In Good Taste
Take a quick look at Cava’s landing page, and you can tell that the restaurant is something special. The website features mouthwatering images of inventive tapas from seasoned oysters on ice, to a toast with fig and blue cheese, to some decadent fries in a cone. Plus paella, ceviche, and grilled artichokes. Chef Doug Penfold is responsible for these and the restaurant’s other modern Spanish delights.
With over 25 years’ experience in the restaurant industry, Penfold has developed a name for himself in Toronto. In addition to leading the team at Cava, he also runs the kitchen at Chabrol, a newer destination for French cuisine. Penfold shared his thoughts on the world of fine dining.
How do you divide your time between Cava and Chabrol, and what are the biggest challenges and rewards at each?
I divide my time as evenly as possible – many days I will be at both places. It’s very convenient that both restaurants are situated so close to each other. It’s only 15 minutes between each venue. The rewards are really being able to see and be a part of different styles of dining and cuisine in the same day. As well, we are blessed to welcome such fabulous patrons every day. Our entire staff is incredible to work with. We consider all of them family.
How did your relationships with French and Spanish food develop, and what’s most intriguing about each?
Both developed out of personal passion and cultural explorations. Food allows all aspects of past, present, and future in my learning and skill development. The philosophies, techniques, and ingredients are so different that it makes every culture’s cuisines wildly intriguing.
You work with a lot of local suppliers. Name some who are making cool or innovative products or doing so in a new way.
All of our suppliers play huge parts in our day-to-day and enhance our ability to execute. Some purveyors that really stand out are John Bil from Honest Weight. He provides immaculate seafood and he’s probably the most vertically-integrated person I’ve met – from boat, to oyster bed, to retail. I always learn something new from John when I see him. The other is Mark Trealot, one of our vegetable suppliers. We think we work hard but this guy has a life that never stops. The produce he brings us is so delicious and a testament to his skill and hard physical labor. We stand on the shoulders of our suppliers.
You’ve worked in the restaurant for a long time. Any advice you’d give your younger self, or the main advice you give to aspiring chefs in Toronto?
My advice to my former and future self would be to stay hungry and always work hard. For all the aspiring Chefs out there: a strong knowledge and respect for history will help build your career and future.