Christopher Palik was born in Saskatchewan and lived there until graduating high school. He moved to Vancouver and attended the Vancouver Community College Culinary Arts Foundations program. After graduating at the top of his class, he decided he wanted to be a diesel mechanic instead, returning to Vancouver Community College for the diesel technician course. At the prospect of an apprenticeship in the Northwest Territories, he decided to return to cheffing. He discovered his passion for cooking after taking a job at the pub behind his house. He went on to work all over Vancouver, then travelled and cooked in Europe, and ended up in Toronto about 7 years ago where he worked for a variety of restaurants. He took over L EAT catering and Paese restaurants a few years ago.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I kinda always knew that I wanted to work with my hands. After failed attempts at construction and mechanics, I realized that both of those careers lacked the creativity that I was looking for. I was exposed to the business by working as a dishwasher during high school and I fed off the energy of the kitchens.
What is your favourite dish at the restaurant where you cook and why?
Well that’s a bit hard to answer. I will never take credit for inventing anything; I always feel that everything has been done before. My menu is very Italian influenced, so I am cooking dishes that have been cooked for thousands of years. A dish that would be considered my favourite would be a dish in which I was able to take something we all recognize and present it in a different way. I served a warm goat’s cheese pudding in a mason jar with sweet pea pesto and some lemon cornbread crostinis. It made sense to me, cheese, warm, sweet peas, spring, lemon, crunchy. I am glad that people are responding to it.
Three ingredients you couldn’t live without?
Lemons, herbs, pork.
On your day off – what are you cooking at home? If you’re eating out, where do you go?
Day off? I would love to say that I am always out eating in Toronto but that would be a lie. Working in this business means I eat most of my meals at our restaurants. My fridge at home holds white wine and champagne, I have even done away with the condiments. I love shopping at Fiesta Farms (200 Christie Street) and at St. Lawrence Market (92 Front Street East). I love eating salami, olives, cheese and bread. That’s the perfect meal. If I eat out, it places like Tacos el Asador (690 Bloor Street West) or Zteca (327 King Street West), and for drinks it’s Barchef (472 Queen Street West) or The Pilot (22 Cumberland Avenue).
What is your favourite thing about the food scene in Toronto?
The diversity, the melding of all the different food cultures, the backyard gardens, the markets, the fact that Toronto’s scene is always hot and new places are always opening.
What’s coming up?
Just our new labour of love, that’s all, Paese Ristorante.