From a Chef, to a Judge, and Back Again, Michael Bonacini is Full of Surprises in BONACINI'S ITALY

— September 18, 2019


Special to The Lede

There surely must have been some viewers who were taken aback when first watching BONACINI’S ITALY, saying to themselves, “Wait a minute, isn’t that one of the judges from MASTERCHEF CANADA? He can cook, too?”

“I think very similarly,” Bonacini said with a laugh. “I think, ‘Oh, the duplicitiousness of that Bonacini!’ ”

But kidding aside, it speaks to the success Bonacini has enjoyed in multiple TV genres:

“I am blessed and very fortunate, and shall be eternally grateful, let me tell you,” Bonacini said.

With new episodes of BONACINI’S ITALY rolling out beginning Friday at 8 p.m. ET on CTV Life Channel, we chatted with the famous chef about everything from keeping it simple, to keeping in shape.

Q: In one episode of BONACINI’S ITALY, you say that one of the main principles of Italian cooking is simplicity. But to an amateur, sometimes Italian cooking can seem quite complicated. So can you explain that a bit more?

BONACINI: “I do feel that the main cut and thrust of regional Italian cooking is simplicity. It's the honesty of the ingredients, the food, the time of year. Now, I will also say, cooking in a very simple, unencumbered way is inherently difficult, because there's less to hide behind.”

Q: So you’re saying that simplicity doesn’t mean easy. That’s an important distinction.

BONACINI: “You can destroy something by putting too much on it. The simple addition of great sea salt, or good olive oil, some olives, a good crusty bread - that's it. Don't mess with it too much, please! Because as a chef, even for myself, restraint is an important ingredient in the kitchen. We can over-complicate things. We're very good at that.”

Q: If you’re a fan of simplicity, is there a type of cooking that you find overly complex?

BONACINI: “I do feel that sometimes this Modernist cooking is too complicated and time-consuming. It's the type of cuisine that doesn't embrace me personally. I experience what some home cooks experience when they grab a cookbook off the shelf, and see that there are 22 ingredients - ‘Aw, geez, 22?’ You just put the book down and don’t even attempt it.”

Q: Doctors get cornered in casual conversations by people looking for free health advice. Same thing with lawyers and legal advice. Are you constantly asked for cooking tips?

BONACINI: “Yes, 100%. What’s my favourite thing to eat? What's my favourite dish to cook? What does my wife cook me that I couldn't live without? I tried to cook this and I couldn't make it happen, what am I doing wrong, yada yada yada. You know, most chefs don't like to write recipes, and I'm no different, because they are lengthy and time-consuming. But I have a standard line: if they tried this recipe and they really enjoyed it, remember it's my recipe. But if it didn't work out and you didn't like it, well, it's obviously your cooking.”

Q: You obviously love food, so you have to tell us, how do you stay so slim?

BONACINI: “Oh, that's a great question. I would say in the last eight years, I made it one of my personal goals to become the best possible version of myself physically, by eating healthily and exercising a little more. As you get older, you start to think about these things. I've found I can't eat the same rich foods that I once did. I used to get super excited if I was on a trip to New York, or back to London, and we would take our staff to these places and have two lunches, and then a little snack in the afternoon, and go out for two dinners - I can't handle that anymore! So all good things in moderation.”

Q: I do love that old expression, anything in excess is bad, but anything in moderation is fine.

BONACINI: “As I always say, food is an important part of any diet.”