it’s not unusual for people to leave work at 5 p.m. or take off Fridays in the summer to spend time outside. “If you think about work-life balance, particularly in terms of raising kids—we still have a very well-balanced city here,” said Schlener. Toronto is an ideal place for those looking for a cosmopolitan city they can actually live in: “It’s where you can build a life instead of just making a career.” Plus, Toronto is much more affordable than many other big North American cities. “When we moved here, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised by how affordable certain things are,” said Wadhwani. With their newfound surplus, she said, “We both started playing instruments—he plays piano and I play bass guitar.”
For alumni who need to travel, New York and Chicago are only a 90-minute flight away. In fact, the reason many Booth alumni like Toronto is that it reminds them of home. “I liked Chicago because it felt like Toronto—and now Toronto because it feels like Chicago,” said van der Vooren. “It’s very neighborhood oriented, with incredibly friendly people who make you feel welcome.” Both towns, too, experience a summertime where its residents turn outdoors to soak up every warm day, knowing it won’t last long. “Of course, there is the weather,” admitted Mindjimba. “But winter is not too long.”
The Best Place for Trendy Drinks: à toi
Mindjimba recommended asking to see the champagne lounge at the restaurant Coffee Oysters Champagne in order to discover à toi, the attached speakeasy, where you can enjoy cocktails from an extensive menu in a chic 1930’s Paris–themed atmosphere.
The St. Lawrence Market complex is more than two centuries old—Booth alumni recommend it for a local lunch option.
The Best Local Lunch: St. Lawrence Market
This market complex is over two centures old, and Booth alumni recommended it as the place to go if you want to take a quick walk or grab a meal and enjoy Toronto culture. “Carousel Bakery’s peameal (Canadian) bacon on a bun is the go-to choice, but there are a lot of other delicious options as well,” said van der Vooren. “All the best butchers and the freshest fish are there,” said Schlener. “It’s a beautiful market, and foodwise, it’s the highest quality. That’s somewhere people hang out on Saturdays.”
A Great Way to Entertain Clients: Live Sports
“Toronto is a sports city,” said Schlener. After the Raptors brought home the 2019 National Basketball Association championship, it may be harder than in previous years to score tickets for a game, but there are also the Blue Jays (baseball), the Maple Leafs (hockey), and the Canadian Football League. Not a sports fan? You can also check out up-and-coming comedians at the Second City. Toronto is also a destination for film buffs each September during the Toronto International Film Festival.
Jessica van der Vooren recommends driving up to Algonquin Park in Ontario to hop in a canoe and experience classic Ontario scenery and wildlife.
The Best Place to Take the Family: Natural Wonders
Schlener compared the beach-volleyball-friendly sand beaches at Ashbridge’s Bay Park to those in Santa Monica, California. Want to escape the city fully? “If you have one and a half hours, you’re absolutely in the wilderness if you go up north,” he said. “That’s something I’m used to growing up in the Alps.” Van der Vooren recommended hopping into a canoe at Algonquin Park in Ontario. “It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s classic Ontario scenery and wildlife—and a great excuse to stop for sticky buns and shortbread cookies at Henrietta’s Pine Bakery in Dwight on the drive up!” And if you have another day to spend exploring? One of the seven natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls, is only a couple of hours away.
The Best Coffee Shop for Quiet Work: Balzac’s
“Toronto has the best coffee shops of any city I’ve lived in,” declared Wadhwani, who coffee-shop hops frequently since she works from home. “I usually start at Balzac’s in the Distillery District, which is in a beautiful historic building and has plenty of comfy space and power outlets.” Other choices include the nearby Arvo, where customers can catch live music on the weekends, and Rooster Coffee House on King Street, or maybe Strangelove Coffee or Tango Palace.
The Best Place for a Working Lunch: Cactus Club Cafe
Mindjimba and Wadhwani recommended the Cactus Club Cafe on Adelaide Street West in the financial district. “It’s got good cocktails and a nice rooftop, and the tuna stack is really yummy,” said Wadhwani.