Celebrity chef; co-owner of Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants; author of 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men
Executive Chef at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto in 1985; runs 11 restaurants in Ontario including Canoe, Auberge du Pommier, Biff's Bistro and Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill plus service provider to various venues such as the Toronto Board of Trade; former host of Food Network Canada's Cook Like a Chef
Opening Oliver & Bonacini at Windermere House in Muskoka this May; launching Bannock restaurant in downtown Toronto this summer/fall
He's a celebrity chef who doesn't just dish it out in the kitchen. He's pretty handy in the garage, too.
As the co-owner of 11 Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, chef Michael Bonacini works around the clock. And he needs a vehicle that works just as hard. That's why he drives a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck.
Is your Silverado a workhorse?
It is. I bought it because we have a property up in the country and I wanted to move stuff around. I ended up using it as an everyday vehicle.
Just recently in January we were using it to get rid of garbage when we were renovating Canoe, delivering firewood, my annual delivery of rhubarb, herbs, picking up supplies. It comes in handy.
Even my father-in-law says it still purrs like a little pussycat. It's done 272,000 km and I think it's going to go for another 270,000 km - that's my dream.
Did you cross shop with a Ram or Ford F-150 when you bought it?
No, I didn't. I went in with a Chevy in mind.
I can only put it down to having come from the U.K. and seen enough North American movies where the Chevy was a recognized name and I decided that's what it's going to be - a Chevy.
I didn't consider the Dodge or F-150, not that I wouldn't for the next one.
But driving and parking a big truck in Toronto must be a pain?
Parking is the biggest challenge, particularly in underground parking lots.
It seems as if the newer, underground parking spaces are trying to pack as many vehicles into them as possible. You don't get as much turning berth, the aisle ways are tighter and the spots are narrow. It's definitely challenging.
You're savvy in the kitchen - are you equally savvy in the garage?
I do my own oil changes once in a while.
When time allows, I'll pick up the oil and oil filter. Because it's so far off the ground I can crawl under it without having to put it up on the jack, which I don't like crawling under when it's up there.
What does a Silverado say about you?
I think a truck is a working vehicle; I'm a working stiff.
It just says I'm a guy on the job and I have a mission to get it done - really nothing more than that. It's a workhorse type of vehicle. It's nothing fancy.
My son gets a little embarrassed when I drive him to school in it.
I've lugged around a number of chairs and patio components and two-by-fours hanging out the back, that's when the embarrassment factor goes up.
If it were a dish, what would it be?
It would be a 24-ounce T-bone steak - meaty, juicy and every guy deep down wants one.
What was your first car?
A Volvo 122S - four-cylinder, stick shift, bright red. When I had the 122S I bought a spare engine and partly rebuilt it in my apartment where I lived in London, England. Then I took it down to my home in South Wales and changed the engine out. My brother and I did that in a two-week period when I had gone home for vacation.
That was a whole lot of fun. Other than getting the timing right - I ended up calling a friend to help, it went a lot more smoothly than I expected. Again, I think it's a guy thing. I do not have the time to do that sort of thing now.
I have a bit of a passion for classic vehicles. Then, I went to the P1800 E, which was the Roger Moore as Simon Templar two-seater Volvo sports coupe. That was a beautiful car.
I was working in Switzerland at the time and I'd drive through France and Switzerland and so on. It was great.
After that, I had a little Karmann Ghia - which I unfortunately blew the engine in it. I lost my oil and didn't realize and the engine seized. Then, I had a little Volkswagen Golf GTI. Then I came to Canada and my first vehicle was the Toyota Supra.
Back in the '90s, I went through a tough period and I had a Ford Mercury Topaz until I lost a wheel in an underground parking lot at the Atrium on Bay. I was leaving the building to exit and the front driver's side wheel just came off. I was more embarrassed with the back-up of traffic and the honking - I decided that was it. I have to get rid of it.
What else have you owned?
I bought a 1952 Ford Sunliner, which I had for a number of years. I sold it and made $5,000. I bought a '62 Cadillac Eldorado, which I sold and made $300 on it.
I bought a car that my son and I would call the lean, green machine, which was a 1967 Ford Mustang coupe - it was avocado green with matching interior. Not that that was such a lemon, but I sold it and lost $300 bucks on it. But it was a fun car to throw around.
What's your dream car?
My current dream car is equally as British and as classic in many ways. But there is the 21st century version, which my wife would love me to buy for her, but is far, far too expensive, and that is an Aston Martin DB7. She's been watching recent James Bond movies a little too much lately.
What sparked your interest in classic cars?
I'm not exactly sure, but even back when I lived in the U.K. - the 122S had more classic, rounded features and lines to it - I've always had that dream of owning an old classic car.
Right now sitting in my garage up at my country property is a 1972 Fiat Spyder, which to my son's dismay has not seen the light of day in four years.
This summer I promised him wholeheartedly I would get it out. It's the only piece I've kept out of the ever-revolving door of classic cars that have come and in and out of my garage.
Classic cars are wonderful to look at and lots of fun to drive, but between insurance, maintenance, winter storage, getting them roadworthy at the beginning of the season and shutting them down at the end of the season, it takes time and money.
My son doesn't realize it.
The interview has been edited and condensed.