Born in Canada to Italian parents Rob Gentile is a chef with a passion for food and a love of the ingredient.
After graduating the tutelage of mum, the most important step in any self-respecting Italian blooded chef, he trained in Toronto before working with some of the areas biggest culinary names.
In 2009 he opened his first restaurant, Buca, a place he says is a “traditional Italian place that’s ingredient-focused with an emphasis on seasonality and a modern approach to technique”.
Gentile is also acting as one of the mentors for S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015, helping finalist Paul Moran with his of smoked and roasted blood pigeon with beet jus, charcoal oil, polenta and salsify.
We caught up with Gentile to dicuss his own career as a young chef and find out more about his role as a mentor.
Who was the most important mentor for your profession and why?
Professionally, Mark McEwan has had the largest impact on me of any single person. I grew up in his kitchens and very early on in my career he instilled in me a level of professionalism, determination and the need for attention to detail. It’s so important for me to try and pass on these traits to the talented cooks that come through our kitchens because I know from personal experience how effective those lessons can be.
What’s the best advise you were given when you were training?
Strive to be better every day, set goals and push yourself. When you’ve achieved those goals, set new ones and keep going because as a chef you never stop learning.
Do you remember one of the big mistakes you made in a kitchen when you were training? (Can you explain what happened and what you learned?)
When I was sous chef at North 44, I was responsible for preparing the main course for a large catering event. I seared off about 50 lamb racks the same way I had hundreds of times before and ended up overcooking everything, we’re talking well-done. I was a bit too confident, let my guard down and misjudged the temperature of the oven. I remember that experience to this day so now when I put anything into a hot oven I set a timer, make sure I am aware of the temperature settings and stay on guard. If you learn from your mistakes, you can only get better.
Is there one mistake you see young chefs making very often? What should they do instead?
I think the biggest mistake young cooks make nowadays is that they don’t always take the time to do things properly. You need patience to achieve high standards, every detail must be addressed, from cooking procedures to cleanliness and organization.
What are the best characteristics a young chef can have nowadays?
Cooking for a living can be challenging, you have to be passionate about it and have a limitless drive to succeed. If a young chef goes above and beyond what is asked of them, they will accomplish great things.
What are the worst?
Grumpy, miserable or upset people in the kitchen. There’s no room for that.
What’s your main focus in advising the S.Pellegrino Young Chef candidate of your region?
Attention to every detail. Each element must serve a purpose; from taking the time to source the best ingredients, to ensuring a dish is at the perfect temperature, or choosing the right finishing salt. The smallest, simplest things can make a world of difference to a dish.
What’s your message to all the finalists of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 worldwide?
Take everything in because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Learn as much as you can and enjoy it.