What inspired you to start cooking?
I always remembered food to be an important part of my childhood. My mother always had a meal ready for us. Everyday something homemade and hot was on the table. Like many of us who grew up like that, I remember the comforting feelings that brought me. I think many good Chefs can relate to this. Her meals were simple, and nothing flashy but they conveyed a mothers love. After she passed I felt someone needed to fill in for that so I started spending more of my time in the kitchen with my Aunts and Grandmother.
When & where did you start?
I was about 15 years old when I first got a kitchen job. Just a small Burger shop by my house, but the guy there did everything from scratch. Learned a whole lot about kitchen operations, knife skills, cleaning and hard work. Never met a guy with that type of love and passion for what he did. By the time I graduated I went to Humber College Culinary program, and got a job at Delta Meadowvale as an apprentice cook.
What’s the first thing you learned to cook really well?
A proper stock and soups. You couldn’t move much up in kitchen ranks if you couldn’t show the basics of cooking & flavor building. My Chef always asked to taste your stocks/soups, show a proper cooked steak and cook a perfect egg to the apprentices
What is your favourite thing to cook?
Pasta all day everyday. Million different ways to make it, shape it, sauce and finish it. And always good and comforting to eat.
Who is your greatest culinary inspiration?
Right now I would say Alex Atala. Love the guy’s philosophy not only on food, culture but how to live, and work with nature.
What did you have for breakfast today?
2 eggs on toast.
Is there any food that you won’t even try?
If you asked me 5 years ago I would have said BALUT. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. I ended up trying it, yes it’s as disgusting as it sounds, but I did it so now I don’t think I’d be afraid to try much these days.
What is the best meal you have ever had? And what about the worst?
Best meal I ever had was in Vegas at Michael Mina’s Deep Blue Restaurant. I remember everything about the meal from the ingredients to the techniques. Just the thought of Tandoori Octopus was cool ( made in a real Tandoor Oven), but to this day it’s still the best Octopus I’ve ever had.
Nothing comes to mind with regards to the worst meal, but that in itself is probably the point. The worst meals are probably the ones that are easily forgettable.
If you have a day off, do you cook at home?
Yep if i’m feeling up to it of course. I like having family and friends come by for good old sit down dinner.
Burlington restaurant you haven’t tried yet but want to?
Pepe and Lela’s. Been meaning to try it out for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Even talking about it now, craving some fresh Tacos done right.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give a young, aspiring chef?
2 things: Be a “sponge” and skill only comes from beating on your craft day in and day out. Absorb every inch of information you can not just from the chef, but the cooks, sous chefs, dishwasher, owners, waiters/waitresses, hostess etc. Great Chefs see the whole picture, not just the dish in front of them. And no skill develops without Practice, Practice Practice.
If you could cook for anyone, past or present, who would it be for and what would you make?
Anthony Bourdain for sure. Not sure what I would cook and not sure he would even care much what I made, but I would love to imagine the awesome conversations we would have.