Long before the arrival of television cameras in kitchens, Chefs Massimo Capra and Michael Bonacini were tantalizing taste buds with their dishes across Italy, England and Canada.
The stories behind the food and the ingredients sparked the Chopped Canada and MasterChef Canada judges’ passion for cooking.
The two classically-trained chefs say they are pleased that food has been brought to the forefront via cooking-related shows.
“With your feet under the table is the best place to be,” said Capra, who trained at the National Culinary Institute in Salsomaggiore, Parma.
“You get to really square out a lot of issues and understand a lot of things when you are joining for a meal, breaking bread together. It’s such a beautiful thing learning about other cultures by trying the food and understanding why.”
Bonacini, who trained under Chef Anton Mosimann at London’s Dorchester Hotel, said cooking shows fascinate people about the food business and the food culture.
“I think food has an incredible way of bringing us together because we like to learn about our neighbours and understand their cultures and we can do that through food,” said Bonacini.
On Friday night, the two long-time pals delivered a helping of food and laughter at the Red Deer Hospice Society’s sold out fundraising gala featuring the two judges. Joining the two chefs in make-shift kitchen on stage were MasterChef Canada Season 1 contestants Dora Cote of Rocky Mountain House and Tammara Behl of Calgary.
A few lucky diners received some cooking tips from the chefs during the meal.
Capra and Bonacini met in Toronto many years ago and have appeared on many television shows together such as Citytv’s Cityline or separately on other cooking shows. Capra is chef and co-owner of Toronto restaurants Mistura and Sopra Upper Lounge while Bonacini is culinary leader and co-founder of Oliver and Bonacini Restaurants.
Both have penned cooking books including the popular 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men (with Chef Jason Parsons). Capra’s One Pot Italian Cooking is also a must-read for Italian cuisine fans.
But do not call Capra a “celebrity chef.”
“I am a cook,” he laughed. “I am a kitchen guy.”
The two Toronto restaurateurs may appear on two different food competition shows but they have simple advice for the contestants: “less is more, keep it simple.”
Cooks who appear on the shows often try to do too much to impress the judges, they say.
Their advice is just the opposite for those cooks who may never appear on a reality cooking show.
“Cooks at home need to experiment,” said Bonacini. “They need to expand. A recipe is a guideline. It’s an idea that someone has put down that they believe it works.”
Bonacini said advises cooks to take the principles of the recipe that you know works and take it in another direction by substituting ingredients.
Capra said experimentation gets everyone learning.
“If I had a dollar for every dish that in my head worked and on the plate failed I would be in Hawaii right now,” laughed Bonacini.
The Red Deer Hospice Society provides physical, social, emotional and spiritual care in a community based, home-like setting for individuals who are dying and for their loved ones. To find out more visit www.reddeerhospice.com.