UPDATED! I’ve gotten a lot of questions about food as well as everything else over the years, so I did what anyone else with tons of time on his hands would do: I started an FAQ page.
If you have something you want to know send it along and maybe it will be on this page.
What type of cuisine is your specialty?
My primary specialty is southern-style Italian cooking, with a strong emphasis on comfort food (the meals we all know and love) but I’m also partial to other styles of cooking including all regions of Italy, seafood, classic American and Canadian.
What type of food do you enjoy the most?
Impossible to pick just one! I’d say my favorites include some traditional French (because that’s what I learned), classic American as well as barbecue, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Seafood, Sushi and Japanese, Thai and contemporary Canadian.
Why do some people call you the “rock-star chef”?
It’s gotta be the hair. (Or the Converse and hockey jerseys. Rockstars still wear that stuff, right?) It could also be because I do things my way in the kitchen. I make my own rules and cook the food that I think others will enjoy. I don’t follow trends, I don’t believe in fads and I believe in a very simple way of life which is “work to live” (instead of “live to work).
Basically I got tired of doing things the way other people said they should be done. For too long I followed too many rules that other people had put in place. I gave up on jobs that left an empty feeling in my stomach and branched out to do something that I wanted to do which became cooking.
What are some “must have” ingredients you always have on hand in your kitchen?
Fresh garlic, chives, Italian parsley, cream, butter, onions, pasta, tomatoes (canned and fresh), chicken and/or fish, milk and espresso coffee
Who are some chefs that you look to as inspiration or role models?
I don’t really believe in role models. I believe you should be your own person because in life, others can fail you, but you’ll never fail yourself. However, that being said I admire (in no particular order) Anthony Bourdain, Christine Cushing, Laura Calder, Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, Michael Smith and Pasquale Carpino for what they have done.
Why do you shop at restaurant supply shops?
I find the quality of the products there to be really good. If something is designed to withstand the abuse it will get in a restaurant kitchen, then chances are it will last almost forever in a household kitchen.
What brand of cookware do you personally use and recommend?
I use All-Clad in my home kitchen. I’ve been using their products for about ten years now and I find they are the best in the business. I like their design, their look and their functionality. I also use them when I teach and for cooking and food demos. I feel most comfortable with them as they can go from stove-top to oven to table.
Do you watch the food-related reality shows?
No, I don’t. Mainly because I find that those shows are produced for entertainment purposes rather than showcasing the food itself. They focus only the heavily scripted drama. Although I do occasionally enjoy Iron Chef America and Restaurant Makeover, however I don’t know if they fall into the traditional reality show category.
Is there anything real about shows like “MasterChef”, “Top Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen”?
If there is anything real about them, I haven’t seen it. Those shows are designed for entertainment on major networks and to cash in on the popularity of celebrity chefs. In the real world, life isn’t like that. There’s no time for surprised facial expressions (that the camera never seem to miss), ridiculous challenges and way everyone acts when being filmed. Those shows, like all “reality” shows, are heavily scripted and have per-determined winners.
I’m guessing we will never see a FoodFella reality show
Don’t hold your breath.
What are your favorite “restaurant cities” ?
Easily Toronto is one of the best, followed by (in no particular order) New York City (providing you stay away from the tourist and celebrity restaurants), Vancouver, Montreal, Buffalo (yes, the Buffalo. Plenty of awesome, non-chain and non-tourist restaurants there… you just have to look) Cleveland, Ottawa, Philadelphia and Chicago.
What’s with the Converse and how many pairs do you have?
I got my first pair of Chuck Taylor High-Top Converse a few years ago and they were just so comfortable. I then found out they come in different colors too, so I started collecting them. It kind of became my thing. I currently have over a dozen pairs.
So is there going to be a FoodFella restaurant in the near future?
I hate to say anything is for sure because in life, everything changes – even the best laid plans. But if you’re looking for an answer, I would be inclined to say “yes”. The real question remains though, and that is “how soon will it happen?” and that I can’t answer right now simply because I don’t know. But without giving too much away, there are plans in the works and hopefully everyone will enjoy it. (And no, it won’t be called “FoodFella’s”, just in case you were wondering.)
As a professionally trained chef, how can you say you eat at fast-food and chain restaurants?
Nowhere is it written that I have to like a certain type of cooking or furthermore, can’t eat somewhere because I went to culinary school. Yes, like many chefs and food lovers, I have an appreciation for homemade, fresh and local cuisine. But sometimes I crave something be it from Taco Bell, Famous Dave’s or White Castle. I eat what I like and what I want. That doesn’t make me any less of a professional or a chef.
Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
None that I’m aware of. I live vicariously through my brother who has six tattoos.
For a stove: gas or electric?
I prefer gas, but I’ve been using a lot of electric as well these days. It’s a personal preference and while many say that gas is better (and I do love it) you can make a fine meal on an electric stove too.
Your tomato sauce is amazing. How can I get some more of it?
First off, thank you. Check my Twitter for more information on when new batches are made.
Do you consider yourself a “foodie”?
No. I’ve always hated that term. I’m a chef, a food lover, a food enthusiast, whatever you want… but I don’t like to be called a “foodie”. I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly almost everyone who likes food, watches the Food Network and takes pictures of their food is suddenly an “expert” and thus a foodie.
How do I find a good espresso/cappuccino maker?
Go to specialty stores. Try to find a place that sells more than one brand. Ask a lot of questions and try the coffee! You’re going to spend upwards of $500 or more on a good quality machine, the least the salesperson can do is show you how it works and let you try the product.
Is it true that cooking with olive oil is bad for you?
There have been recent studies that suggested heated olive oil — especially extra virgin olive oil — isn’t good for you and that olive oil shouldn’t be used for cooking. But look at one of the oldest races on the planet… Italians have been using olive oil for generations and so far, everything seems alright.
That being said, I wouldn’t actually cook with extra virgin olive oil. I would (and most always do) use regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is more flavorful (and more expensive) and is better used as a finisher to a meal rather than heated up just to soften garlic and onions.
Where does the name “FoodFella” come from?
The name takes its inspiration from the movie “Goodfellas” which happens to be one of my favorite films of all time. My wife came up with the FoodFella name one night and it just stuck. The font that is used in the logo is inspired by the font used for the title and branding of The Godfather movies.
What’s the deal with the hockey jerseys?
Much like the Converse, the collection started with one… then came another and another. I currently have about 20 jerseys from various hockey teams, but in all fairness during the summer, I switch to baseball jerseys.
How do I cut onions without crying?
I hate to say it, but there doesn’t seem to be a way. As one of my chefs once told me “that’s what a prep cook is for.” But since not everyone has the luxury of a full kitchen brigade, I’ll tell you this much: I’ve tried all the tricks (holding a match between your teeth, open window, strong fan, onion goggles) but nothing really seems to work. The best you can hope for is a fresh, sweet onion (the older they are, the more ‘ripe’ they become and thus more potent to your eyes. Or try a food processor.
The most annoying food-related thing you can think of?
People who talk with their mouths full. Whatever it is you have to say, can wait until you are finished chewing and have swallowed whatever is in your mouth.
Butter or margarine?
Butter… all the way. Margarine is just solidified cheap oil when you think about it. There are healthier options in the margarine family out there, but butter is better. If you’re concerned about being super healthy, use less or use unsalted butter. As an interesting alternative, if you’re looking for a topping for your bread, try extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Best food to eat on the public transit?
There is no such thing because nobody should be eating on a bus, streetcar or subway. I can’t think of anything worse than a subway car full of people who have to smell whatever it is some guy (or girl) brought on board with them.
With all the hockey and baseball jerseys, do you have any favorite teams?
I have far more jerseys than I do favorite teams, but my personal favorites are: (Hockey) Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Senators, Sabres, Devils, Flyers and (Baseball) Blue Jays, Indians, Mets, Phillies and Expos
What kind of music does a “Rockstar Chef” listen to?
I like a lot of different kinds of music really. Classic Rock, 80’s and 90’s and even some of today’s so-called “best music”. I even like some classic Hip-Hop (back in the day, we called it “rap music”). I guess it depends what I’m in the mood for though. But you can be sure of one thing; you’ll never hear Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber’s music on my playlists.
Food trucks are all the rage right now. Will we ever see a FoodFella truck?
The idea has certainly come up more than once and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. While my focus right now is culinary consultation and menu development, I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a truck. There are a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot red tape to deal with when operating a mobile food truck and a lot of commitment involved as well (you must be part of the process 100% or it won’t work) and I think it would be fun. But at this very moment in time, there are no certain plans for a FoodFella Food Truck to roll out any time soon.
If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be?
If we’re talking “living or dead” then I’m going to have to go with Johnny Carson. If it’s just “living” then that’s an easy answer… my wife.