Cooking,for Chef Tony Marzo, has been a life-long pursuit. He says even from a young age he found cooking fun whether it was making himself school lunches or cooking dinner for his family. He says that his mother enrolled him in cooking classes during the summers and he worked in restaurants throughout high school. He adds, “I’d always played sports, so being in the kitchen felt like a game because you’re working in a team atmosphere. Once I realized that cooking was an amazing thing and there was so much to learn, I decided that I was going to keep going and go to culinary school.”
Canadian Chef Profiles: Tony Marzo, Vancouver B.C
Chef Tony Marzo creates modern European food with unique ingredients at March & Kessel in Vancouver B.C.
Smoked tofu hash with homemade brown bread & lemon-lime jam
After completing culinary school, Marzo says that he had a number of experiences that helped shape him as a chef. The first major experience, he explains, was working with a German master pastry chef at the Wickaninnish Inn. He says that this chef was very influential in that “he taught me a great deal about being organized, looking at getting yourself set up before you do a job and working cleanly. “
The second experience that Marzo cites as forming him as a chef was working at a restaurant called Café Brio in Victoria B.C. He says that Café Brio was doing farm-to-table cuisine before it was even accepted as a term. Marzo says that his experience there was pivotal in his learning curve. He elaborates, “We had a menu that changed daily. I’d walk in and the very first thing that would happen is that I would talk to the sous chef. We’d go through the menu for that day and I’d just start prepping.I learned so much in that atmosphere because there was so much changing all the time.”
The third major formative experience for Marzo was moving to London to cook. He explains that he felt as though he was becoming stagnant and he was about to turn thirty so working in London was a chance to reinvigorate himself. He points out, “I’d essentially been a chef or a sous chef for six years at that point. I wanted to just cook again, so I didn’t take any chef or sous chef positions. It felt like I was redoing my apprenticeship at a higher level. It was a great learning experience for me.”
Marzo says that he approaches food with a “modern European” outlook. He says that he’s interested in classic dishes, techniques and ingredients from Italian, French, Spanish and English cuisines. He adds that he takes his training and applies it to all of these different traditions when creating his food.
36 hour sous vide pork belly & 10 hour sous vide confit duck leg
When it comes to his creative process for new menus, Marzo explains that he’s recently discovered a method that works well for him. He says, “ I wrote down all of the ingredients that I wanted to use on a piece of paper. I kept looking at them until ideas for dishes started to come together with my style of food. It was more or less starting with the ingredients and linking them together.” He says that he’s also interested in creating food with ingredients that are different so people can try new things.
Consistency of his products is crucial according to Marzo. He says, as he and his wife own the restaurant, his priorities in ingredient sourcing are different than working for someone else as a chef. He explains, “I look now at the ingredient pricing and if I’m going to be able to get this product and have it be consistent every single time I order it. If I work to put this on my menu, is it going to make my life difficult or is it going to be a long term thing I can use all the time?”
In terms of the relationships he has with his suppliers, Marzo says that he likes to work with smaller suppliers who understand the needs of his small restaurant and will accommodate those needs. He says that cultivating good relationships with the suppliers means that they’ll reciprocate with him in the future.
Marzo says that one of the traits that he considers important in a chef is the ability to stay calm under pressure. He says that too often chefs can resort to “making a lot of noise.” He points out that it isn’t often necessary or warranted to raise one’s voice. He also explains that he feels positive leadership is important. Marzo says, “Getting everybody to work together and willing to talk and discuss something that’s going wrong or own up to the mistakes that they’ve made is important. I think its important to have high standards for yourself and your staff.”
The traits that Marzo says he looks for in his staff include a passion for cooking, a desire to be fully committed to the job and curiosity. He elaborates, “I want people who aren’t afraid to admit that they don’t know how to do something.” Marzo adds that he likes people who are willing to learn new things.
Inspiration is easy to come by according to Marzo. He explains, “I guess food is the only thing that I really think about. There isn’t a day where I don’t think about food all of the time. There are so many things to look at and think about with cooking.”
Pear & Almond Clafoutis