The longtime protégé of Chef Chuck Hughes, Danny Smiles put the advice of his mentor to good use, steadily climbing the restaurant industry ranks over the years. Through hard work and dedication, Smiles became the head chef at Old Montreal hot spot, Le Bremner, in addition to being named a finalist on Top Chef Canada. But, if there’s one thing he enjoys doing during a rare break in his schedule, it’s sitting down and watching the Habs battle it out for NHL supremacy. We recently caught up with the rising star in the Montreal culinary scene to learn more about his love for the CH.
How long have you been a Habs fan?
DANNY SMILES: I’ve been a fan since before I was born. (laughs) I was born into it. I’ve followed the Canadiens since childhood. I’m from a big hockey family. We watched the games on TV and we played hockey together.
How often did you play hockey growing up?
DS: I played organized hockey for a couple of years, but I always played outdoors at the park. I used to play street hockey with the other kids from my neighborhood all the time. Nowadays, I started playing in a league twice a week. I love it. I play with people way better than me, so my game is getting better and better. (laughs)
Who was your favorite player growing up?
DS: I’m a huge Patrick Roy fan. He’s my favorite player of all time. I even had the chance to cater at his place recently. It was amazing! I also loved Vincent Damphousse growing up just because my mom used to babysit him. He’s from Anjou like me and he grew up on our street.
What’s your favorite Canadiens memory?
DS: My favorite memory is when they won the Stanley Cup in 1993. I was really young back then, just nine years old. I remember I was with my whole family in the basement when they won the Cup and we all celebrated together. Everybody was going nuts. That memory is right up there.
You’ve got a very busy schedule. Do you still manage to catch games in person or on TV?
DS: It’s pretty hard to watch games during the season because the restaurant is open six days a week. We’re only closed on Sundays. We’ll all get updates on our phones. Thank God for technology! I try to take Tuesday nights off sometimes to catch a game. I love going to the Bell Center to see a game live. My girlfriend enjoys it even more than me! (laughs) She’s so into it.
We noticed that you’ve installed a television in your restaurant…
DS: For the first four years, we didn’t have a TV. But, we put one in this year. People wanted to watch the games when they were at our place. I think it’s nice to have it behind the bar. It fits the decor. We only turn it on during Habs games, though.
It’s no secret that the guys like to eat at Bremner. Who’s your top customer?
DS: A lot of the current guys on the team come to the restaurant. Lars Eller and P.K. Subban come by a lot, and Brandon Prust did, too, before he was traded. Prusty has been coming to Bremner since day one. He helped to spread the word about the restaurant in the locker room and across the league, too. He sent a lot of guys from other teams our way over the years. Former players come occasionally, too. Mike McPhee and Sergio Momesso come by from time to time.
What do you typically whip up after a big win?
DS: After a big win, the guys like to keep it simple. They’ll come here and they love to order steak. I’ll give them a nice, old school steak because I know they like the way I prepare it for them.
Is it tough NOT to be a groupie when they come by?
DS: I was never one to freak out when they’d stop by. I feel honored to see them walk through the door. I’m proud that they want to come to my restaurant because there are just so many good restaurants in the city.
What’s the best food to eat while watching a hockey game?
DS: Hockey starts in October. Unlike in Toronto, the season doesn’t come to an end in April around here. (laughs) During the fall, you can still eat fresh apples and fresh tomatoes. In the winter, since it’s cold, I’m more into junk food. In May, my favorite thing is to have a tower of oysters with a bunch of beers. I don’t want to concentrate too much on food when I watch a game. It has to be fast and easy.
Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine.
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