Our next Chef of the Week is at the helm of one of Yorkville’s most popular restaurants.
Allow us to introduce you to Michael Parubocki, Executive Chef at Kasa Moto.
Being a part of The Chase Hospitality Group‘s empire is an impressive feat, and like all great things, it took time and dedication for Parubocki to work up to the role of Executive Chef. His story is truly one of success, starting from the bottom as a dishwasher, and slowly working his way up the ranks. His past experience includes professional training with passionate chefs at Studio Cafe, Truffles, and Centro, and a year of study at George Brown Culinary School. Eventually, his hard work and ambition led him to Kasa Moto, where he now serves up the city’s fanciest izakaya.
We had the opportunity to talk to Chef Michael Parubocki about the unique way he got his start as a cook, the key to a long and successful career as a chef, and why we need to stop comparing our restaurants to those in the states. Take a look at our interview below.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I got my start in the industry washing dishes at a local restaurant close to where I lived. It was walking distance from my home and gave me an opportunity to earn some money when I wasn’t at school. I remember asking the chef over and over for an opportunity to cook, to which he repeatedly said, “No, before you can cook, this needs to be perfect.” (Pointing to every corner of my dish area). I took that to heart and from then on, my dish area was spotless and organized. A year later, one of the cooks called in sick and it was my opportunity to cook on the line, but there was a catch: I needed to find someone to wash dishes that night. I got on the restaurant phone and started calling my friends until finally I convinced one of them to cover dishes so I could work the line. The rest is history!
How would you describe your culinary style?
Having worked with so many extremely talented and passionate chefs, and hospitality leaders over the years has given me an unbelievable perspective on food, cooking and hospitality as a whole. I’ve been a student of our craft since a very young age and have pushed myself to improve and evolve as our industry has. My style is a culmination of all of the best techniques that I have learned, and the lessons that have been shared with me. My personality and palate guide me towards flavours and textures that are adventurous yet accessible, keeping our guests in a place of comfort while still pushing the boundaries of conventional cuisine.
What’s your favourite dish on your current menu and why?
My favourite dish on our current menu would have to be the Misoyaki Chicken because of the number of techniques and ingredients we have to use. When our cooks can see the progression and procedure behind a dish like that, they can feel a great connection to the food and a sense of pride when the feedback is as consistently positive.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the restaurant industry?
The biggest misconception about our industry would have to be that it’s glamorous and exactly what you would see on TV. The number of years spent grinding on the line, the cuts, burns, heavy lifting, and personality clashes are regularities in every sense in our industry. So much goes into the perfect dish, perfecting mise en place, and some can’t handle the pressure. It’s been very common for cooks and chefs to ‘burn out’ at some point. Working in organizations that place value on quality of life and balance is the key to a long career in culinary.
What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
My go to meal at home is a tricky one as my diet has, and continues to change, as I grow wiser (older)! I love eating fresh vegetables prepared different ways and some good quality grass fed beef or a really nice wild caught fish. I eat simply prepared food outside of work and love when quality ingredients speak for themselves.
What are three restaurants our readers need to try before they die?
The first, and my favourite restaurant, is Dandylion – Jay Carter’s food is honest, well balanced, and unique. I could eat there once a week, it’s that good. The second would be Alo. The attention to detail, quality, food knowledge from the team, even the washrooms are tight, and of course the way Patrick Kriss runs the place reminds me of that ‘New York feeling’ of dining. Finally, and call me biased, but I’d have to say The Chase. The first time I dined there I was amazed by the attention to detail and personalized service (and not just because I work for the company!). The food is on par with the best in the world and the service staff are attentive and knowledgeable.
What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?
It’s a very simple tip that everyone reading can use. Buy the best quality ingredients you can and treat them with care. That’s it. What we sustain ourselves with should never be thought of as a ‘way to save money’. ‘Club packs’ and ‘value size’ are terms we should never look at first. You wouldn’t buy cheap gas and expect your car to perform at its best. It’s the same for our bodies, buy the best and feel your best! And of course, have fun with it. Don’t get too uptight while home cooking, you’re not operating on someone or pulling people from a burning building. It should always be fun.
If there were one thing in the restaurant industry you could change, what would it be?
Becoming a chef does not have the same cache as other professions; yet requires the same, if not more, dedication, education and hard work. I wish that people would share the same appreciation for the cooks on our line as they do for young doctors, lawyers or accountants. It’s difficult to attract and retain enough intelligent and motivated people to our industry because they don’t see the same societal rewards and recognition as they would if they put in the same amount of work in a different field.
How do you think Toronto (and/or Canada’s) culinary scene will evolve in the future?
I think the food scene in Canada, and more specifically Toronto, will evolve naturally, the way it has been, as long as Canadians stop comparing our scene to other major North American markets such as New York, LA, or Chicago. We need to be proud of what WE have, showcase our top talent, and stand behind and support our restaurants as a community.
To keep up with Chef Michael Parubocki, follow him on Instagram at @mp_jr.
Are there any other chefs you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.