First of all, I don’t think many people know you as a painter— I doubt many know you even paint, period. How does it make you feel to do your first exhibition showing your paintings ?
I just started painting because a bunch of paint started falling on my lap… Friends started giving me old tubes of paint in bags, is what i’m trying to say. It happened so many times that I decided to start painting. I drew for years… I got really good at that. Now I’ll give this painting a try. My dad was a really good painter. When he would look at my drawings he would always say, “You’re Wild My Son… You’re Wild!”. Above all else I think I would love to be a known painter over cook or musician. It’s the sweetest, chillest, low stress art.
“Chefs I’ve Worked For” is an unashamedly direct and self-explanatory title for your show, perhaps you could go into a bit of detail regarding the chefs you’ve chosen to paint— what they represent to you not only in your career as a chef but in your own growth and trajectory as a person. It’s obvious this show goes well beyond just the “chefs you’ve worked for”, so perhaps extrapolate a bit on how your life as a chef has effected you. Maybe also talk a bit about your relationship to food as it pertains to your upbringing as well, how it’s embedded in your roots, your background coming up as a chef, etc.
I painted almost every chef I’ve worked for…. There are a few more paintings. The one’s I’ve exhibited here are all Montreal chefs except for one: Chef Jorge… he was one of the chefs from cooking school. He was a hard ass…. But he told me I was creative and that I could go far if I focused. And then he would go back to telling me I’m shit, like any good old school Swiss chef would.
The first painting I did had no chef in mind. I just painted a painting and stood back and was like, “Who’s that?”…… Then I went on to paint another… I stood back and said, ‘These two paintings are Dave McMillan and Fred Morin” [of Joe Beef/Liverpool House fame]. I thought it was hilarious. I just starting painting other random things and throwing them to the side. But I always liked the Dave and Fred paintings. And then I said,”I should paint another chef”. Then I kinda thought about it a bit more and painted Jeff Strugnle… The chef that probably influenced me the most as person. He had a tight two-man kitchen. There was no room for error…. And if you fucked up…. He would really let you know.
That’s when it all started coming together in my mind. I just started banging them out…… No filter….. Only I really know the true meanings. In some pieces rips started happening…. I thought about fixing them….. But then I thought the rips are like the scars I still have to this day from kitchens. The visible ones leave after a couple of years…. But the mental ones will always make me punch walls if I think about them too hard.
My father and mother were excellent cooks! They were kinda like me though…. They never wanted to eat anything for the sake of eating something. It had to be delish! They would have dinner parties pretty often…. I was really young. I remember being so excited eating whatever they had concocted. I was so young I could barely remember what they made. I do remember my dad making full chicken curry in a crock pot with canned peaches. He would always rock it over night. The whole house would obviously stink. My friends would be like, “what the fuck is that smell?” (once again reminder I was from Newfoundland). When you looked at peoples’ spice cabinets all the spices were full except for the black pepper which was empty. My mom one time made chicken cordon bleu. I remember she made like twenty thighs worth. I then proceeded to consume almost all of them. I had no limit….. I rarely reached it as a child. My parents would usually cut me off. This one time my mom was so proud of her accomplishment she never cut me off. My babysitter would do most of my cooking… It was always fish sticks or KD. I wasn’t into eating that shit. What I would eat were hotdogs, done by me in the microwave… I was like six years old cooking hotdogs in the microwave making them as gourmet as I could… I couldn’t even reach the stove. I would take out the hotdogs and the buns and cheese and bacon. Put it all together on a plate and zap the shit out of it. Then I would put chopped tomato, onion, lettuce, BBQ sauce and other condiments (I was a condiment whore). That was my main diet. I also was addicted to Worchestershire sauce. For some reason my parents would buy the shit in bulk. I would always take a bottle while watching cartoons every morning at 5am and start dabbing a little on the back of my hand. Yes I had a LICK… I would go through a bottle a week on average. To this day I still think it’s the greatest condiment ever invented. My grandma showed me how to make mash potatoes…. She was a hospital cook. When I told her I wanted to be a chef she said, “Don’t be at that… you gotta weigh all the amounts out and oh be jesus you don’t want to be at dat”. Her mashed potatoes were clouds!