Oct 28 , 2020
Filippo Mancuso, Founder and CEO of Mosto Foods Inc. took the time to share some insight on his past experiences as a culinary student and later, an executive chef in Toronto. He shares his culinary mentors, first job in a kitchen, cooking tips, his favourite resturants in the city, why he left the kitchen, and his wishes for the future of the resturant industry in Chef Market's very first blog post!
What made you consider becoming a chef? Where did your passion begin?
Mainly because of the fact that I enjoyed cooking. It came natural to me. My passion started at a young age just hanging out with my mother in the kitchen. She also loved to cook. It was an important part of my family life ever since I could remember. I also remember being fascinated with the science behind cooking when I was young. Watching a cake rise in the oven or water boil on the stove was very interesting to me.
Who influenced your passion for food?
My mother and the Italian culture, really. Being Italian, good food was a part of our livelihoods.
Did you attend culinary school? Where and when?
I attended George Brown Culinary School in 1988/89.
What was your apprenticeship like?
It was 3-year apprenticeship which started at the Harbor Castle Westin Hotel and them at The Founders Club at what used to be the Dome.
What credentials did you earn and what experiences did you encounter in your apprenticeship?
I graduated from George Brown’s apprenticeship program which landed me my first jobs with Oliver and Bonacini as a line cook at Canoe and Auberge du Pomier as a saucier and sous chef. I then went on to stage for Oliver Bonacini for 5 months in January 2000 at Union Square Café in New York City. I ventured off to Northern Italy in October of the same year to attend Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy Culinary Class. I ended up in Thailand the next year mainly for vacation but ended up taking other classes with local chefs.
Fun Food Fact: Staging is a French term originating from the French word stagiaire meaning trainee, apprentice, or intern. Staging is an unpaid internship test when a cook or chef works briefly, for free, in another chef's kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines.
Did you have any early culinary mentors or any chefs you admire
Anthony Walsh and Michael Bonacini definitely led my earliest years in the kitchen. Michael Romano mentored my stage at Union Square Café which was pretty essential to my early culinary years.
What was your favourite part of your culinary education/experience?
A big part of developing my culinary knowledge and experience involved travelling, that was my favourite part.
What was your first job in a kitchen? Give us a timeline or your early jobs in the kitchen.
My first job ever paid job in a kitchen was at the first McDonalds in Woodbridge.
What was the last restaurant you worked in?
I spent all of my culinary career working at Oliver and Bonacini restaurants, the last was Jump where I was the executive chef.
What was your favourite restaurant that you worked at? What’s your favourite role in the kitchen?
I really enjoyed working at Union Square Café in New York. At the time it was the #1 restaurant in the city. It was hard but I learned something new every single day. Living and working in New York pre-911 was a different time and an incredible experience.
What did working in the kitchen teach you?
It taught me mis en place, a French culinary term for ‘everything in its place’. It improved my culinary skills and how I handled my life, really.
What is your favourite memory from working in the kitchen?
Meeting my wife.
What are your favourite cuisines? Where did you pick up these influences?
Italian has to be my favourite because I am Italian. But, I enjoy cooking Thai and Indian cuisine a lot too. I remember staging one day at Tabla in New York just to pick up on Chef Floyd Cardoz’s Indian recipes. It’s hard to pick a single cuisine, they all have their place.
What is something you cook at home that you’d never cook at the restaurant?
I could put anything on a menu at a restaurant. It’s all about execution.
What is your favourite dish to cook? Why?
I like making stock, honestly. If you want a more interesting answer, I’d say pho. The layers of textures and flavours to make a good pho are really unique.
Can you give us your top three cooking tips?
- Knife skills, knowing how to use a knife will make you a better cook.
- Mis en place, cooking is all about preparation, organization, and cleanliness.
- Fresh, uncomplicated ingredients.
What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
A good knife.
What is the one ingredient you can’t live without?
What is the best food trend right now?
Fermentation. On a recent trip to Niagara, my wife and I stopped at a restaurant called Dispatch (@dispatchresto) in Saint Catherine’s. Chef Adam Hynam-Smith incorporated unique methods of fermentation to heighten the use of his ingredients. It’s the best way to get the most out of your ingredients.
What is the most overrated food trend right now?
Donuts. All you need is a plain krispy kreme.
What would you choose as your last meal?
3 1 ¼ Nova Scotian steamed lobster with drawn butter.
What are you favourite Toronto resturants rigth now?
Tanto Resturant (@tanto.toronto), Chantecler (@chateclerto)/LE Phenix (@lephenixto), and Edulis Restaurant (@edulisrestaurant).
Why did you leave the kitchen?
I never left the kitchen. I’m in the kitchen every single day. I became a part of the restaurant industry because I enjoyed cooking and I could make money while doing it. When I started my own family, I wanted a different lifestyle for them.
Do you miss it?
Nope. I like going to restaurants, but I don’t miss working in one
What is your advice to young culinary apprentices?
Find another job. That’s what they told me when I started.
How has your passion for food led to your current businesses’?
I stayed in the food industry. As a chef, I was always stayed close to the market, it was always exciting to find new products to work with. So, when I started Mosto Foods, I had extensive knowledge on the best quality and priced ingredients for restaurants. I’d have to say that my pantry is the envy of most chefs. I knew exactly what restaurants needed and that’s how I built my business.
What is something you wish to see in the future of the restaurant industry?
At this point, that they survive. A city without restaurants would be pretty soul-less.