When we speak about chefs, sometimes we forget about the visionaries behind the catering teams. The visionaries responsible for crafting the menus for some of the most important milestones of our lives; the weddings, the birthdays, the galas, and more. Our next Chef of the Week is the man behind one of the most trusted catering companies in Toronto.
Allow us to introduce you to Toben Kochman.
With a found love for the kitchen at a young age, Chef Toben’s passion led him to Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts in Paris where he learned about everything he needed to know about cuisine and pastry. While he was there, he was awarded Le Grande Diplome for excellence in all aspects of the program, and later on apprenticed for Daniel Boulud before getting his start in the Toronto food scene at Auberge du Pommier and Susur. Today, he’s the Executive Chef and owner of Toben Food by Design, a popular high-end, full-service catering and event management company in Toronto and the GTA.
We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Toben about how he got his start in the industry, what he cooks for himself at home, and how he’s working to change one of the biggest problems the industry faces. Take a peek at our interview below.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I grew up in a family where cooking and food were major focal points. I used to cook with my Grandmother and Mom at many holiday dinners and special meals. When I was a teenager I started working in restaurants, washing dishes and making pizza. It was an immediate love affair with the energy and passion that was present in professional kitchens.
How would you describe your culinary style?
My culinary style is globally influenced with its roots in classic European techniques. I incorporate a lot of ideas from my extended travels throughout Asia, Central Europe and the Middle East in particular.
What’s your favourite dish on your current menu and why?
Korean Braised Beef Short Rib with House Kimchi-Cauliflower Fried Rice, Pickled Carrot-Pea Shoot Salad, Kimchi-Chili Vinaigrette. I love this dish as it just dances on the palate. It has rich and juicy braised meat. Spicy, tangy fried rice. It’s a really fantastic combination of different textures and flavours.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the restaurant industry?
People glamorize the entire notion of what it is to be a chef. It’s not like on TV. It’s tons of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. The hours are long and the environment is fierce.
What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
Pan roasted organic salmon with jasmine rice, Japanese furikaki, toasted sesame miso curry and cucumber seaweed salad
What are three restaurants our readers need to try before they die?
What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?
Most people have really dull knives at home. Get a very good quality Japanese or German steel chef knife and keep it very, very sharp!
If there was one thing in the catering/food industry you could change, what would it be?
I would want to increase the industry standard pay. Dishwashers and line cooks work so, so hard with minimal remuneration and very little credit. I’m really trying to change the industry standard in pay/recognition of all my staff. I attempt to teach our younger staff new skills that enable them to move up quickly continually feeling challenged and rewarded for their hard work and loyalty. I also have them come be a part of our kitchen team on a lot of our events giving them great exposure to how we all work as a team to execute great events with amazing food.
How do you think Toronto (and/or Canada’s) culinary scene will evolve in the future?
I think it has already changed so much in the past few years. The consumer is much more educated and their palate is much more discerning. Chefs will have access to a lot of information and imagery from other chefs all over the world. The relationships between chefs and farmers and fishermen will become stronger and stronger.
Are there any other chefs you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.