Chef Julian Pancer
Notable Culinary Experience:
Julian has been the co-owner and culinary instructor at The Chef Upstairs since 2014. He is also co-owner of Pancer's Original Deli, a Toronto landmark since 1957 and family owned for 4 generations. He is the house chef of Market&Co. at Upper Canada Mall and The Food District at Square One Shopping Centre.
Julian began working in restaurants at the age of 11 in his family’s deli after discovering his love for food in his mom’s kitchen. He is a graduate of the George Brown Chef School and has learned his trade working with many talented chefs. His experience includes Trump Hotel & Tower in Toronto, Sous Chef at Ciao Wine Bar in Yorkville and Head Chef at The Tavern by Trevor.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Anything fresh, spicy and preferably with his hands. Honourable mentions include sushi, curries, tacos, pho, ramen and Ethiopian cuisine… and of course, pastrami on rye.
Cooking Inspiration: His mom, his family’s deli, Anthony Bourdain and his travels.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: Silicone spatula, small wire whisk and his hands.
Fun Fact: Julian is an avid lover of music and performed and sang in bands for over a decade.
Chef Elyse Codispodi
Notable Culinary Experience: In 2010, Chef Elyse spent three months in Italy, learning from nonnos and nonnas, farmers, chefs and pizzaiolos. An experience of a lifetime. She studied culinary at Niagara College in Toronto. Chef Elyse and Chef Julian actually worked together for years at Ciao Wine Bar in Yorkville and The Trump Hotel & Tower in Toronto.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Something called white lasagna, made with fresh pasta noodles and chicken broth… the rest is a secret!
Cooking Inspiration: Cooking in the kitchen with her mom and grandmother since she was a little girl, her passion for the art began from a very early age. Finally, at age 11, her mother let her take over the family kitchen and she created her first four course meal. Ever since that day, she knew she was born to be a chef!
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: A cast iron pan, a microplane, and you may not think of it as a tool, but kosher salt.
Fun Fact: The same year she created that first meal, she also received her first degree black belt in martial arts.
Chef Walt Medeiros
Notable Culinary Experience: Chef Walt studied culinary at Liaison College in Toronto. He has worked for two decades in some very notable restaurants around Toronto, such as Brassail, Brant House, Buca, Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse. Chef Walt also worked as Head Chef during the open of Jazz Bistro and worked along side Chef Julian at The Tavern. He has been a key chef with The Chef Upstairs since early 2018.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Pizza and anything from Asia and New Orleans.
Cooking Inspiration: His mother… aww.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: A rondo, rubber spatula, and his hands.
Fun Fact: Chef Walt got to cook and hang out with celebrity chef Chuck Hughes. He also got to perform on-stage with Jeff Healey! Chef Walt takes a lot of pride in his guitar collection; just don’t ask to hold one…
Chef Jillian Hillier
Notable Culinary Experience: Chef Jillian studied culinary with a focus on nutrition at George Brown College in Toronto. She worked for a vegan meal delivery service before started her own personal chef company. Chef Jiliian has certainly found her calling as one of head kids and teens chef at The Chef Upstairs.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Simply a slice of fresh sourdough bread and butter. She’s obsessed… Also some good smoked fish.
Cooking Inspiration: Chef Jillian’s inspiration comes mainly from two places. First off, from her grandparents. They owned three food businesses: a bakery, a dairy bar, and a family restaurant in her hometown of Port Perry, ON. Secondly, when she was diagnosed with Lupus in 2011, she had to drastically change her diet. This life experience made her realize that her passion for cooking extended beyond just cooking for herself.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: Rubber spatula, microplane, mortar and pestle.
Fun Fact: This is Chef Jillian’s second career, as she previously worked as a social worker. Her patience and compassion truly shine through her teaching.
Chef Lisa Ursi
Notable Culinary Experience: Chef Lisa received her culinary diploma and red seal certification through George Brown College in Toronto. A major highlight in her career, includes running a small cafe and being given the opportunity to create and experiment with different styles of cooking This experience challenged her to tap into her creativity and explore different techniques and a variety of cuisines.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Margherita Pizza
Cooking Inspiration: Chef Lisa’s love for cooking comes from countless hours (and courses) spent with her family preparing, eating, drinking, and sitting around the table spending time together. Coming from an Italian family, food has always been a big part of her life and she loves the way it brings people together.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: A sharp knife, a tasting spoon, and a good cutting board.
Fun Fact: Chef Lisa is a passionate gardener, being given the gift of a green thumb from her grandmother aka Nonna Angela. During summer camp at The Chef Upstairs, Lisa can be found sharing this passion with her students, while they tend to our very own herb garden.
Chef Pierre Beaumier
Notable Culinary Experience: Chef Pierre received a diploma in kitchen business management from College Limoilou Charlesbourg in Quebec. Chef Pierre followed his path one step at a time, honing his skills as a dishwasher, bagel artist, chocolatier, fish monger, line cook, restaurant manager, entrepreneur and chef. Pierre has worked in a three Michelin star restaurant in Tokyo, well as fine dining in a Relais and Châteaux in Quebec.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Chef Pierre used to have a serious sweet tooth for all things pastry and desserts, but a slowing metabolism can also slow certain cravings. Now his go to meal is a perfectly cooked salmon filet, white rice, and miso soup… oh and not to forget a warm mochi cake wrapped in seaweed and a little soy sauce.
Cooking Inspiration: Chefs like Escoffier, Carême, and many other early influencers. One contemporary chef that he finds truly inspiring is Raymond Blanc; a fascinated character and owner of Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, who demonstrates the purpose of cooking in a beautiful way.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: His three “Y-shaped” peelers that he carries with him in every kitchen: A fine peeler, a julienne peeler, and a serrated one.
Fun Fact: Chef Pierre is passionate about Japanese cooking. He is known amongst certain circles to have mastered the art of chicken katsu. He also operated and instructed at his own martial arts dojo. The discipline Chef Pierre has achieved in life is clear to see, while instructing others.
Chef Cherika De' Caul
Notable Culinary Experience: Chef Cherika or as her students call her, Chef Cherry has over 10 years experience in the food and hospitality industry; planning and preparing exotic dishes with an international flare. Her repertoire includes mastering a variety of meats, seafood, and sauces, along with nuevo cuisine. Her journey took her to the Art Gallery of Ontario, some of Toronto’s private clubs to opening multiple restaurants around the world, which allowed her to expand her range in catering unique banquets, weddings and private upscale events. Chef Cherry studied at the Art Institute of Vancouver and George Brown College in Toronto for culinary arts. Chef Cherry has found her calling; instructing and inspiring with her team at The Chef Upstairs.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Stuffed Branzino (Patarashca) and green curry anything!
Cooking Inspiration: Chef Cherry was born in Toronto, but moved to Barbados at a very early age. Her passion for cooking was ignited when, at the age of 12, she worked as a cook on the beach, catching, cleaning, and grilling her own fish.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: A chef’s knife, a boning knife, and a rubber spatula.
Fun Fact: Chef Cherry is currently working on a cookbook. Keep your eyes (and onions) peeled!
Notable Culinary Experience: Danielle is the Events Manager for both studio locations and a lover of all things food…. One of the reasons she married a chef!
Favourite Dish to Eat: Sushi, pasta and anything Julian makes for dinner!
Cooking Inspiration: While she doesn’t cook often (and is great at re-heating), she is inspired by her mom’s and Julian’s creativity in the kitchen. It’s pretty amazing to see people pull a whole bunch of random stuff out of the fridge to bring together a unique and delicious meal.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: Top 3? Just a fork and knife.
Fun Fact: Danielle’s first cousin is Gal Gadot, aka Wonder Woman .
Notable Culinary Experience: Greg is the co-founder of The Chef Upstairs. When he purchased the original location with his younger sister (Lori Heller) in 2008, the first thing he did was sign up for Chef Training at George Brown College. While he was a good “at home” chef, he was no match for the chefs working for him. He quickly realized there was a lot to learn and that while his MBA helped him develop a strong business concept, he needed to walk the talk as well.
Favourite Dish to Eat: Pigtails and sauerkraut. His family roots are from Kitchener/Waterloo and this is a staple come Oktoberfest.
Cooking Inspiration: Greg is inspired by his mother who was a great home cook and family entertainer. For her 75th birthday, his father put together an 80 page recipe book with all of her recipes in it. Greg has taken over as the family “pickler” and in late summer he spends many evenings making dills, gherkins, relish, chili sauce and bread and butter pickles.
Top 3 Kitchen Tools: Japanese Chef knife, 9” filleting knife and a diamond honing steel.
Fun Fact: Greg likes to spend his summer weekends at the cottage. Every weekend he catches, cleans and cooks the local smallmouth bass that he then serves on the dock as Panko Coated Fish Bites with a garlic herb aioli