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Blunt Inquiry asks... Chef Hans Vogel

 

VOGELSWhat is your idea of a perfect restaurant
Something chill. Nothing pretentious. Just good food. I hit La Carnita a fair bit. 

What is your greatest fear at work?
Being the only one that shows up. 

Which working Chef do you most admire?
I do have a secret man crush on Sergio Herman, chef and owner of The Jane.  He has been working at a very high level for a very long time. I went to eat at his place recently. He came out and sat at our table, had a drink with us and chatted away like we knew each other. A lot of people in his position would never do that. That’s admirable.

What part of work ‘you’ do you most deplore in yourself?
I’m trying to be at work less.  I am learning that it is about the quality of work and not quantity. 

What would instantly make you fire someone?
Any form of discrimination.

What was your most extravagant purchase for your restaurant?
Last time I was in Paris, I bought some skewers at E.Dehillerin, they have bronze pigs as handles. It’s pretty VIP.

What is your favourite food journey?
Amsterdam. Indonesian food there is legit. There are some great Dutch chefs that are reinventing Dutch cuisine. Ron Gastro Bar, De Kas. 

During my last visit, we went to Hotel Goudfazant, in North Amsterdam. It is what the Dutch would call 'gezellig.' Or, you  can just eat deep fried cheese from a vending machine. That's living.

What words or phrases do you most overuse at work?
“Buddy” and “have you checked your fridge?”

What do you regret most after all your years in the business?
Working too much. You miss a lot of family and personal time.  

What do you love most about this industry?
The camaraderie. Even if we have never met before, we all can relate to each other over a beer.

What is your current state of mind?
I haven’t eaten any meat this month. My state of mind is hungry, but I hear that passes after a few weeks. 

If you could change anything about the restaurant industry where you are, what would it be?
In this business, I have seen a lot of cooks and chefs get beat up mentally. This business can be pressure filled and it can get to people. We all need to be more aware and be available to talk. If you see your brother or sister struggling, be there to listen.

What do you consider your most essential ingredient?
Soy. Soybeans, crispy fried soybeans, soy sauce, creamy soy and yuba. All the soy’s are welcome in my life.

The work/life balance struggle is real.  How good of a juggler are you?  Tips?
I do ok. I am lucky to have a great team and a very understanding lady by my side. She is also a chef, so she gets it. Working as much as we do prevents us from fighting, we appreciate our time together that much more.  One tip would be to surround yourself with good people! 

What is your most treasured kitchen tool?
Insoles. Invest in insoles and nothing else matters. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Hanging your tongs off the oven handle or having a dirty, unfolded towel on your station.  

When you finally retire, were will you live?
Avignon, France. I went to visit my wife who worked there a few years ago. It’s very cool, outdoor markets, rolling hills, life moves slow when you’re there and it is just a few hours from Barcelona and Paris. 

What is your most marked characteristic?
I am stubborn.

What is the quality you most like in a chef?
Humility. 

What is your greatest inspiration/motivation?
Growing up and even today, both of my grandfathers were a huge influence on me. My father's dad fled Holland on a boat, with his children during the war; my mother's dad was part of the movement that helped to liberate Holland. When I think I am having a bad day, I think of what they have overcome.

Superman or Spiderman?
Jim Lahey. Superman or Spiderman would never survive the shit abyss.   

What is the first thing you remember cooking?
Christmas cookies with my mom.

Beck or Clapton?
Not heavy enough for me. Give me some Danko Jones or Kyuss or Fu Manchu.

You have to cook Escoffier’s death row meal.  Menu?
I bet the guy would dig a pork bun.

Favourite kitchen word or phrase?
“Guy.” We have a bit a problem here with it. We use it to describe literally everything. “Can you grab the guy and check the temperature of the guy, in the guy.” Somehow everyone understands. 

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