Chef Michael Dacquisto – Wow Hospitality – Winnipeg – Gold Medal Plates

#goldmedalplates Chefs from Canada will meet in Kelowna from February 9-11, 2012 to compete in the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships.  I sent them some questions prior to the challenge. Here’s the scoop on Chef Michael Dacquisto for Wow Hospitality in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

What was your first food memory?

As a child I called it ball soup, an ultra rich clear chicken stock that mom had simmered all morning.  Mom would scoop out some stock with little bits of vegetables and chicken and cook these little pasta balls in it. She always served it with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. (I now I know those balls by their real name, Acini Di Pepe) The smell of that chicken stock filling the house would always make me hungry!

What was in your elementary school lunch kit?

Very standard for the most part, except for the occasional Nutella sandwich before anyone had heard of Nutella.

Where did you first learn to cook?

Although only a few of my parent’s friends when I was growing up were Italian, the ladies were all unbelievable chefs! We would go to dinner parties and I would sit in the kitchen and just watch with amazement as they effortlessly produced fresh pasta, gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli, stuffed artichokes and tender veal scaloppini to name a few. They were always animated and often spoke in an unfamiliar language, but I could tell this was not a job for them but something they loved and took great pride in. That’s where I learnt to cook!

Did you attend culinary school – if so, where?

Yes I went to Winnipeg’s Red River College Culinary Arts School.

Who in the industry taught you the most?

I have had several mentors I could mention that were all chefs, but I would have to say my current boss Doug Stephen President of WOW Hospitality has taught me the most. He taught me what effusive hospitality means, attention to detail and most of all integrity.

What is your favourite style of cooking?

BBQ anything!

What is your favourite ethnic cuisine?

Although I love all Asian cuisines in general, I have to say my absolute favourite is Italian.

What ingredient(s) can’t you live without?

Garlic and chilies.

Ingredient you can’t get enough of?

Vine ripened tomatoes from my back yard!

Ingredient that will never touch your lips?

Can’t think of one.

What basic recipe/s do you advise for cooking novices to learn as a starting point?

Beef stew is a good one; if you can make that, it’s easy to alter ingredients and proteins to come up with brand new dishes using the same basic technique.

What’s your go-to comfort food?

Homemade waffles with butter, whip cream and maple syrup, great smoky bacon and fresh fruit to round it out!

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Yes…..

What’s your definition of a perfect meal?

One I did not have to cook, accompanied by a nice glass of wine.

What do you always have on hand for last minute entertaining at home?

Entertain at home, what’s that?

How do you unwind after service?

My drive home listening to music usually does it.

Most overrated food trend?

Using chemicals that you can’t pronounce.

Favourite culinary destination?

Italy definitely.

Most memorable meal last year?

Christmas dinner with my entire family together in Winnipeg wins by far

If you weren’t a chef what career would you have pursued?

I would love to have been a photographer.

What would you eat at your last meal?

Terrine de Foie Gras on brioche toast, fresh oysters, lobster and Champagne.

Who are your dream dinner companions?

Ghandi and Salma Hayek

What do you do in your off time?
I have a cottage by Lake Winnipeg my wife Holly and I love to spend time at. We also love to golf together.
Are there some regional dishes your city is known for? 

Perogies are a great heritage comfort food, as well as very tasty smoked Goldeye. Goldeye is a very regional fish mostly from Lake Winnipeg that is lousy fresh, but becomes fantastic when it is hot smoked over an oak fire.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

What dish will you be cooking for Gold Medal Plates?

It will be representative of great things Manitoba has to offer, with our fresh water fish front and center.

Why did you choose the particular wine/beer pairing for the dish?

The clean crisp Brut Rose seemed a perfect balance to the light fish.

Who have you brought with you to assist?

Two very talented chefs from our WOW Hospitality group, Simon Resch and Tristan Foucault

For the black box competition are there any strategies that you will employ to succeed?

Just don’t try to get over complicated, its only 1 hour!

What challenges do you have to face as your travel to another destination to cook?

Working in a strange kitchen and getting all the food there safely are the biggest challenges.

Who do you see as the toughest competitor this year?

These are all great Chefs , all formidable challengers.