My Path to Becoming a Chef
From as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a chef. My parents have pictures of me at 4 cooking in our North Vancouver kitchen with my mom and dad. I went to a Catholic elementary school and was set to go to the Catholic high school. There was another school down the road that offered a chef training program that fed into one of the post-secondary schools. I opted to go to that one and get some basic training before I went to culinary school. During high school, I worked at a couple of places to get my foot in the door because no one wanted to hire a 14-year-old kid. I started at White Spot, Pizza Hut and moved into a small Italian restaurant. I made my way up from dishwasher to cook pretty quickly, learning all the stations and dishes. I moved from there to a new restaurant opening. A sports bar with a progressive look on pub food. I lasted there for about a year and a half, but was always wanting to learn more and progress.
In my grade 12 year our class went on a trip to Italy. In Tuscany, we did a cooking class at a winery called Castelo Vicchiomaggio. I fell in love with the place and needed to come back. Chef Lagi offered students internships there for the more dedicated ones. I decided to go back for a couple of months during the wine harvest time. One of the most important decisions I made in my career. I learned so much about Tuscan and Italian cuisine, winemaking, discipline, and myself.
I then returned to Vancouver and was registered for culinary school at the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. I took the 4-month program that had a focus on training people to be ready for the workforce after completion. The program was pretty intense and quick. We learned the basics and many amazing techniques that set me up for my next Adventure.
When I finished the program, one of my instructors helped me get a job at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver with Chef Robert Lecrom. I worked in the main production restaurant there for about a year, doing some banquet functions as well for up to 1000 people. I was a little bit of a shit because I lost interest really quickly (I still do). I worked all the stations in that restaurant and was constantly moving around but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. There was another restaurant in the hotel that serviced the lounge. That was the fun and experimental food that we offered in the hotel. I used to come in early and stay late to help the team up there with anything they needed. I wanted to be in that kitchen. One day the opportunity came up and I got to help take over that kitchen with another couple of cooks. We challenged ourselves every day with new dishes and techniques, learning from each other and our chefs. The hotel was a union environment so, unfortunately, promotions were not easy to come by. Unless of course you had been there since the dawn of time. So, I got bored and pissed off about being passed over time and time again. I needed a change.
Fairmont has hotels all over the world and I wanted to take advantage of that. I applied for about ten hotels around the world. I said to myself that I would pursue all of the opportunities equally, and the first one that worked out would be where I would go. I have Italian citizenship, so traveling and working in the EU was very easy. I ended up accepting a position in St. Andrews, Scotland. Pretty amazing! I was working in the production restaurant there for about 3 months, again I was already bored. I wanted to progress and learn the best food possible. I would go and work in the fine dining restaurant during the very limited time that I wasn’t busy downstairs. Finally, after a few more months, a position became available in the fine dining restaurant. I jumped at the opportunity. I was the sous chef and the chef was my roommate at the time. We were cooking the best food I had ever cooked, working with the best ingredients and having the best time ever. One day the chef walked out and disappeared, leaving the other sous chef and myself to figure out everything. I wanted the chef job more than anything. I started coming in earlier than the other sous chef, writing the menus, schedules, and attending all of the meetings (about 16 hours a day). After a few more months of that, I got the job. We continued pushing for the whole time I was there, receiving 3 Rosettes for our efforts.
Time to move back home. I landed a job at a small hotel to open a couple of restaurants for them. I worked with them for about 2 years trying to develop a brand that would be easy to replicate in other areas of BC and western Canada. But, not the job that I had been wishing for. I spent a lot of time here working on ideas for my own business and developing relationships with people in the industry. I finally got an opportunity to this in the fall of 2011.
I opened a food truck with a friend called Street Meet. We operated for about 2 years. The problem with food trucks in Vancouver is that it is cold as fuck and raining for 90% of the year. People don’t want to be outside in that. We were very successful in the summer months, but the winters we had to close and get jobs. Being very inexperienced in business, my partner and decided to close the business in the late summer of 2013.
I got an amazing opportunity to go back into Fairmont as the Restaurant Chef of a new concept that they were planning to launch that winter. I came on board and right off the bat, clicked with the team and management. We launched in January of 2014 and were cooking some of the best food in the city at the time. My team had the same drive and passion that I had and were eager to learn from me, which drove me even more. You don’t get to hang on to a team that good forever though. Our Exec Chef moved on to a new project and the team started to disperse shortly after that.
I had been approached by one of my friends who owned a restaurant called Wildebeest in Vancouver. Wildebeest just so happened to be my favorite restaurant in the city at the time and I was fired up. I accepted the position of Chef in the spring of 2016. We did some amazing things over the course of the year. The company was expanding quite quickly and the need for an Executive chef presented itself.
This brings us to what I do today. I am always learning to be a better leader, grow the team and help create new concepts within our brand.
About Chef Alessandro Vianello
As Gooseneck Hospitality’s Development Chef, Alessandro Vianello oversees menu development and kitchen operations at all four of the company’s Vancouver restaurants – Wildebeest, Bufala, Lucky Taco and Bells and Whistles – and employs his passion for serving dishes comprising locally sourced and sustainable ingredients that underscore the bounty available to chefs plying their trade in the Pacific Northwest.
For Business Inquiries: Contact me