At the Pass with Chef Angela Villalta
Chef, L’unita Enoteca
Bestellen, Scarpetta, Staged at Al Castello (Italy)
Favourite dish to make right now
I have to admit my favourite dish to make for myself is grilled cheese, not even going to lie about that. However, I’ve been making another seasonal favourite dish for myself lately - Spaghetti with ramps and pecorino.
Last cookbook purchase
It’s more of a reference book but I love it- Ingredienti: Marcella's Guide to the Market by Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan.
Have you read it/tried any recipes
Typically, I read through cookbooks and recipes to get ingredient ideas for new dishes. I like researching how different chefs use seasonal ingredients.
If I’m using a recipe, it’s generally for something baked. Baking isn’t my strong suit but I love to try new things. I love coming up with new desserts but it usually takes me a few tries. I recently tried a recipe for Italian Cocoa Frollini – little chocolate cookies - because I wanted an ice cream sandwich.
Name one dish or ingredient you’d like to see gone from menus
Nothing that I can think of.
And one dish or ingredient that you’re excited about right now and would like to see on more menus
I don’t know that I have a specific dish I’d like to see, but I do love to see chefs in Toronto using seasonal ingredients. I think that is very important. Spring and summer is such a lovely time to be a chef in Toronto because there’s so many ingredients to play with.
Your biggest influences
There are many chefs around the world and in Toronto, past or present, that inspire me. However my biggest influences come from the people around me and the seasonal ingredients we have to work with.
I think part of being a chef is trying to inspire the people around you, but you never stop learning. With social media and access to the internet, young cooks have access to all kinds of knowledge. I get inspired by my young cooks when they want to try something new and we evolve that idea together to make something that works for us.
If you could eat at any restaurant in the world
There are many famous restaurants I’d love to have the opportunity to dine at, however when I really think about it, I’d love to eat at Bodega 1800 in Barcelona again.
The last thing you ate
Pork bone soup.
Three must-have ingredients always in your fridge
Bread, cheese and Spanish olives.
McDonald's Sausage McMuffin. I know I know… I can’t help it.
Top 3 favourite Toronto restaurants
I have to say my favourite spot is Edulis. I try to go one or two times a year. I love everything about this place - the food, the atmosphere, the drink and the staff, it’s a magical place. My other two favourites include Bar Isabel for a little Spanish nostalgia, and Campo for some comfort food.
Top 3 favourite Toronto bars
I have to admit I don’t go to many bars anymore. However, I love Bar Raval.
Your go-to drink
I’m a Negroni girl. I love a simple bitter cocktail.
One habit you have in the kitchen that you should lose, but can’t seem to shake
I can be a little passive aggressive. I hate having to repeat myself over and over. I think most people know that about me.
One habit you have in the kitchen that will inspire young chefs
When I cook, I’m super focused and organized. I put heart into anything I cook because I really, really love what I do. As my Nonna said “If you love what you do, then you will have a happy life.”
Name one hidden talent
Not sure I have a hidden talent. I’m really good at Solitaire.
The best career advice you ever received
“If you make a mistake that’s okay, but learn from it and make yourself better” – Lachlan Culjak
The worst career advice you ever received
“Just worry about yourself.” I think that’s crazy because a service, a good service doesn’t happen without teamwork. It doesn’t happen without people looking after one another, helping each other. Being a part of a kitchen crew is like being a part of a family - we spend way too many hours together to not have each other’s back.
Your advice for a young cook starting out in the business
These are a few things I’ve learned over the years:
1. Always, always, always push yourself.
2. Never stop learning.
3. Forget your ego, it will only get in the way.
4. Your fellow cooks are your family members… treat them as such.
5. Cook with heart.