@leanochef

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th May 2012

By Patrick Leano

Chef at Mosimann's, The Capital Hotel, Hibiscus, The Fox & Grapes. Stagier at Noma, Le Chateaubriand, Asador Etxebarri.

On my first date with the woman who is now my wife, I said that I’d always wanted to live in Europe.  Her response: “then why are you still here?” That was the start of it.  Those six words from a woman I barely knew changed my life forever.  Growing up in Canada we’re all taught that Europe is the Holy Grail of the culinary world.  If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.  And I was committed to do what so many of my colleagues and friends had always dreamed of; I was going to make our dreams, a reality.  I wanted it more than ever. That’s not to say that the experience in Canada is a bad one because it’s not.  It’s a country with some talented chefs, great product and a growing respect for food. I was working at one of Canada’s top restaurants and when they asked me if I’d like to represent them in a competition.  It was a local competition, focusing on local product.  Translation, it was no big deal, but I won.  It was a $10,000 cash prize (a definite big deal!) and it got my name in the paper.  I went from being a relatively unknown tournant sous chef to being on the radar of recruiters and restaurateurs far beyond Calgary. When the phone calls started I was in shock.  Recruiters from France, Italy and Switzerland all wanted to know if I’d be interested in working in their country or more specifically, for their restaurants. I was definitely interested in France, Italy and Switzerland, but by this time I was also interested in the woman who’d uttered that very first challenge; a woman who is a business communications professional and only speaks English.  So I made the decision to go somewhere where she too could work. Arriving in London was the most overwhelming and personally satisfying moment of my life.  I knew then that whether I returned home after one year or a lifetime, I was going to be forever changed. I’ve been in London for six years now.  I’ve had the opportunity to work for some very well known chefs.  I’ve travelled (and eaten in) over 25 countries.  I’ve cooked for celebrities, monarchy and the hardest critics of all – discerning European foodies.  But the thing that has changed me the most was taking that first step – making my dream a reality. At the moment I am on a career break.  I’ve spent the last six years working so hard for others that I’ve decided to do something for me.  It’s a short break and I plan to be working again by the Olympics, but in the meantime I am taking the chance to gain further experiences and have even more culinary adventures. First stop will be Copenhagen where I plan to learn from the best, then I’m off to Paris to not just work in a top restaurant but to immerse myself in real Parisian cuisine, and then finally I will be in Spain in a kitchen that as far as I can tell is doing things that no one else is doing.  I know I am fortunate to have this opportunity, but I also know that now is my chance and it’s a chance I can’t pass up. Eventually I’ll be a restaurateur in my own right.  I’ll have roots and those roots will keep me in one place.  At the moment I am using these experiences to grow, to develop and most importantly to figure out who I am and what I want to be when I grow up...

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th May 2012

@leanochef