Danny Smiles gained national attention when he competed on Top Chef Canada. He runs the wildly successful restaurant, Le Bremner, in Montreal and is currently shooting a new series for Munchies. On March 23 he pops up at Drake One Fifty for a guest chef dinner, part of The Drake's Montreal Takeover series. I caught up with him on the phone to chat about that and how his life has changed since being on TV.
So this new gig with Munchies (Vice), what can you tell me about it?
I’m gonna be doing a lot of stuff with Vice, I have six episodes lined up. My next episode will be filmed with Elena Faita the godmother of Italian cuisine in Montreal, she owns Dante. The show is called Giardino’s, that’s an American-Italian name that’s funny, it means garden, we found it fitting.
How much did your life change after your Top Chef Canada appearance?
I was 27, it’ll be four years this August. I think it accelerated my career, it also put me up there a bit and gave me visibility across Canada. I used that medium and social media and it gave me a jumpstart. I don’t take it for granted, that extra pressure is something that I love and something that motivates.
How did you end up in the cooking world?
I started cooking at 15, my parents own a hotel and I started working there washing dishes and doing prep. I started skipping school to go to work. I was so dedicated to food and everything that I would skip school. I would only skip for 2 reasons, Tuesdays when new albums would come up at HMV and to go to work and cook. I didn’t skip just to stay home.
You visit Toronto often, what are some of your favourite spots in the city, and not necessarily restaurants?
Every two months I’m in Toronto. Definitely Livestock, the sneaker store, they have really cool stuff and the skate shop next door, Adrift. I really like those two spaces. I like Mother’s Dumplings, and I like to smoke weed and go to the arcade.
I really enjoy the pizza at A3 Napoli, all the Bucas and Bar Ravals, and the pickliz (Haitain hot cabbage slaw) at Rhum Corner.
The Toronto Maple Leafs suck. Can you write that please? But overall I really like everything. You have that Billy Bishop airport in the city and the planes fly so low that I think I’m going to die every time I come to Toronto.
Can you tell us about your fellow Montreal chefs who’ll be joining you in the Montreal Takeover at the Drake Properties?
You know what I love about them? They really use simple ingredients but they each have a really cool style. Marc-Alexandre [Mercier of Hôtel Herman]'s food is super clean, he has a beautiful way of cooking. Hôtel Herman is one of my favourite restaurants in the city.
I like the design of La Majestique, it looks like a kitschy antique shop. I like Dom [Dominic Lalonde]'s focus on Quebec seafood and oysters, his food is fun and tasty.
Are you looking forward to cooking with Ted Corrado and Jon Pong at the Drake One Fifty?
I haven’t cooked with them before, but I have cooked with Darren Glew and Alexandra Feswick when you brought me in to do the Terroir Symposium after party two years ago.
Will you be bringing some special ingredients from Quebec?
I’ll be bringing some Quebec ingredients for sure, it’s definitely part of my cuisine; it’s embedded in what I do here. My vibe is when I go to do a dinner in Toronto I like to use Ontario products as well. Same as if I go to Calgary I use Alberta products. It excites me to see what’s popular and what’s good in Ontario.
Catch Danny Smiles on his Toronto travels on as he joins the 86'd Poutine Party on March 21st at The Drake Hotel + get a taste of Le Bremner's cuisine when he teams up with Chef Jon Pong on March 23rd at Drake One Fifty.