Michael Angeloni Is A Chef Who Enjoys Cooking Outside Of His Comfort Zone

The Toronto chef and restaurateur shares the kitchen experiences that shaped him and the moment that prompted him to follow a career in food.

With an Italian grandmother on his father’s side with whom he’d make pasta and a mother who’d cook delicious Polish dishes, Michael Angeloni was never far from good food. But it was when he received Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook for Christmas at the age of 16 that the spark was ignited to follow cooking as a career.

“I was reading through it and couldn’t believe people did that with food,” he shares. “I said that I need to learn how to do this. So, I got a job at a high-end restaurant the next year, and the rest is history.”

For Angeloni, who was born and raised in Scarborough, Ont., that history is made up of notable names offering career-shaping experiences. Grant van Gameren, who founded the acclaimed Black Hoof, let him create his own dishes and helped him creatively, even though he wasn’t the chef. Dario Tomaselli at ORO gave Angeloni his start as an apprentice.

Matteo Paonessa, who founded Blacktree restaurant, located in Burlington, Ont., gave Angeloni his first paid kitchen position and taught him what it was like to work in the industry. Watching David Lee, with whom Angeloni worked for four years, stylistically write a menu and design a dish sparked his creativity as a young person.

Today, it all culminates in an impressive portfolio of Angeloni’s projects. These include Union Chicken, an eatery serving rotisserie and fried chicken; Amano, which focuses on homemade Italian dishes; and Ray’s Food & Liquor, dedicated to Southernstyle comfort food.

“I Was Reading Through It And Couldn’t Believe People Did That With Food”

For Angeloni, they all scratch a different itch. Where Union Chicken was his first restaurant and holds a special place for him, he says Amano is “near and dear” to his heart because it’s where he currently spends most of his time and is founded on lots of his grandmother’s recipes.

It’s this range that prompts Angeloni to struggle when it comes to describing his signature style. “Italian, pasta, breads and desserts are things I’m known for and very comfortable with, but I love being uncomfortable,” he says. “I went and ran a Mexican restaurant for four years, not really knowing Mexican food, but I was so intrigued by it and wanted to learn it.”

Even when he talks about future plans, he shares that he has more projects lined up in the coming years. He describes how he wants to go back to exploring classic French cuisine, where his training originated. He also wants to expand his culinary talents. “There’s a whole world of everything in Asia I’m so interested in but know nothing about, from Vietnamese and Indian to Japanese,” he notes.

However, there is one flavourful thread that runs its way through everything Angeloni does. “I’m trying to be as seasonal as possible, work with cool, local providers and create a great experience for the guest in whatever environment the restaurant happens to be.”

As is the case with many restaurateurs, the pandemic had a huge effect, closing doors and forcing eateries to rethink their business models. For Angeloni, it shone a light on the people behind the scenes. “The pandemic showed me how much I care, and I try to work hard for the staff and how important they are to us. They make the restaurants what they are.” He continues to note how great it was “to see people’s resilience and how hardworking they are in a terrible time.”

He’s also one for innovation. Most recently, he started an Italian road-trip dinner series at Amano Notte, the private part of the Amano restaurant, where the space hosts an event covering a different region of Italy every month. At the time of our interview, he was doing his family’s region of Le Marche, northeast of Rome.

“It’s a five-course meal. You can get wine pairings. We sold out in 30 minutes for this one,” he shares. “Sometimes, there’ll be guest chefs. My pasta maker is from Sicily, so we’ll do a Sicilian dinner with him and some of his family recipes.”



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Josh Walker

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