Inside the kitchen of Diego Reyes, head chef at Chantecler

Inside the kitchen of Diego Reyes, head chef at Chantecler

Stocked with second-hand appliances, parsnip ice cream and a rare cookbook from the chefs at Noma

Diego Reyes standing in his kitchen wearing a light-coloured button up shirt

Diego Reyes, the head chef at Chantecler, doesn’t enjoy cooking for himself. When solo, he’s all about one-pot meals that are tasty and easy to execute (basically, the exact opposite of the fussed-over nouveau French plates he puts out at his Bloorcourt restaurant). Cooking brings him joy only when it’s communal, like hand-rolling cavatelli with a friend while sipping through a couple bottles of wine.

Related: Inside the kitchen of Afrim Pristine, the co-owner of Cheese Boutique

When Reyes was growing up in Quito, Ecuador, cooking was synonymous with family time. “Whenever there was something to celebrate, we’d butcher a pig and cook it together,” he says. Reyes moved to Toronto in 2002, when he was 13, and some of his early memories of acclimatizing to life in Canada are food-related—including an early trip to Mandarin, his first all-you-can-eat buffet. (Reyes left the restaurant deeply disappointed in his inability to eat more.)

A counter with drawers in Reyes's kitchen. On it is a stand mixer and a large soccer trophy

Two years ago, Reyes moved into his Brockton Village one-bedroom. To furnish his apartment, the chef turned to Facebook Marketplace. After finding a mint-condition Robot Coupe (an expensive restaurant-grade food processor) for a third of its usual price, he developed a bit of a compulsion. The table, kitchen dresser, chicken paintings, vintage scales and cast iron pans were all Marketplace scores. The soccer trophy, though, is Reyes’s—he’s since hung up his cleats, but he used to be pretty serious about the sport.

A closer look at his second-hand stand mixer

Reyes’s kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker for him. And while some chefs may throw a fit over an electric stove, Reyes loves his. “Gas stoves are overrated,” he says. “They reek and are a nightmare to clean. Give me induction any day, followed by electric and then live fire. Gas is dead last for me.”

A look at the oils and spices the chef keeps beside his stove

His fridge is stocked with tasty low- or no-prep snacks. Yop’s drinkable yogurts, cheap mozzarella (for grilled cheeses), cured meats and eggs are all staples. The more interesting items are reserved for guests. He’s planning to roast that chicken and serve it with Brussels sprouts and oyster mushrooms. As for the steak, he’ll sear it and plate it with crispy pan-fried potatoes and a chopped tomato salad enlivened by cilantro and green onions—a go-to side he eats with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A shot of Reyes's fridge, which has a full chicken, wine and Yops

For everyday groceries, Reyes shops at Mike’s No Frills on Lansdowne. He’s consistently impressed with the quality of its produce and how much Ontario-grown stuff it carries. Shopping local is important to him, so he’ll also swing by Vince Gasparro’s Meat Market (he thinks their chicken and bacon are outstanding) as well as nearby farmers’ markets (Trinity Bellwoods and Wychwood Barns are his favourites). Every once in a while, he’ll pop over to Cheese Boutique or Eataly to splurge on something imported, like really good olive oil or an esoteric cheese.

Related: Inside the kitchen of Taylor McMeekin, the new executive chef at the Drake Hotel

A closer look at the top shelf of Reyes's fridge

Reyes hates clutter, so he stores perishables in this dresser: there’s a drawer for fruit, one for hard vegetables and one for bread.

Three open drawers for veggies, fruit and bread

Although Chantecler bakes its own bread, Reyes often opts for convenience at home. He’ll pick up loaves from Brodflour, which also supplies the restaurant with freshly milled Canadian wheat.

A close up of the bread drawer, which contains two loaves of bread

In the freezer, you’ll often find vacuum-sealed culinary experiments. Right now, there’s some fermented carrot pulp, parsnip ice cream and vegan parsnip purée. Reyes does most of his recipe testing at home, where there are fewer distractions, and he’s always looking for innovative ways to reuse kitchen scraps. A big part of his culinary ethos is zero-waste—or at least minimal-waste—cooking.

A look inside the chef's freezer

There’s also evidence of the chef’s sweet tooth. Nestlé products will do in a pinch, but he prefers locally made stuff. Currently, he has Ruru Baked’s Vietnamese coffee–flavoured custard ice cream.

Reyes holding ice cream from Ruru Baked

Reyes likes to pop by Lola’s for coffee, though it’s more for the conversation than the drink itself. He does have a coffee maker at home, but he tries not to indulge too often.

Reyes' coffee set up includes a grinder and a drip coffee maker

Shortly after he moved to Canada, Reyes’s dad introduced him to mackerel canned in tomato sauce. To this day, he thinks they’re absolutely delicious and will eat them on top of rice (along with a tomato salad, of course). Kidney beans with rice is another late-night staple.

A look inside one of the pantry shelves, which mostly contains beans

He likes to keep a healthy supply of jam and honey on hand. He’ll eat either on a bagel with peanut butter as a snack.

A look at Diego's jam collection

Another reason Reyes doesn’t fuss too much about cooking for himself is that he prefers restaurants. “I spend way too much of my budget on eating out,” he says. “I don’t even want to think about it.” When he’s travelling in a new city, he’ll sometimes hit up three or four restaurants in a single day. At home, his favourite spots are Viaggio, Pho Linh and Giulietta.

Similarly, he doesn’t keep any cocktail-making supplies at home. For a good drink, he’d rather go to one of his favourite bars: Cry Baby, Project Gigglewater, Le Tigre or Electric Bill. And while you won’t find any beer in the house (he’s not a fan—it makes him feel bloated and sleepy), he does keep a supply of wine. Typically, he looks for low-intervention European bottles.

A close up on Reyes's European wine

On the shelves of chefs and food aficionados alike, you’ll likely spot The Noma Guide to Fermentation, a surprisingly digestible 500-page ode to culinary preservation. A rarer find is A Field Guide to Fermentation, a slimmer, more technical manual penned by Noma R&D wizards Lars Williams and Arielle Johnson. Reyes received the book, which was self-published and remains elusive, as a gift from Luke Kolpin, Noma’s production chef. However, you won’t see too many pickled items on the menu at Chantecler—Reyes thinks people often overdo it. “I don’t like fermenting just to make something cool,” he says, “only for the sake of using every part of our ingredients to prevent waste.”

Reyes holding two cookbooks by the staff at Noma

Reyes likes to collect cookbooks from big-name restaurants he’s itching to visit. These compendiums are like sneak peeks into the world’s gastronomic greats. But, in his opinion, the Alinea book was a letdown—it promised culinary fireworks but fizzled out instead. On the flip side, Flour and Water by Thomas McNaughton is a treasure trove of foolproof pasta recipes that always hit the mark. It all boils down to the author and recipe testers: just because a restaurant has Michelin stars doesn’t mean its cookbook will dazzle.

A look at the rest of the chef's cookbook collection