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The science of good food

The science of good food

A "sense of duality" balances this grad's day job as an engineer with his sideline as a restauranteur.
[photo of Marc Lukacs]Marc Lukacs, Sc’94, PhD’99

Marc Lukacs, Sc’94, PhD’99, isn’t your text-book engineer. By his own admission, he’s a man in touch with what he calls “a sense of duality.”

This Montreal-born and -bred engineer, who by day works on ultrasound prototypes for the pre-clinical ultrasound market, wouldn’t call himself a “foodie.” But that hasn’t stopped him from opening, co-owning and helping to run one of Toronto’s most unique, Latin American food hotspots, Arepa Café.

Marc is a Research Associate at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where high-tech hardware development is the name of the game. However, after hours he helps his partner Eduardo Lee run the Venezuelan arepera.

A what? An arepera is a meeting place; it can be a snack bar, like many found in the Venzualian capital of Caracas, or it can be a sleek and welcoming café like Marc’s version, one where diners can bite into Venezuela’s favourite comfort food—the arepa.

Sandwiched between a corn meal masa disc, you’ll find shredded, marinated beef, chicken salad with avocado,  chorizo, or scrambled eggs--to name just a few of the arepa choices. It’s a taste of Venezuelan urbanity in the heart of Toronto’s Queen Street West.

Marc’s business partner Lee, an environmental designer who created the modern space, hails from Caracas. Marc feels good about what the two of them have been able accomplish. “I help to define what Venezuelan Urbanity means by embracing the culture and history of the Arepa in a modern contemporary environment within downtown Toronto,” he says. “How much more Canadian can you get?”

The Arepa Café has drawn positive reviews from food writers and critics alike, who have embraced it as a welcome addition to the GTA’s vibrant culinary landscape. “Eating is such a basic need, and it’s nice to be around people who haven’t lost touch with that and who value preserving the sensuality of the experience,” adds Marc.

As for his time at Queen’s, he says it shaped how he thinks today. “Higher education is supposed to be about questioning the norms and to be free-thinking. Some of us have decided to take our experiences and venture into the food industry. So, perhaps it is a sense of adventure and a desire to communicate and share experiences with people that has lead me here,” he says.

This “here” is a completely different world for an engineer who studied physics and develops new technologies. “The universe is full of dualities and entanglements,” says Marc. “I see myself as an expression of that, and after dealing with the details and minutia of my life day and night, I’m at my best when I am in touch with that sense of duality and interconnectedness.”

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-3 cover]