Executive Chef Patrick Riley, Far Niente, Four, Petit Four Bakery

Q&A with Executive Chef Patrick RileyApril 25, 2012

Executive Chef Patrick Riley, Far Niente, Four, Petit Four Bakery
Executive Chef Patrick Riley, Far Niente, Four, Petit Four Bakery

Education and career path:

British School System Secondary School Diploma Equivalent. I learned to cook while working.

Years of experience as a chef:

I have been cooking for 22 years and I have been a chef for 14 of them.

What are your earliest memories of cooking?

My father was within the Canadian diplomatic core and we entertained when abroad. It was fun watching my mother learn how to cook from the caterers in each of the countries, and it always ended with her trying to get them to show her how to make what they ate themselves for dinner.

Why do you think you were drawn to a culinary career?

It is very creative and fulfilling work. The field of study seems unending and complex but at the same time intuitive and instinctive. I think it is a career someone would really have to work hard to get bored of.

How would you describe your restaurant(s)? 

I look after three Restaurants at 187 Bay St. in the Toronto Financial District.

Petit Four Bakery champions a gourmet approach to food. Soup, sandwiches, salads and small desserts are made with house-baked breads and artisanal ingredients – all combined with a creative flair.

Four Restaurant is built on the idea that pairing food healthfully should not require the sacrifice of flavour. Our dishes are nutritionally balanced and built around a 650-calorie count but lack nothing in size or taste. It’s great food that is also good for you.     

Far Niente is a nod to more formal dining without being stuffy. The food is contemporary North American fare with an updated urban spin. 


What is your philosophy about food?

Good food is good food and happens how and where it happens. My job as a chef is to discover and experience it, understand and duplicate it so that I can ultimately share it with others.

Where do you go to dine out?

I usually dine at ethnic restaurants – mostly food that I don’t (or can’t yet) cook myself. I love many but if I had to choose one to have my last meal at it would probably be Pearl Harbourfront. I don’t have the words to describe their fried octopus.

If you knew you were going to be exiled to a desert island, what three ingredients or food items would take with you?

Ardent Mills Organic 2016

Potatoes, garlic and lemon – I know it doesn’t make sense but neither does me ending up on a desert island.
What do you think is the most overrated food trend right now?

Innovation and change just for the sake of it. These things are what we should use to engage our patrons but I think it detracts from the experience at a restaurant when they become the conversation.

Is there any type of cuisine that you would like to experiment with?

There is no cuisine that I don’t want to experiment with and I am working hard on getting to them all. It is my goal when working with a cuisine that is new to me to understand the culture that produced it enough in the process to bring authenticity to my work and do it justice.

What are the essential ingredients for success in the restaurant business today?

A laser focus on the customer’s experience, flexibility and a commitment to being detail oriented.

If you could invite any person to dinner, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook?

That would have to be my grandmother, and I would cook the Lebanese table favorites that she taught me how to cook. I’d show her that I could prepare them almost as well as she did – almost.

What strategies do you use to attract and retain good kitchen staff?

Creating a good working environment that focuses on camaraderie, personal growth, learning and exploration through food and cooking.

Can you share a tip for controlling your food costs?

Keeping your menus based on seasonal ingredients helps, but nothing beats just being hands on with your food. That is to say, making sure the right amount is being ordered, that it is handled well, cooked right. There really is no magic bullet – it’s about doing a lot of little things right consistently and keeping your eye on the ball.

Do you have any culinary guilty pleasures? Food treats that you couldn’t live without?

Portuguese custard tarts – mmmmmmmmmm…

Click here for Chef Patrick Riley’s recipe for Oyster Margarita Shooters.

See also:

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