Well, it’s been over a YEAR since we featured our last Successful Brit in Toronto but today we’re back with a bang. It’s James Sharman, owner of Sharman’s Proper Pies, host at DAZN and Footy Prime the Podcast.
What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?
It’s funny, I have a vivid memory of standing in the playground at my secondary school in Tunbridge Wells, U.K. lining up ahead of some GCSE, it must have been spring 1990, and thinking to myself how much I was going to miss England, and that as excited as I was to move to Canada, I’d only spend a couple of years there, and then head back home. Thirty-one years later, and here we are.
To be honest, I probably would have moved back home if I had stayed in Mississauga, but after moving to Toronto for university in 1992, I found my new home. Originally it was a family move … my parents actually met in Toronto in the ’60s, had my sister here, then returned to England for two decades. It took a while to convince the country it should let the Sharmans back — but in 1990 we got the approval.
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?
I went to Ryerson University to study Media Arts, and just as I was graduating Headline Sports (later to rebrand as theScore) was launching. I interviewed for an internship, during which I was asked if I followed football? Of course I did, but admittedly my accent helped me enormously.
A couple of years later I was producing and anchoring all the network’s international sports coverage. It allowed me to establish a brand that has been helpful in launching my latest project (along with my wife, Toni) Sharman’s Proper Pies. So basically, in no way was I hindered, although I was never going to be given a chance to report on hockey or baseball with THIS accent!
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
I love how multicultural Toronto is; as a foodie this allows me to enjoy any cuisine from any part of the world at any time. Without doubt, Toronto is a world-class destination for food. I enjoy the various cultural identities, be it Greektown, Little Italy or Spadina, a small city that feels so much bigger because of this.
I also like Torontonians. I know we get a bad rap across the nation, but we’re OK, we have a decent sense of humour and are relatively approachable.
As for the worst aspect? The traffic is diabolical, it is a broken infrastructure, public transport is poor, and can we please make an effort to spruce up the lakefront? A few restaurants on the water would be nice!
Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?
I’ve always believed when you move to a new place, try and vibe with the locals, which is what I do … that said, working in the footy world for so many years means I have a solid foundation of Brit friends and acquaintances, it’s tough to escape them actually ;).
And more recently, moving into the food space, a food space based in the traditions of British pies means rarely a day goes by that I don’t have a good chat with some weird accent.
As for recommendations? I hear there is a fantastic place called Sharman’s Proper Pies at 1972 Danforth Ave. and 160 Baldwin St. I always had good times at Scallywags, often despite England losing a huge match though. So sad it has closed down.
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
As I alluded to earlier, I never anticipated staying so long in Canada, but three decades have raced by, I have a Canadian wife, and a Canadian daughter, for all intents and purposes I am Canadian.
It really is a wonderful place to live, with the best advice I could give being: don’t compare it to where you come from, accept it for all it is. If you do that, you will fall in love with the country, and Toronto is a great place to begin that journey.
Thanks James! Did you mention you also have a pie shop? For those who want to contact James here’s his Twitter account.