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Toronto prepped to pamper for film fest

TORONTO - Discreet dinner reservations are rolling in, personal shoppers are prepping, and hotels and spas are setting the mood.

TORONTO - Discreet dinner reservations are rolling in, personal shoppers are prepping, and hotels and spas are setting the mood.

Oh, and can someone put a private plane on standby in case a certain VIP wants his favourite meat flown in again?

Yes, it's that time of year again, when celebrity hotspots prepare for the onslaught of stars and their special requests during the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday.

"There's everything from baking their special cookie, to importing the caviar that they specifically want delivered to the hotel, to fresh bread that they specifically like. Anything's possible," says Rhonda Chan-Maloney, chef concierge at the five-star Hazelton Hotel and spa in the upscale Yorkville neighbourhood.

"We've shut down stores to do private shopping if they needed an outfit to their gala opening. We've also brought the store to them."

Adds general manager David Mounteer: "We have someone who loves Montreal smoked meat and we've flown in at the very last minute Montreal smoked meat so they could have a smoked-meat sandwich.

"And there is one star who remains unnamed, but a very famous musician who comes quite often ... and he has a specific type of cookie he likes so it's in the kitchen.

"The kitchen knows the recipe and exactly the ratio of raisins and every time he comes ... we have the cookies ready to roll because it's always at three o'clock in the morning when he wants his raisin cookies."

Some festival stars have also made some rather unusual requests at the downtown, five-star Hotel Le Germain Toronto. The venue is an official TIFF partner and hosts film gala dinners and parties into the wee hours of the morning during the movie marathon.

"One celebrity from a warm climate area has us keep the room heated to 35 Celsius in September. It took three additional heaters but was accomplished," says general manager Paul de La Durantaye.

"We once had a request for an armed body guard. This being illegal in Ontario, we opted for a body guard with big arms," he jokes. "The guest felt safe!"

The hotel also once equipped a guest room with additional power as per the request of a popular band that wanted to jam out in their suite.

"They were kind enough to respect appropriate hours so their neighbours didn't mind being serenaded by the recognizable music," says de La Durantaye.

"We have staff that have connections. We'll do everything we can to try to accommodate any request — as long as it's legal."

At star-favourite restaurant Bistro 990, they usually hire 10 extra service staff members during the festival.

"Can I describe it is chaotic?" general manager Victor Magalhaes says with a laugh. "Chaotic in the good sense, in the sense that everything runs smooth but definitely the numbers of guests we receive per day is substantial."

A-listers who've dined at Bistro 990 include the Coen brothers, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and Nicole Kidman.

Magalhaes says the restaurant is stocking up on wine the stars have enjoyed there during past festivals.

"Some of them, they have a taste for the classic Italians, for the Borolos or ... some of them they have a taste for the Bordeauxs."

Designer department store Holt Renfrew, which also has a spa, says they have staff on standby 24 hours a day during the festival in case any last-minute wardrobe, styling or pampering requests come in.

"Celebrities come to us, really, throughout the year, there just seems to be this real influx coming in September," says image consultant and spokesperson Christina McDowell.

"And they do travel in very last-minute and the requests sometimes come very last-minute, so it's about being ready and we certainly are that."

Many of those requests involve red-carpet attire, which stars can try on in private dressing suites accessed by a secret elevator and equipped with items picked out by personal shoppers.

The suites also have makeup artists, champagne and food, if desired.

"Everything gets done there. They don't have to sort of go around the store and do it," says McDowell.

"And then we have a car pick them up and off they go."

 
 
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