Today’s Notable Young Professional is Toronto-based chef Kevin Castonguay, whose work in the kitchen lends itself to exceptional culinary creations at Provisions catering as well as a host of charity initiatives…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I create hand-crafted experiences and bring people together with food. Cooking just so happens to be a means to those ends.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
Like many chefs, restaurant work was one of my first jobs and not at the most glamorous place either. I didn’t start at The French Laundry – it was an Applebee’s. I had this natural curiosity that turned “just a job” into a career and a passion. I wanted to learn how everything worked, how it was made, how you could make things taste better, how you could prepare ingredients perfectly. That was my springboard into fine dining.
Nowadays, that curiosity is still there. I’m now more inspired from the business end – how to maintain a successful business, how to create a brand, how to employ people, and at the end of the day create the best food I can and build the most memorable events for my clientele.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
The Almanac dinner last year ProvisionsTO hosted was a great experience. With the help of many great people, I was able to create an atmosphere with all my colleagues, peers, and friends in the industry. Everyone was able to collaborate and showcase their talents inside a hospitality environment. Everyone brought their A-game. And at the end of the day, all of the proceeds went to The Stop Community Food Centre. Knowing that all of the hard work went towards a great cause made it that much more worthwhile.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
In five years, making the jump from catering into a restaurant, continuing the same level of creativity and innovation while also continuing to cater. In 10 years, I’ll have developed several inspired restaurant concepts. In 20 years, I’m hoping I’ll be retired with a fat 401k, hopefully sunning on a beach with a cold beer.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Stay humble. Put your head down and work hard, and if you go about your career honestly, without taking short cuts, everything will work out for you in the long run.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?We support Movember every year and have helped with a number of their successful events. Movember is an amazing movement that raises awareness for men’s health and helps funding for cancer research. By supporting them, we’re also supporting the thousands of current patients and future survivors of cancer – someone’s dad, someone’s brother, someone’s son. There are few things in life more important to me than that.
We also support the Stop. The Stop helps provide access to healthy food for everyone, regardless of their background or income. By creating discussion and awareness of better culinary habits, we’re creating a better system for the children of tomorrow; without having good healthy food or knowledge of how to cook it, we’d be looking at a pretty bleak future. So by supporting the Stop, we’re supporting a better tomorrow.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Personally, I come from the past generation of kitchens where the best way to get things done is by screaming and yelling at your cooks. It was a bit of an adjustment managing my expectations with catering and having to take the fine dining kitchen mentality out of the way I run the kitchen now. Call me crazy, but a happy, encouraged cook who is paid well and treated with respect makes better food than a sad one.
What does the word notable mean to you?
The word ‘notable’ makes me think of a community with like-minded professionals working with each other to create and inspire new development and ideas for the future.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
As a chef, it’s hard to choose. Chefs go to dinner all the time – in groups. It can get pretty crazy. I’m kind of biased from working with David Hamman at Woodlot. He has some of the best food in the city. Love going to Leemo Han’s restaurant Han Moto. And as a guilty pleasure, New Generation Sushi.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Chef Steps is an essential for a lot of the molecular stuff we do. And right now, gotta give a shout out to London, Ontario’s very own Biebs. Sorry has been on repeat in the kitchen. Don’t let the tattoos fool you. We’re huge top forty fans at ProvisionsTO.
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
@joeleffbrown – One of my cooks. His captions are often bigger than his pictures. He does all of the InstaRants to go along with our Instagram photos @provisionsto.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Right now I would have to say Mexico but that’s only because it was the place I last visited. I like to travel to a new place every time – next on my list is further down the coast to Central America, Nicaragua. Really loving the food and ingredients from down there right now.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
I don’t understand the question.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Pizza. In bed. Followed closely by ice cream. Also in bed.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I spend a lot of money on Uber – but at least I’m cutting down on my carbon footprint, right? I should probably start putting more money into my RRSPs if I want that fat 401k I mentioned earlier.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
When you meet personal, professional goals, but always have new challenges on the horizon so that you’re always pushing, always striving to do better. In my business, the word busy is synonymous with good. And right now, we’re good and busy and that to me is success.