This week, instead of profiling just one chef, we’ll be profiling five of our favourites from the upcoming Taste of Toronto, which takes place at Fort York: Garrison Common from Friday, June 15 to Sunday, June 18. Check back daily for a new profile on one of the city’s top chefs and a sneak peek at what to expect at the festival.
Our next chef in this week’s special edition of Chef of the Week runs the kitchen of the city’s most notable noodle bar.
Allow us to introduce you to Hans Vogels.
Before landing a position as Chef de Cusine at Momofuku Noodle Bar, Chef Vogels professionally trained at the Culinary Institute of Canada in PEI. Later on, he moved to Ontario for an apprenticeship at The Church Restaurant, which eventually led him to downtown Toronto working for the likes of Susur Lee and Marc Thuet. After running into Momofuku alumni Mitch Bates on a recruiting trip, he landed a position with the noodle bar and the rest is history.
We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Vogels before he cooks up a storm at Taste of Toronto. Take a peek at our interview with him below.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I did dishes at the Brunswick Hotel in my hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick. And I decided that the environment wasn’t bad, but actually doing the dishes was not the best part, so I went to cooking school. We had to do on-the-job training while in school, and there were about 12 of us in my class who went to Stratford to work at The Church, and at that time the kitchen had about 30 cooks. I did my summer there, went back home to finish school, and ended up going back to Stratford and working there for four more summers.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Steamed buns and ramen, whatever style that is.
What’s is your favourite dish that you’re serving at Taste of Toronto and why?
The Sichuan noodle. The boys have to eat a whole bowl of it before they decide that it has enough Sichuan peppercorn in it, because we can’t assume that the same amount will work every single time. If you screw up the amount of green Sichuan peppercorn, either you’re not going to taste it because you didn’t put in enough, or you put in too much and everyone’s like, “I can’t feel my face. I’ve had too much green Sichuan peppercorn.”
My mouth is watering right now thinking about it. I’m thinking, I want to eat it, my body’s telling me to eat it, but I know it’s going to f***ing burn and I shouldn’t. But it’s worth it. You need to satisfy that mouth-watering; that’s your body craving something.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the restaurant industry?
I think one of the most common misconceptions is that the front of house and the back of house don’t get along. If you watch most reality food TV, they make it seem as though it’s us against them. I think, here, everyone hangs out outside of work together; when we have family meal, everyone sits down together; everyone gets along, like peas and carrots. And probably places I’ve worked before, that hasn’t been the case, but I think it’s often assumed that it’s not a happy-go-lucky environment, and that’s not the case. It’s camaraderie and brotherhood and sisterhood.
What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
I don’t cook at home. We have amazing family meals here, so I don’t need to cook.
What are three other dishes at Taste of Toronto our readers should try?
It’s safe to say everything at Buca is delicious. Little Sister: the war fries. Anything from Mark McEwan.
What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?
Trust your own instincts; don’t rely on TV or Instagram. Taste your dishes and practice.
If there was one thing in the restaurant industry you could change, what would it be?
They need to stop allowing just anyone to open a restaurant. Right now, literally anyone can open a restaurant. You employ a bunch of people, you hire a bunch of contractors, you order a bunch of food, and then you have no idea what you’re doing so you shut it down. Now what do these people do? There needs to be some sort of control on who’s allowed to open a restaurant because you’ve got people’s livelihoods in your hands – people who have children, who are trying to pay rent.
How do you think Taste of Toronto benefits the city’s restaurant scene?
The number of people that are going to come through may know it’s a food festival, but they don’t know every single restaurant that’s there. They’re going to be interested to find out about new places and figure out where these restaurants are so they can go back and try more. It opens people’s eyes to great new food.
To keep up with Hans Vogels’ work, check out noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com.
Are there any other chefs you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.