Although Chef Adam Vettorel says that he started down the culinary path as a way to pay for university, he says that he quickly discovered that the combination of creativity and physical labour drew him in. He explains, “I enjoy physical labour, so when I was in academia, I missed being in the kitchen and those busy services. At that point, I just decided to jump in with both feet.”
Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Adam Vettorel, Ottawa ON
Adam Vettorel combines classical Northern Italian cuisine with seasonal Ontario ingredients and his own unique culinary vision at North & Navy in Ottawa.
Chef Adam Vettorel
Vettorel says that one of his early culinary influences was Chef Andrew Graf. He explains that Graf was a classically trained chef who taught him the basics of professional cooking. He adds that Graf also helped him to realize that being a chef could be a professional career.
Another important influence, says Vettorel, was working at Domus Café with Chefs John Taylor and Simon Fraser. He points out, “Between Simon and John, I got a real wake-up call for what it takes to be a chef. I was surrounded by a group of really good, really passionate people there. I already had the bug and they just made it worse.”
In terms of the chef’s approach to food, he says that his current restaurant's food is rooted in Northern Italian cuisine. He explains that in the bar area the restaurant does their interpretation of a Venetian baccaro1 and the main dining room takes a more traditional approach but Vettorel adds, “It was important for us to steer away from the clichés of Italian food. I like the freedom to cook what I want while respecting the roots of the Italian food that my family would cook."
Ingredients are the starting point for creating new dishes for Vettorel. He says that it takes between one and two weeks for him to develop a dish. He says that he starts out by reading cookbooks to get inspiration from chefs that he respects. He continues, “Sometimes it might be inspiration from something that I’ve seen at another restaurant. Sometimes I might take one technique that I’ve used before and add another flavour to it. I just play with it until I’m happy with it and then I pick the menu item that I’m the most bored with and put the new item on.”
Warm Octopus and Potatoes
When it comes to sourcing ingredients, Vettorel explains that the connections he formed while he was chef de cuisine at Domus Café have held him in good stead. He says, “John had this whole network of farmers that he was in tune with so when I was there I was already on a first name basis with the really good farmers and suppliers. I have things that I want them to bring already, but sometimes they show up with something they see and they know is really nice.”
Vettorel talks about the traits that he hopes to exhibit as a chef and says that he’s trying to work on being more patient and becoming a good teacher. He says, “It’s one thing as a chef to have the vision to come up with a good menu item and source the ingredients for it, but if you can’t teach the cook who is going to be making it five or six days a week, then it’s pointless because it isn’t going to turn out the way you wanted it to. I’m trying to communicate exactly what I want in very clear language, so I can set my cooks up for success as much as possible.”
Professionalism is the trait that Vettorel says he’s looking for from his kitchen team. He explains, “A lot of cooks are young but I expect them not to show up hungover or late. When they’re here I want one hundred percent of their attention. We try to keep the conversation in the kitchen focused on food so, as long as they’re doing these things, the rest follows suit.”
Inspiration exists in many places for different chefs. In Vettorel’s case, he says he finds it by seeing the food that his fellow chefs are creating in Ottawa, across Canada and abroad. He says that he also finds inspiration in the curious palates of the new dining public. He elaborates, “As a chef, you can get away with things that you couldn’t get away with five or ten years ago. Its an invitation to push yourself and try to challenge yourself to make the menu exciting and compelling.”
1. Bacaro - A small Venetian neighbourhood bar or pub that serves a wide variety of small plates of food along with wine.
Lemon tart and latte
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