Our next Chef of the Week has worked in a number of Michelin-starred kitchens.
Allow us to introduce you to Anthony Davis.
You’ve likely wined and dined at Chef Davis’ restaurant; he’s the Chef de Cuisine at popular Yorkville eatery Trattoria Nervosa. And while he’s wowed the stomachs of Italian-loving Torontonians, he’s a master of many cuisines. His fascination with the kitchen began at a young age and led him to train at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where he graduated with both an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts and an Undergraduate degree in Restaurant Management. Afterward, he worked under Michelin-starred chef Michael Bourdin at the prestigious Connaught Hotel in London before working in Michelin-starred restaurants in the British Isles like Dublin’s, The Commons and London’s Roussillon. In 2005, Chef Davis made the move to Toronto where he worked in kitchens at Susur, Perigee and the Hilton Toronto, before landing at Trattoria Nervosa.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Chef Anthony Davis outside the kitchen and chat about what reality TV gets wrong about chef life, the shift Canadians will start to see in restaurants, and the three restaurants you must visit before you die.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I was surrounded by the restaurant industry in Vancouver from early on. One of my parent’s closest friends is a French chef and restaurateur, and often my dad and his friend would catch up in the kitchen over an espresso and I’d take in the surroundings. From that point on, I was always fascinated by the kitchen atmosphere. The high school I went to had a full commercial kitchen and a red seal chef instructor, so those classes definitely played a large part in influencing me as well. From there, it was ground up- washing dishes to prep to line work and then onto culinary school.
How would you describe your culinary style?
I’d describe my culinary style as “modern Mediterranean,” though being from the West Coast, in combination with my travels, I look to influences from all kinds of areas. Something I really believe in is the importance of seasonality and, in turn, amazing local food and producers. When you’re working with quality ingredients, you really don’t have to do much to serve something great.
What’s your favourite dish on your current menu and why?
That’s a hard one to choose, but I’d say that my favourite dish right now is the Calamarata con Gamberi. It’s not your typical shrimp pasta, and the wild shrimp we use in it give it a great, super clean flavour profile. It manages to be both familiar and different enough at the same time.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the restaurant industry?
There are so many, but the glamour is a huge one to me. Cooking is hard work. The hours are long and the job is tremendously stressful. It’s definitely not like what’s portrayed on TV, and I think this may create a lot of misconceptions about what the industry really is. I wouldn’t think of leaving it, but it would be nice if so called “reality TV” were truer to the reality of the industry.
What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
We eat a lot of fish. Sockeye salmon on the BBQ with a simple green salad is hard to beat for me.
What are three restaurants our readers need to try before they die?
1. Le Pré Catelan in Paris
2. Alinea in Chicago
3. Hawksworth in Vancouver
What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?
Toronto has amazing farms all around it and some really fantastic farmer’s markets. If you can, try to do at least some of your shopping with them. There’s nothing that beats fresh, seasonal and local. Talk to the farmers, connect with the ingredients you’re using!
If there was one thing in the restaurant industry you could change, what would it be?
I love the industry and the work that I do, but change is a positive thing. One of the most crucial elements of the industry that, in my opinion, needs to change are the overwhelming hours and the underwhelming pay that staff in many restaurants find themselves faced with. Some restaurants, ours included, do a much better job of this than others, and it would be nice to see this become the norm and not just the exception.
How do you think Toronto (and/or Canada’s) culinary scene will evolve in the future?
We’ve seen a huge evolution in the restaurant scene in Toronto, and really, all over Canada in the last few years; restaurants are operating on such a high level all across the country. One of the most positive aspects of this evolution is that chefs and guests are beginning to really embrace Canadian products; from heritage wheat, to foraged items, to fish and seafood. Prior to this change, it was most common for chefs to feature imported products on their menus but now we’re seeing a huge shift to featuring locally grown or sourced goods, a trend which I believe will only increase as we move forward.
Are there any other chefs you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.