Get to know MasterChef judge, host of 24 Hours of Food, and restauranteur extraordinaire, Chef Michael Bonacini as we go behind the scenes an episode of 24 Hours of Food with Lamesa Filipino Kitchen.
On the cusp of season two of Bell Fibe’s 24 Hours of Food, Vv Magazine’s Libby Roach sat down with the host of the show, restauranteur and all around gentleman Michael Bonacini.
Okay Michael, first up, a burning question. Why is everyone so fascinated with what you eat?
Michael Bonacini: That is a fascinating question! I think that the world today, viewers, home cooks, those who like to eat are fascinated by it, the cookbooks, the tv shows…I find my son, first thing in the morning he’ll be watching Food Network or TLN catching Lidia Bastianich, he’s just fascinated by it all. I am no different than the average person; I love to eat in a humble way, more than ever now. For me to go out of my way to eat a 3-star Michelin meal, I’m not that motivated by it. I’m more motivated by having something that is more low-key, simple, humble, just really really well prepared. One of my favourite all time go-to meals at home is a simple roast chicken, salad, a couple of pieces of cheese, and a glass of wine, and I’m happy, happy, happy.
You like to keep things simple!
Michael Bonacini: I eat banana, toast, honey and peanut butter every single morning. I’ve done that for almost two decades. 99 times out of a 100, that is my breakfast. I’ll vary it, sometimes I’ll have sliced peaches or pineapples, but that’s my breakfast, with a pot of tea. That’s who I am!
In 24 Hours of Food, you travel around east coast Canada, connecting with local Chefs and their local menus. Why is this connection so important for you?
Michael Bonacini: Watching Daniel [Cancino of Lamesa] cook, and the kind of ingredients he was using, it really triggered this baseline that is common to so many cultures globally. So many things that we eat, so many childhood memories, so many experiences that we may be worlds apart but food is and always will be one of the great common denominators. We’re all different but we’re all the same when it comes to food.
During the show, and as I just witnessed you cooking and engaging with Chef Daniel, I couldn’t help but notice the energy and intention behind every question you ask – especially on cooking techniques and ingredient sourcing. Do these have a trickle-down effect into how you run your restaurants?
Michael Bonacini: Yes I do. No matter where I am, whether I’m in the kitchen, dining room, grabbing food off a food truck, a coffee shop or a little food purveyor, it’s always a source of inspiration. It’s always a ‘jeez, can I take something like this and make it work at this restaurant, or this could be a great lunch item, or an amazing handheld snack that could be part of our grab and go offerings.’ And that again is the beauty of food – tying everything I see and eat back into my business. That’s an inherent position in my world. Because there has been a number of dining experiences in this season that have been beyond inspiring. It’s increasingly more difficult to be original.
Your most recent launch, Leña, is a slight departure from your other restaurants under the O&B umbrella. It’s an exciting place. Do you see something like that playing out – replicating that energy for another culture or ethnicity?
Michael Bonacini: We have a big portfolio of restaurants, from French to coffee shops and everything in between. Leña was a natural because our corporate chef Anthony Walsh came to us and said he would love to pay tribute to his wife and his mother in law’s heritage, and for us, when you have someone like that who is turned on and so into it, you’d be a fool to turn it down. We will next be opening in Montreal, with a menu that will be a cuisine Anglais meets with cuisine Francais kind of thing. We’re very excited about that. Anthony is from Montreal originally so he’s excited to work on that. We’re always thinking, looking at culinary opportunities that we can add greater depth to our company. We’ve been talking Indian cuisine for a while, but we haven’t been able to make that happen just yet.
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