"More and more I hear that cooking is going the way of darning your own socks, and that really frightens me," Canora said. "I hate to hear that people are doing less and less of it, and [that] even in the Old World countries, like Italy and France, the importance of cooking and eating around a table with your family is really going away. The idea of sitting around the table and eating a meal, it's just not happening often enough. You know, speaking with people face-to-face and having that process I think is hugely important. And I think people need to be reminded of that."
The chef has a daughter whom he would encourage to get into cooking if she wanted to, he said -- but first he would tell her to spend a year working at it.
"If my daughter came to me and started to find the love of food, you know, I would encourage it, but I would also make sure to educate her and I would also make sure that she spent a lot of time in kitchens before she committed $40,000 to go to cooking school," Canora said. "I think what happens too often is that young kids don't do their due diligence, and they don't go and spend time first, like spend a year in a kitchen before you say, 'Oh, I love the idea of being a chef!' Because especially now, it's so glamorized, right? People think chefs are rock stars and it's like, 'Holy God! I am not a rock star.' It's grueling and it's hot and it's oftentimes miserable.
"I love this business because I find it invigorating. It's very satisfying to work with things from a raw to a finished and actually be a part of putting it in front of a person, who actually eats it, and you know, you satisfy something soulful within them. It's very intimate. And that really floats my boat, like I think it's gratifying, it's rewarding. Yes, it's hard work and yes it's sacrifice, but you know, like they say 'big risk, big reward.'"
The highest hope he has for his diners, Canora said, is that everyone has an ideal meal, regardless of what hurdles the kitchen had to clear to make it happen.
"I'm constantly trying to remind myself that all of the stuff in my day, right, like you know, the fish didn't come in, the guy at the Green Market said he was going to have these baby little onions doesn't have them, you know, there's so many balls in the air and there's so much room for like, 'Ahh!' And I always remind my cooks and I always remind myself that at the end of the day this is about one person who walks through this door and sits down and has their two or three or four dishes and for that one person, they don't care about a back-story. They don't care about anything, they're coming here, they're paying a lot of money, and they want their salad and their fish and their dessert [it] has to resonate with them.
"And when you're a line cook or when you're a chef and you're putting out 300 plates a night, it's very easy to forget about how each plate is really impactful upon the one person. And that's something I always try to remember, and I'm always instilling in my cooks."
Reflecting on his work and life, Canora's thoughts return to the home on the Hudson River, and the woman who gave him his first experience of real food.