Vancouver is home to some of the best chefs in the world, many have worked for the top chefs and restaurants around the world as well as around the city. Dishing with the Chefs is a series of Interviews with some of the top chefs in and around Vancouver.
When Phil was 16 years old his first job was at Tim Horton’s in the kitchen, a job at Joey’s Only Seafood followed where he worked as a dishwasher. After highschool Phil enrolled in the Journalism program in his hometown and was planning to go that route, however, he ended up changing directions after he had worked in the kitchen over the summer at an all girls camp in the USA. He loved the kitchen experience and that lead him to pursuing a culinary career. He attended Niagara College and took the 2 year culinary program. While going to school he did his apprenticeship at the Taboo Resort in Muskoka, working the summer between his 1st and 2nd years and after school. He also worked at The Keefer Mansion Inn in a cook position.
After graduation, he went to the Banff Springs Hotel to work in the kitchen. Phil left and did his 1st stage at Alinea for a 1 month, then at the Fat Duck for a month, and then the Reed Hotel in Malorca, Spain which was a huge eye opener for him. Everyone working there were German but the service was all done in Spanish, he worked there for 9 months. In 2009, he moved to Vancouver to work at D.B. Bistro Moderne until they closed. In 2010 he worked at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel and in 2011 he joined Hawksworth and was with them for 5 years having working all the stations in the kitchen, while there he then ran the private dining and catering division for 1-1/2 years. This was quite the experience as he cooked in elevators, in the middle of a field, their were all sorts of experiences. He then joined Nightingale a year before their opening and has been with them ever since.
You can follow Chef Phil Scarfone on twitter @philscarfone
How did you get the job at Nightingale?
I was already working at Hawksworth, I didn’t realize they were grooming me for the Head Chef position long before I realized interest. I had to cook a 6 course meal for Chef Hawksworth at his home to be considered to get this job. and once I got it, I started working on the project a year before Nightingale opened, went through 12 drafts of the 1st opening menu.
How did you nail the Pizza for your menu at Nightingale?
We tested doughs for months and went back and forth to Bellingham where our oven supplier was located to bake and test our pizzas.
How did you maintain a consistency within your realm after opening a busy restaurant?
Knowing your staff
How did you form a connection with your staff as Head Chef?
It is important to me to develop a connection with my kitchen staff, they need to see me cooking with them, they learn from seeing me cook, it keeps my pulse involved in the cooking process.
How do you plan your menu as the seasons turn?
Week to week, I have a few starts at home of vegetables, I know when they are going to come into season. Most of the work goes into the prep. I usually run the features and I send out fresh sheets thru the system to the staff.
Confit shallots, garlic and capers
Oil of the confit
Something where we could let the octopus be the octopus and show that we can cook it properly.
What are your favourite foods to eat personally?
Seafood, mackerel, shellfish
What are your favourite restaurants to eat in Vancouver outside of where you work?
Via Tevere Pizzeria
Sumac labneh on the bottom
3 different kind of beets
Dukkah on top (wild rice, sesame, pine nuts and hazelnuts)
Flavour balance and showcasing the beets from North Arm Farms.
What do you like to do in your Off Time?
Hanging out with my girlfriend
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
Ultra fresh seafood
Fresh bay leaves
What do you want your Cooks to Learn from you?
Be accountable for decisions and product
Get excited for the food
Should be a struggle to get the best product from the farms
Respect the ingredients
Making Pasta in-house, was that an elaborate process to set-up?
I have a pasta cook from Italy who comes in 3 times a week. He is making most of the past and different shapes of pasta as we go.
Grilled house-made Beef Sausages, with pickled Chantreles
House-made beef sausages
Shallots, garlic and white wine
Seasonality of the vegetables that came in yesterday so it is very fresh.
What is the Wildest catering project you have done?
Diner on Blanc the 1st year with my team at Hawksworth. We rented a 32 ft refrigerated vehicle and parked it in the loading bay of Hawksworth. We made picnic meals boxed for 900 people, and a sit-down 3 course dinner for 300 people. Took us 2 full weeks of prep time.
Tell me about the Tattoo on your arm
Its all my favourite foods which include a pig face, octopus, garlic, quail eggs, rosemary, rosemary, Brussel sprouts, spot prawns, siracha. It took 65 hours to do over 14 sittings and it was designed by Tattoo artist, Andrew Warren and finished 2 years ago.
You mentioned Zaklan Heritage Farm as being one of your farmers, tell me about them
Gemma and Doug operate Zaklan Heritage Farm in Surrey and we purchase a variety of vegetables from them including kale, radishes, baby carrots and arugula. It’s important to know where your food comes from and to work with farmers, it is about building the relationship.
Who are your Mentors?
Stay tuned for the next chef in the Dishing with the Chef series.
By: Richard Wolak