Making Your Mark ~ Rob Gentile

There’s a lot of movement in the restaurant business. We’re really fortunate that our best people tend to stick around, but we lose our fair share of gems.

Making Your Mark catches up with the ones that got away.  This time around we caught up with Rob Gentile from Buca.

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What’s the best part about being in the food business? And what’s the hardest part?

The best part about being in the food business is that I get to do what I love.  It’s very satisfying to make people happy through good food and I enjoy the ongoing challenge to learn more and get better each and every day.

To be honest I don’t have anything bad to say, I love every part of it!

How do you know when a recipe’s right?

With recipes and chefs in general is that just when we think we have it right, we second guess ourselves and ask “how can we make it better?” The truth is that a recipe is never perfect, it comes down to personal preference. What matters most is the guest’s experience and if they think it’s perfect, then we have done our job.

What was the worst food review you ever got and how did you handle it?

At Buca we have been very fortunate with good reviews but when there are negative comments it’s important to always remain positive and never let them affect the team. Negative reviews should always be used as a learning tool to determine why a guest is unhappy and what we can do to improve our hospitality so that everyone who walks through the door has an exceptional experience.

Nowadays, everyone has a voice through social media so if we ever discover an unhappy guest, we always respond or invite them back so that we can have an opportunity to change their perception.  It’s surprising how the tone changes from negative to a positive one.

Why do you think foodie culture has exploded the way it has?

Food has always been exciting and will continue to be.  As long as we exist we will always love good food so when someone can cook really well by creating unique and tasty dishes, they are considered somewhat of a superhero. Restaurants and Chefs all over the world are continuously presenting more interesting and amazing things to eat, as a result they are driving the “restaurant experience” to new levels. People are excited, they can’t help themselves.  We will always be drawn towards food,  it’s a beautiful thing.

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How do you think your stint at The McEwan Group has helped you in your career?

Working for Chef Mark McEwan was an incredible learning experience, it instilled the drive and sense of professionalism that I have today. Watching Mark constantly strive to improve and expect the best from his team is something I really absorbed as a young cook. I carry that same determination with me and every day I encourage my own team to be better, a constant reminder that we never stop learning as chefs.

Bymark Gets a Pop Art Makeover by Claire Hall

Claire Hall, a name you will be hearing a lot more of in the future if you haven’t already!

Claire Hall

The 31 year old is a Burlington, Ontario native and is on the forefront of the custom art scene in Toronto. She is young, talented, outgoing and does not stick to one genre of art, which made her an easy pick for Mark McEwan when he wanted to commission someone to make his vision a reality while undertaking renovations at Bymark.

When Mark McEwan approached Claire about having some solid wooden blocks painted in a pop art format, Claire came to the restaurant armed with her mock ups and to everyone’s surprise, Mark replied- “that is better than I could’ve imagined”. We all know Mark as a tough judge, so with this exclamation, everyone in the room was blown away. Within mere minutes he also hired her to paint the slatted wall in the east side of the lounge.

Bymark

The wooden cubes, in their original form have been a fixture at the Bymark bar since it’s opening 11 years ago. Yabu Pushelberg’s  design choice of using the architectural pieces was to soften the space and bring in natural elements to the downtown core’s concrete jungle. But as we know, Mark tends to push the envelope when it comes to his artistic vision. With the rest of the restaurant getting a face-lift, a custom paint job on the cubes, which many may have walked past without noticing before, gave him the opportunity to bring a brightness to the space.

Before and After

“Some people will love them and some will think I am crazy, but it is art and it is meant to provoke a conversation,” says Mark.

You can spend years searching for a piece that you have envisioned or you can have it created to your specifications and that is exactly what he did.

For more information about Claire Hall, please visit her website and make your décor decisions easy ones!

Moments with Mark: 1998

heart of the city quote

The life of a “celebrity chef” has drastically changed in the last 10 years. With the emergence of the “foodie” culture brought on by television shows and even whole networks dedicated to the culinary arts and everything surrounding them, the life of a chef has become a lot more glamorous than it used to be. We bring this up to direct your attention to the date of this article, it was written and printed in 2006, yet the photo of Mark McEwan was from 1998. In those days chefs didn’t have or need updated head shots and lenthgy bios. There were a select few in the city that were lauded for their skills, precision and dedication to their craft. They were in the kitchens instead of the office or in studios. For this “Moments with Mark” we decided to ask him about life in 1998, which was a busy year in the headlines.

In 1998, the news of the scandal between then President, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky became a media sensation. When you first heard about it, did you believe him or her?

At first I couldn’t believe any of it! But then as more details came to the surface, I absolutely knew that he was guilty of the indiscretions…poor Hilary.

titanic

Titanic became the highest grossing film of all time! Did you take your wife Roxanne to the theatre to see it or did you wait for the release of the video and watch it at home?

Of course we went to the theatre! I don’t think I would have heard the end of it if we hadn’t…I may have even shed a tear.

The last episode of Seinfeld aired in 1998, were you an avid fan of the show? Is there a Seinfeld-ism that you related to the most?

I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Jerry himself, but I thought the cast of characters surrounding him were great. If there is one thing that I will take away from the show it was my dance skills, I learned them from Elaine!

Seinfeld

Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” was the album of the year. With many stars setting up camp in Vegas, if you had to attend which show, what would you choose? Celine? Donny and Marie? Brittney? Garth?

Believe it or not I have been to see Celine Dion in Vegas— it was quite the show, she is a Canadian icon, at one point she has been everyone’s guilty pleasure.

In 1998 the world lost many legends, one of the most notable was the death of Frank Sinatra at age 82. Were you a big fan of that type of music?

My father was actually a Sinatra-esque lounge singer when I was growing up in Buffalo. I even have a picture of the two of them together! Growing up in my household, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand were always playing in the background.

Frank-Sinatra

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