A Visit From… L’Unita head chef Stephen Gouzopoulos

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Ask Stephen Gouzopoulos, head chef of L’Unità restaurant, and he won’t contest it. However, cooking and making people happy is a passion of his, be it man, woman, or his wife, who ceaselessly motivates him.

On the fourth floor, we’re pretty much obsessed with the Food Network and, well, all things food. We’re fascinated by the life of a chef, be it starting their day early at a fisherman’s wharf to score the freshest catch of the day, or where they eat when they’re not feeding us.
We asked Stephen to give us a day in his life. Here’s what it’s like to walk in this chef’s footsteps:
8 a.m. – Wake up, take dog for walk and feed.

8:30 a.m. – Have breakfast with my wife, who teaches Pilates, yoga and reiki.

9:30 a.m. – Coffee, check emails and what’s new in the city food-wise.
10:30 a.m. – Get ready for work, walk my dog again, and head to work.
Noon – Arrive at resto, check stocks, set up kitchen.
12:30 p.m. – Accept produce, order check product (very important) and sign invoice.
12:45 p.m. – Set station, get ready for prep.
1 p.m. – Start short ribs braising.
1:30 p.m. – Start meat and fish butchery.
2 p.m. – Accept remainder of deliveries, check product.
2:15 p.m. – Head out to Riverdale Farmers Market, talk with farmer Ted. Gather produce     for remainder of week.

3:15 p.m. – Back at resto, unload produce. Continue to prep for night’s service.

4:30 p.m. – Review specials with FOH (front of house).

5 p.m. – Put up staff meal (tonight it’s fried chicken and salad).

5:15 p.m. – Set station for service and do station checks (check other cooks’ work and stations).

5:30 p.m. – Service begins.

5:30 to 10 p.m. – Service: orchestrate service, ensure food quality is up to standards and control the flow of the food and FOH.

10:30 p.m. – Pack up station and clean kitchen.

11:30 p.m. – Place orders for following day.

Midnight – Go home for dinner and time with my wife.

For those dreaming of becoming the next top chef, start practicing with a hand-picked recipe from L’Unità:

Pork chop with braised escarole, honey roasted shallots and pine nuts

– Butcher bone-in pork loin into 12-oz. chops.

– Brine pork for seven hours.

Brine

500 grams salt
400 grams sugar
4 cardamom pods
Half a bunch of thyme
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 head garlic
4 litres water


– Bring all ingredients to a boil. Ensure salt and sugar are dissolved and cool.

– Once cooled, fully submerge pork chops and place weight on top to keep chops covered in brine for seven hours.

– Remove and rinse.


Escarole

– Blanch escarole in salted boiling water and shock in an ice bath.

– Reserve for later.

Honey roasted shallots

5 large shallots
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Half a bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic

– Peel and quarter shallots. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Celsius. In a large frying pan, heat honey and oil over medium. Add garlic, bay and thyme. Once honey is melted, add shallots.

– Toss to coat shallots in mixture and place in oven on the bottom rack. Roast for 10 minutes, or until a dark golden colour is achieved.

To finish the dish
– Grill mark the chop and then place on pan in the oven eight to 12 minutes for medium.

– In a small frying pan, heat up 1 tsp of olive oil and add blanched escarole. Season the escarole with salt and pepper. Add 1 tbsp of honey roasted shallots and 1 tsp of toasted pine nuts. Cook until all ingredients are hot. Taste for seasoning.

Plate the dish and top the pork chop with Kozlik’s maple mustard. Enjoy.

*Our pork comes from Perth Pork. A heritage pig farmer in Perth, Ontario hand-delivers the meat every week.