“What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I found in the son the unveiled secret of the father.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
When John De Monte thinks of his dad he remembers the gourmet meals, the killer steaks he did year-round on the barbeque and the neighbourhood specialty, his legendary burgers. His dad was his inspiration.
As a child, John remembers his parents, Dante and Elvira, hosting great feasts where they welcomed a large cast of guests. He credits his Italian heritage for his parent’s love of food and gatherings. They would invite the aunts and uncles and cousins along with friends and neighbours. There was always lots of people and lots of food.
In the summer the his dad, Dante, would fire up the barbeque and do up a large stack of burgers and grilled vegetables for everyone. In the winter he would make umido. Umido means stew in Italian and his was made with chicken, sausage and tomato sauce. It was incredible! He would organize the children, John along with his 4 sisters and 2 brothers, to stir up a big pot of cornmeal and water. They had to take turns stirring the pot until it became a very thick polenta that was served with the umido. Elvira loved to stuff the polenta with cheese and then serve the umido poured over top.
Dante loved cooking so much and recognized John’s talent that he encouraged John to study in Switzerland to become a chef. John had other ambitions when he was young, but has often wondered if it might have been good advice.
Today, John loves to cook. He especially enjoys getting together with friends and feeding them. He now adds Parmesan cheese to his dad’s burger recipe (1/4 cup per pound of meat) and he makes a terrific cheese sauce. One evening when he was sautéing mushrooms a television chef suggested adding cognac, but he wanted to try Bourbon instead. He’s so glad he did. The bourbon brings out the woodsy flavour of the mushrooms and creates almost a maple flavour.
Gordon Ramsey is John’s favourite celebrity chef. He loves his passion and finds his brutal honesty refreshing. John thinks it would be fun to cook a meal for him sometime and get him to critique it. He believes an evening with Gordon Ramsey would make him a much better cook and they would have an awesome time together.
It’s been a year since Dante has passed away and John misses him dearly, but the spirit carries on. John and his son, James, often cook together and inspire new food ideas in each other. Following in the footsteps of his father and his grandfather, James is turning out to be the next generation of De Monte chefs. Recently John and James were making chicken parmesan and James suggested adding nutmeg to the tomato sauce. It was brilliant! Maybe John’s son is thinking about studying in Switzerland to become a chef.
“Father and Son” Bourbon Sautéed Mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 oz bourbon
1. Melt butter in olive oil.
2. Sauté the mushrooms in the butter and olive oil. Drop small hand fulls of the mushrooms in the middle of the pan in the oil and butter and once they are soft, push the them to the side and add another small handful in the middle. repeat process until all your mushrooms are nicely sautéed.
3. Pour the bourbon in the middle of the pan and mix with the mushrooms, letting the mushrooms absorb the wonderful sweet flavor of the bourbon.
4. Remove from heat and place in a serving dish and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.