The traditional hierarchical approach to running a kitchen runs counter to Hassell’s take on managing his team. He treats people with respect and works to build their confidence as opposed to shouting and becoming aggressive with them. He says, “I call my cooks chefs and I don’t ask them to call me chef. On late Saturday nights, we usually go for cold tea downtown Toronto and get some Asian food. Basically I try to make a team out of my staff.”
When Hassell hired his current kitchen team, he sought out people with whom he’d worked in the past. They were people who Hassell knew would be willing to work long hours and get things done no matter what it took. He says, “When I ask my sous chef, Joseph Awad, for something it’s done right away. If I ask my cooks to do something, they do it right away and they’re happy to do it. I’ve created a team of professionals and all we do is pick each other’s brains, come up with good food and have fun doing it.”
Motivation comes from a wide variety of sources for Hassell. He explains, “ I’ll find motivation from the homeless person on the corner, I’ll find motivation from my family or the people I work with. It relates to my food because it pushes me to do what I want to do. It’s important to me that I stick to my guns when it comes to my ideas.”
He adds, “One of the most important inspirations in my life is Rodney Mullen who’s a professional skateboarder who came up with most of the skateboarding tricks we use now. Hearing him speak motivates me.”
*The traditional ballotine is made of a thigh of chicken, duck or other poultry that has been boned stuffed. It is in a sausage shape.