The Delta Hotel

The Delta Hotel Toronto by Marriott is a recent addition to the Toronto skyline.

 

Living up to its motto of ‘bare maximum’, white oak and copper finishes are broken up by murals and blocks of bright colour for a relaxed modern appeal. It was here that we met Executive Chef Keith Pears for a chat about his life and future goals…

 

What motivated you to become a chef?

Keith:
I’m kinda the third generation of cooks in my family! My grandparents had a restaurant and my parents are both chefs with their own restaurants. When I was a teenager, I started doing dishes and minor prep work just through high school, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do at that time.

But, once I realised that food was art and that you can make someone’s day better through food, it gave me all the motivation I needed.

What do you love most about being a chef?

Keith:
Well, I would say a couple of things really. The family, team-oriented environment for one. I spend a lot of time getting to know my team and they teach me as much as I teach them! It is rewarding to see them grow in their careers.

The second thing is the impact you have when someone says “Wow! You have made me so happy with that dish” or, that it is the best thing they have ever eaten – that’s the ultimate thing you try to achieve.

What would you say to someone who was considering becoming a chef?

Keith:
Understand the lifestyle. Respect it and be true to it. It won’t be easy and it will take time. I have been in this industry for 21 years. Respect older chefs who have paved the way and play your part in not letting the industry down.

Give back to your team. I get together with the kitchen leaders each month to discuss what we can do, so team members aren’t just clocking in and out, you know?

What are your personal goals?

Keith:
I want to challenge myself, not only in the culinary world, but in life! I have considered overseas working and would like a restaurant of my own. Well, not just one, an empire, right?

(He laughs.) To have different restaurants for different types of dining… David Chang has everything in one building: Food to go, fine dining, casual, you know? Everything in one place.

I want to continue to push myself. I would like to go on Top Chef Canada someday. I would also like to focus on my team – see them develop, maybe go into competitions? If my team are achieving their goals, then that is one of my goals.

Of course, I would also like to see my kids grow up!

 

Keith Pears plating in the kitchen of the Delta Hotel
Service at the Delta Hotel

If you could name one person that has influenced your style in the kitchen, who would it be?

Keith:
That’s so difficult… Well, if it wasn’t for my Mom, I wouldn’t be cooking, that’s for sure! Cooking competitions have influenced me too. Even when you lose, you still learn how to handle yourself and situations. It teaches you refinement and layering flavour.

Dad is from Quebec, and Mom is Canadian Chinese, so I definitely have a lot of Asian influences in how I cook. Classic with Asian influence, but I have a modern approach, thinking outside the box a little, you know?

My favourite dish? I love making soups or stews. Comforting soup – I could eat broth every day.

Why Toronto? How does the food scene differ from Vancouver?

Keith:
We are the flagship property of the hotel brand, so the spotlight is on us. Trying to stay ahead of the game is tough. You need to know your market and be better than everyone else. In Toronto you can do trendy things which would be slower to take off in Vancouver.

You can eat in a different restaurant every day! There is more of everything: Cooks, chefs, restaurants, people. Vancouver has a good food scene too and it will always be home, so it has a different feeling for me.

Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?

Keith:
I see myself in this property, pushing for us to be great. There are a lot of things in this location that weren’t there before, you know? So, I feel that as the area develops, we need to stay ahead of the game and make sure that no one catches up to us!