Our next Chef of the Week runs the kitchen at one of the city’s finest hotels.
Allow us to introduce you to Daniel Craig.
At the helm of The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto‘s kitchen is Chef Daniel Craig, whose passion for cooking began early. At the ripe age of 12, Chef Craig had his first restaurant gig at a friend’s parent’s cafe. From there, his passion took him to Victoria, British Columbia, where he apprenticed at The Fairmont Empress and Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa.
Later, he graduated with honours and a Red Seal Certification from Camosun College, and packed his bags to compete internationally in the prestigious Chaine des Rotisseurs Jeane Chef Concours where he was the first Canadian chef to ever receive a gold medal.
Bit by the travel bug, Chef Craig packed his bags once more, this time headed to Australia where he worked with two of the world’s top 50 restaurants in Sydney before heading to Paris, France to study at Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts. With an impressive resume, Chef Craig continued to work at a variety of notable restaurants in France and Canada, before landing the role of Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto.
We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Daniel Craig about the two tools every at-home chef needs in their kitchen, the good change that’s happening in the restaurant industry, and one dish you must try at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto’s signature restaurant, TOCA.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I started cooking at a very early age of 14 years old. It was the only job I have ever had. I started as a dishwasher at age 12 in my friend’s parent’s café, graduated to prep cook, then to a cook.
How would you describe your culinary style?
I love to prepare classic dishes and pairings with a modern technique and great ingredients. My training has been primarily in French cuisine, however I try not to limit myself to any one particular type of cuisine, and I try to keep things fresh, relevant and innovative.
What’s your favorite dish on your current menu and why?
My favorite dish on our current menu is likely our Chicken consommé with ricotta Agnolotti and Fresh Morel mushrooms.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the restaurant industry?
That it is easy to get into and be successful… It is a very challenging industry, the margins are very small, and the work is very tedious and time consuming. If you don’t absolutely have an obsession to cook, then it is a tough life to be in. On the flip side, if you are passionate and dedicated, it is the most rewarding profession I can think of.
What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
I like to make a variety of braised beef stew with vegetables… It changes with the seasons and I will even add different ethnic flavors to it. It can be a Beef Bourguignon, or a Korean Braised beef stew with Kimchi, or a Filipino Beef Caldareta, which my mom used to make me growing up. It’s easy to prepare, tastes awesome, goes a long way, and I can make it for my kids and they will always eat it! It’s how I sneak vegetables into their meals.
What are three restaurants our readers need to try before they die?
- Vue Du Monde (Melbourne Australia)
- L’Astrance (Paris, France)
- Castagna (Portland, Oregon)
What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?
Buy a good blender and a good thermometer… The blender will give you restaurant quality soups and purees, and also makes the best smoothies in the AM. The thermometer will ensure you do not overcook your meat or fish. Too many times have I had very overcooked meat at family and friends’ homes, but put a smile on my face and said it was delicious.
If there was one thing in the restaurant industry you could change, what would it be?
The one thing that we have all felt needed to change is starting to change. Cooks are now being treated more fairly in terms of the hours we have to work and the pay in which they receive for the hard work they do. We used to wear working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, for $8 per hour as a badge of honour, but it is simply not sustainable for yourself or your team. Hero complex has to go and times have to change, and we are seeing a shift in our industry. We are nowhere close yet, but the issues have been publicized and we are on the path.
To keep up with Chef Daniel Craig, follow him on Instagram (@ChefDanielCraig) and Twitter (@ChefDanielCraig). To get the latest news on The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, visit ritzcarlton-local-news.com/toronto.
Are there any other chefs you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.