Name: Antonio D’Anello
Job Title: Managing Director and Executive Chef at the Oakville Conference Centre.
Years with the Company: 13
Born and raised in Montreal, Antonio has always had a flare for cooking. His first memory of being in the kitchen and loving it was at the tender age of 6. While most kids were concerned about Fruit Loops and licking the spoon from the cake batter, Antonio was helping his family prepare Sunday night dinner. Pretty impressive for 6 years old! Antonio has had a successful career in the food and catering industry and has been the Executive Chef at the Oakville Conference Centre for many years now. He not only rolls up his sleeves and cooks but also manages the kitchen team and the day to day operations of the facility ( basically he doesn’t just wear a chef’s hat!). We sat down with him and chatted about his favourite things, inspiration and career.
Q + A
If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Just a few years ago I would have chosen PASTA – hands down! It’s versatile, it can be prepared equally as rustic/comfort food and high-end “chic” with most every ingredient imaginable. I grew up with it, I expected to die with it. However now that I am a little older, limiting one’s carb intake has become a concern. So my second choice becomes my first – AHI TUNA. This gem of the sea requires little preparation and is prevalent in many culinary concoctions. It always remains a fantastically gourmet food item.
Restaurant you are dying to try?
I have been to many notable restaurants, eaten many styles of cuisine and loved most of them. But one style that has been catching a huge wave of late is South American Cuisine. It’s fresh, its healthy and its full of fire and taste. Having said that, I would love to go to Chef Gaston Acurio’s MIRAFLORES in Lima, Peru. In my opinion, his cuisine is the next evolution of “haute cuisine”.
Best restaurant you have ever been to?
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s JoJo’s in New York’s Upper East side. It was subdued, yet spectacular. Every dish was perfectly prepared without all the usual pretentiousness of these “Celebrity Chef” establishments. 1st Class all the way. Mind you though, I was there on a very special occasion with my very special wife to be…
What would you consider your signature dish
Usually chef’s cringe at the thought of naming a “signature” dish. I am no different. It’s like choosing one child over another…if I need to choose just one, then it would be my Prosciutto Wrapped Veal Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Duxelle and Fennel Jus. I cook it both at home and for our guests at the OCC. People love the flavours and that’s good enough for me.
Favourite Spices to cook with
There is a myriad of spices that a chef will go to when cooking, but I tend to always use dried/ground chili flakes in one form or another. It can impart flavours ranging from mellow “what’s that” kind of heat to “in your face” crazy. I use it in soups, pasta, marinades, rubs and stews; in fish, meats, poultry and vegetarian cooking.
Where do you find inspiration
Inspiration comes from “not knowing”. By that I mean if you admit you do not “Know” everything, then you become open to learning. Once you are in that state of mind, inspiration can come from all around us. Other chefs, bakers, foodies, farmers, purveyors, mothers, fathers, gardens, regions, etc… I remain blissfully naïve and thus always inspired.
When did you realize you wanted to be a chef?
I have always been involved in the kitchen since I can remember, at least since 6 years of age. Always helping my mother cook that Sunday supper or helping my dad with making cured meats while my friends were out playing in the streets was normal for me. My first job ever was working in a banquet hall at the age of 12. The truth of it is that I was always happiest when I was closest to the kitchen but never really realized it until I got the chance to open my own restaurant. It was one of those moments when you suddenly realize something all your life was leading you to make this one decision, and there it was…I was 25 years old.
Favourite moment of your career so far
I remember being asked to assist a fellow chef with a project out in Oakville. I came in as a young chef at 33 years of age just finishing a stint at the CN Tower and Living Arts Center with a small consulting job in-between with the intention of helping out a colleague. That day remains my favourite moment because I knew I was stepping onto a path that would lead me to wondrous and infinite challenges. Now over 13 years later, not only have I been able to carve out a life for myself and my family, but working for the Mercantis has allowed me to see many more aspects of the business of Catering than I would have ever thought possible. To have been part of so many special events and to continue creating memories and experiences for our guests is something truly fulfilling as a chef. It’s really not just one moment, it’s a culmination of all the moments.