Interview with Chef David Ansill of Pif – Philadelphia, PA
Pamela Lewy: : Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
David Ansill: I was bartending in restaurants. I eventually grew tired of it. I was looking for a long-term career. Restaurants were the only business I really knew, so my father offered to send me to culinary school and it was there that I found my niche.
PL: Who are your mentors?
DA: When I was working in Miami Beach, Jeff Bramer woke me up to French cuisine and technique. He also taught me about food quality and understanding products and how to handle them. It was my first “real” education with someone who was good at true French cuisine.
PL: What chef do you most admire?
DA: George Perrier, right here in Philly. He has the best French restaurant in the city and he’s set the tone or bar for French cuisine in the city. His restaurant has knowledgeable chefs and they draw from many interesting products.
PL: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
DA: My 6-inch utility knife- a gift from my sous chef.
PL: What cities do you like for culinary travel? Why?
DA: I like New York because it's so close and there’s so much to eat there. I also like San Francisco, Paris, and I love Madrid.
PL: You worked in Miami Beach for six and a half years. How does that experience differ from working in Philadelphia's restaurant scene?
DA: Working in a tourist town like Miami is different from working in full-functional city. Many restaurants are seasonal in Miami and so chefs can be unemployed in the summer. Products are also different. Miami features Latino and South American cuisine.
PL: What are your favorite food haunts in Philly?
DA: Le Bar Lyonnais in Le Bec Fin.
PL: What is your favorite spice or herb?
DA: Salt and pepper.
PL: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
DA: Do you have experience with French food?
PL: What advice/tip do you have for culinary students just getting started?
DA: Try to get as much experience in a real kitchen and when you think you’ve learned enough, move on to the next kitchen. Travel and eat a lot too. Experience different food and don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t limit yourself.
PL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
DA: I still see myself here at Pif. I would eventually like to have a restaurant with a bar.