Vancouver's knighted chef almost didn't end up in the kitchen

Vancouver’s much acclaimed chef Giuseppe “Pino” Posteraro was recently knighted by the Italian government for his restaurant work, but he says it was a fluke that he didn’t end up in a different career altogether.

Giuseppe 'Pino' Posteraro was recently honoured by the Italian government

Giuseppe “Pino” Posteraro was named a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy last month. He met with On The Coast's food columnist to talk about how he got there. (Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca)

Legendary Vancouver chef Giuseppe "Pino" Posteraro was recently knighted by the Italian government for his restaurant work — but he says it was a fluke that he didn't end up in a different career altogether.

The chef-owner of Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca met with Gail Johnson, CBC On The Coast's food columnist, to talk about becoming a knight and how he got there.

Posteraro had been cooking since he was a young child, helping his mother in the kitchen at their home in Lago, a rural area in Italy's Calabria region.

"She would turn the simplest of ingredients into a masterpiece," Posteraro said. "She would take plain items from the garden and make something delicious."

Posteraro says making fresh pasta is his go-to, if he’s having a bad day. (Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca)

Posteraro dreamt if becoming a doctor though, not a chef.  

He completed two years of medical school in Sicily but decided to focus his career elsewhere after working in a unit with patients on dialysis.

"It was too heartbreaking," he said. "I wanted to see people happy."

So he went into cooking, working at Michelin-star restaurants around the world and becoming an instructor George Brown College.

In 1983, Posteraro moved to Toronto where one of his brothers was running a restaurant.

He later moved to Vancouver and, nearly two decades ago, established Cioppino in Yaletown. It has gone on to win all sorts of food and restaurant awards including being on Canada's 100 Best Restaurants list.

Receiving the Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy, the only chef in Canada to do so, tops them all, he says.

"You do it because it's a passion," he said. "A passion for food and cooking and for people."

Posteraro prioritizes local ingredients and brings in speciality items from Italy. (Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca)

Running in the family 

The honour was established by the Italian government in 1947, although it went by a different name then. It was given to military and civilian citizens who helped rebuild Italy after the Second World War.

The name and the scope changed in the 1980s. Now, the honour is given to select Italian citizens living abroad who have made outstanding contributions to promoting Italian values, culture and way of life and fostering relations.

Posteraro is not the first in his family to be knighted.

His uncle, great uncle and great-great uncle, all named Giuseppino, were also knighted for different reasons from working as a pharmacist to helping immigrants after the Second World War.

With files from On The Coast