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Hierarchy in the Kitchen

 

As owner and executive chef of The Harbord Room in Toronto, Cory Vittello has fulfilled a dream that he has had since he was little.

“I always wanted to open a small, more intimate, casual, fun restaurant, as opposed to fine dining,” he said. “A place where the servers are casual, friendly, and engaging. I think the trend is going to more casual honest places where you can get a good meal, sit at the bar, listen to loud music, and have fun.” 

Vittello thinks his desire to be a chef comes from the fact that his family never had time to sit together for a meal. 

“Coming from a big sports family, we were all rushing out of the house at 5 p.m. to all different corners of the city. My mom's primary focus was to put a healthy meal on the table and quickly get us to where we needed to be,” he said. “I had developed a taste for good food when I was quite young; for I saw the need to alleviate my mom of this duty and take on family meals.” 

At the age of 15, he decided he wanted to be a chef and started working at some of the best restaurants in the Brantford area. It was there that he developed his own style and learned the tricks of the trade. 

“Ten years ago, when I first started cooking, it wasn’t a matter of using local or seasonal it was just at any given time you’d buy the best product from wherever in the world,” he said. “Diners are savvy and know what they are eating and where it’s from. They know the producers. You can’t have a restaurant today without a local line of food.” 

His secret for keeping a happy dining establishment is in letting the staff have fun. He calls the workers at The Harbord Room his family.  

“I like to have a relaxed feeling in the kitchen, joking around with the guys. We don’t have a hierarchy in the kitchen here, we try to keep it on a level playing field,” he said. “There are restaurants I’ve worked at where the chefs just take themselves out of the kitchen and they are removed from the food and the cooking. I say if you are spending 12 hours a day 6 days a week with the same guys in the kitchen, let’s lighten the mood a bit.” 

For any future chefs, Vitiello offers this advice: “Try and break off from using recipes. Use ingredients you wouldn’t normally use. Cook with your gut and common sense. Remember, every great recipe comes from a fluke or mistake.”
 

Chef Cory Vittello

 

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