Faces of Our Community | Ilona Daniel

VMG Blog

When it comes to learning about the art of culinary, you’d want to have Chef Ilona Daniel as your teacher! A long time instructor at the Culinary Institute of Canada and a big advocate for local and fresh foods across Prince Edward Island, this entrepreneurial food writer knows her way around a kitchen!

How are you adjusting in these unknown times – any advice for people to stay motivated while staying safe at home?

It’s important to establish a daily routine and create a to-do list for each day. It helps create focus, in the work we need to do. Check-in with your classmates/colleagues using FaceTime or Zoom. Seeing each other and hearing each other’s voices will help you out if you’re feeling isolated. A good laugh together is always a good idea.

With this time at home, I’m developing new recipes, taking courses online and working on new content. I’m also taking time to rest and take care of my wellbeing. Balance is so important as we navigate this situation. I’m doing my best to listen to my heart, and act accordingly.

Why do you like about being a part of events across P.E.I.?

We have a unique landscape with dynamic people who are able to integrate into the experiences in an authentic way. This translates into the singular experiences we want our guests to have. Every part of the Island has something special that is difficult to duplicate anywhere else. I find our events bring people together from across the globe in a singular fashion and our events are executed with the ultimate in professionalism, minus the pretention. This hospitality resonates with our event-goers, and you can see how readily a group of strangers becomes a community, even if it’s only for a few hours. I love sharing our tourism and hospitality story every chance I get!

What’s the best piece of advice you have received in your career so far?

I was told long ago by one of my favourite culinary instructors to always remember that just because you can add a component to a dish, doesn’t mean that you should. Always remember who you are cooking for. Cooking is at its core is service that is born from love; never betray that.

If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?

I would love to share a meal with Caterina de Medici, Queen of France in the 16th century. She was a strong woman who was passionate about culinary experiences. She is said to have introduced the fork to the French court from her upbringing in Italy. Until then, dining guests would bring their own knives to a feast and essential stab their food onto their knife or would use their hands. Caterina brought a sophistication to the culinary scene which echoes across time. She’s a fascinating woman who was powerful and influential in a time when women were rarely more than property responsible for keeping a family lineage alive.

 Final thoughts from Chef Ilona

These challenging times will not last forever. We will have so many adventures ahead of us to experience! While we may be in a rush for everything to return to “normal”, let us use this time to think about how we can make things better, more dynamic, and even more authentic to who we are as a community. Let us find new ways for all us to grow and evolve together in meaningful ways. We are so strong when we support each other and there is no more important time than now for all of to do our part. If you are buying groceries, consider using the numerous online and curbside contactless options being offered by our PEI entrepreneurs. If you aren’t able to do that, share, comment and recommend these businesses on your social media platforms; word of mouth is and will always be a powerful tool we can use to support one another.

Chef Ilona may not be native to Prince Edward Island, growing up in the Niagara Region of Ontario, but she has certainly left her mark here on Canada’s Food Island. She has held several impressive positions: she was the founding chef of the Daniel Brenan Brickhouse, a local artisan kitchen in Charlottetown, and executive chef to the Island’s Lieutenant Governor, Frank Lewis. She  wears many “hats” not only as a Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Canada, but also a contributor to CBC PEI, Saltwire Network and Tribe Fresh Consulting. To keep up with Ilona’ and her at home cooking recipes follow her @chef_ilona on Instagram. Follow Versatile Management Group on Facebook or Instagram for more good news stories about the leading faces in our community!