Mark McEwan, considered one of Canada’s top chefs, counts such culinary ventures under his apron as North 44, ONE, Bymark, as well as an eponymous grocery store.
You’ve said in previous interviews that business smarts are just as important in your world as culinary skill. What advice do you have for those who may be long on talent in the kitchen, but short on savvy with numbers?
My business is a business like any: You’d better know the financial side of it or you’ll never succeed. There are no phenomena that happen in my business just by themselves. You have to be practised in how you manage your day.
And on that note, what are some of the things that can make or break an aspiring chef?
Inability to handle the stress, the hours, the physical nature of the job. One of the things about being a chef is that you have to be able to do service. Service is very, very stressful. So it’s not just about managing the business, it’s about being a very good cook. You have to be very good at both sides of it to be successful at it.
And now you have some of the top restaurants in the city, a TV show, a grocery store, books … what’s left?
I have a new restaurant opening at the end of August right across from my grocery store. It’s called Fabbrica. Old school Italian food, including Napolitana-style pizza. I’ll also do more stores and I’ll be doing Top Chef Canada. We start shooting in the middle of August and it’ll come out next spring.
So on Top Chef, would you say you’re going to be more of a Gordon Ramsey or a Jamie Oliver type?
I’m somewhere just right of centre (laughs). I’m not much of a hysterical screamer. I usually just fire people if they’re really incompetent.
After a long day in the kitchen, do you ever just order a pizza?
All the time. My wife and I go to Terroni for pizza. A good pizza is great. That’s why I’m doing Fabbrica.
No, I mean do you ever call for delivery?
Sure. Pizza Pizza is terrible pizza, but Pizza Nova has the best delivery pizza in the city, as far as a mass-produced product.