Vittorio Colacitti, HAFA '04 Graduate on Top Chef Canada
Vittorio Colacitti slices and dices his way to culinary success!
Story by Teresa Pitman, the Portico
The challenge: make a creative and tasty dish focusing on the science of cooking by using kitchen gizmos such as circulators, sous vide machines and chemicals that turn foods into foams and bubbles. The reward: $10,000 and a spot in the finale of Top Chef Canada.
Rather than breaking out the liquid nitrogen like some of his competitors, Vittorio Colacitti took a different tact and attempted to transform the humble tomato into a spectacular salad.
“I chose to do a deconstructed tomato salad because it was August, and tomatoes were in season and full of flavour,” he says.
In the end, his “simple” smoked burrata and heirloom tomato salad with tomato consommé and cured cucumber wasn’t enough to keep him in the competition. He was eliminated, ending up in fourth place in season four of the Food Network Canada’s culinary competition. He has no regrets.
“The experience was amazing, and I felt I accomplished a lot,” says Colacitti, B.Comm. ’04. “My friend Rene eventually won, and they brought me back for the finale to be his sous chef. If it couldn’t be me, I’m glad he won.”
Colacitti almost didn’t make it onto the show. He submitted an application for season three, but was rejected for being “too serious.” He tried again the following year, along 800 other applicants, and got the call. Filming lasted 34 days; even those who were cut had to stay until the very end.
“It was a phenomenal experience,” he says. “It was mentally very taxing though, since we were so isolated – no phones, no Internet, no TV. And the pressure is immense – you’re working 17 or 18 hours each day and woken up the next morning with video cameras in your face.”
When the show finished, it was time for Colacitti to take the next step. He opened his restaurant, The Good Son, on Queen Street West in Toronto. He is committed to offering locally sourced food and describes his menu as “very natural, simple, clean cooking.”
“It has taken over my life at this point,” he says of the restaurant. “I’ve been there every day. I check every single plate before it leaves the kitchen. I want to show that the people who trained me did a good job — I don’t want to disappoint them.”
As a child, Colacitti travelled frequently because his father worked for an airline, so he discovered the varied tastes of good food from around the world. He lived with his family in Toronto most of the year, but often spent summers visiting relatives in Italy or his grandparents’ rural farm in Lowville, Ont.
When he enrolled at the University of Guelph, he initially majored in Economics. After spending a summer in B.C. working at a restaurant owned by his cousins, he realized that Hotel and Food Administration would be a much better fit for someone with his passion for food and cooking. His first Food Chemistry course convinced him that he wanted to become a chef.
After graduation, Colacitti added another layer of learning by attending culinary school in Thailand for four months.
“I’d been to Thailand about five times prior to that, and real Thai food is unique. I wanted to learn to create those flavours,” he says.
Colacitti went on to gain kitchen experience by working for several well-known Toronto chefs, including Lorenzo Loseto at George restaurant and Scott Woods at Lucien. Both restaurants won awards during Colacitti’s time in the kitchen.
He also worked at Didier for chef Didier Leroy, one of only 400 French “master chefs” in the world.
“I think he was the most talented chef I have ever worked with,” says Colacitti. “He taught me that the key components of being a chef are courage and finesse.”
With one restaurant under his belt, Colacitti hopes to open a second in Toronto’s downtown. He credits his U of G experience for playing a big role in his success.
“Unlike many chefs, I can see the big picture,” he says. “We were taught about the financial side, budgets and marketing, and this is information most chefs just don’t have. I learned to manage my time and to work with others. I wouldn’t have my own restaurant today if I hadn’t gone to the U of G.”