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Chef Danny Smiles: "Italy Has A Special Place in My Heart"

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Chef Danny Smiles: "Italy Has A Special Place in My Heart"

This is the last article of a ten-part series featuring interviews with chefs competing in the S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2014.  

Danny Smiles clearly remembers his nonna simmering tomato sauce on the stove for hours on Sundays.  It's this fond childhood memory that the Canadian chef carries with him as he heads to competete in the S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2014. The special regatta is a unique event that combines haute cuisine and sailing in the scenic backdrop of the Venetian Lagoon.

Smiles, a former drummer who now works at Le Bremner in Montreal, first fell in love with the kitchen when working at his family's restaurant. "I knew this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life." Now, he'll put those cooking skills to good use when he creates a signature dish to present a panel of judges that includes world-renown chefs Gaston Acurio and Helena Rizzo.

The S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2014 kicks off June 13th and runs until June 15th. Smiles is one of 10 chefs competing for the coveted S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Young Chef of the Year Award. They will also vie for the People's Choice Award and the first-ever Critics Choice Award, both sponsored by Acqua Panna.

In anticipation of the big event, Fine Dining Lovers chatted with Smiles about life, cooking and Italy. Here's what he had to say:

Formerly you were...
Before Starting in the cooking world, I dedicated my life to Music spending every hour playing drums and touring Canada with a band.

You decided to become a chef because...
I decided to become a chef, after the first night I’ve worked the Garde Manger section at my family owned hotel restaurant. I knew this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

What is your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is simple, I believe in the local food movement and understand that the farmers and food producers are an essential key to a thriving civilization. In this fast growing technological world we live in, they try to stem us all away from it all and it is up to us to find ways to preserve and celebrate local food culture, traditions, land and recipes.

For your career your dream is...
The dream is simple, It’s to better myself technically and continuous learning of my trade by travelling and exploring new ideas and ingredients.

How about the dream for your personal life?
My personal life dream is probably the same as my career dream since It’s my life. I really want to stay healthy and positive and try to see the world.

Was there an experience or a person that contributed to your decision to become a chef?
My Dad was a huge influence in my career. His knowledge of food and different uses of spices and love for cooking really got to me and he had a special influence in my career.

What is your favorite dish? Why?
It’s almost like asking a father who is your favorite son? It’s really hard for me to narrow it down , but the answer would be a simple plate of homemade spaghetti in fresh tomato sauce, where I clearly remember making pasta with my Nonna and letting that sauce simmer for over 4 hours on a Sunday and having the whole family around the table eating and enjoying, that is just unexplainably amazing.

What would you like the judges is to know about you?
 I’d like the judges to know that I believe in simple and humble ingredients and love to make them shine, that I cook from the heart and I’m a big risk taker that never uses any short cuts what so ever.

Did you meet any difficulty/obstacle to get where you are today?
Absolutely, during this 12 year journey it wasn’t always easy, specially after getting into to a life threatning bus accident in Thailand and coming out of it alive, I kept pushing to get here.

What does Italy or Italian mean to you?
Italy  has a very special place in my heart, my mom’s family is Italian and growing up with this background and lifestyle it really made me appreciate the love for one another and the meaning to the word FAMILY.

What do you think of Italian cuisine?
 Italian cuisine is where I developed my philosophy for food after studying in Soverato Calabria and Desanzano , where the love for local ingredients and the respect for farmers are essential and an honest way of cooking from the heart. I stick my these guide lines, and every time I travel to Italy I get this special feeling.

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