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Get to know a Chef: Nick Auf Der Mauer, Porchetta & Co.

Posted by Natalie Chu / March 12, 2012

Nick Auf Der MauerNick Auf Der Mauer won't call himself a foodie, in fact, he doesn't think the term accurately describes the level of interest people have in food. But the chef isn't any less passionate about his product, now running the widely popular Porchetta & Co., a tiny shop on Dundas West serving humble, yet rightfully addictive pork sandwiches Auf Der Mauer developed in his own kitchen. I sat down in a nearby diner to discuss his original aspirations, his reservations over the food truck hype, and of course, his love for pork.

Did you always want to be a chef?

No. At first I wanted to be either an architect or an archaeologist, if you can believe that. I just had an interest in both of those things growing up, but I guess becoming a chef kind of evolved naturally from cooking with my mom at home. So that's where I think my passion and interest in cooking originated from.

What was your first restaurant job?

My first restaurant job was at McDonald's when I was fifteen.

Why are you so into pork?

Pork is one of those animals that's so versatile, if not the most versatile animal that you could choose. And it's one of those foods that appeals to a wide range of people. A lot of people like pork culturally, ethnicities have pork as a major part of their diet. And especially where we're situated in Little Portugal, bordered with Little Italy and Chinatown, you have three cultural communities that all consume pork.

Nick Auf Der MauerWhat's your biggest tip for those preparing pork at home?

Don't overcook it, essentially. I think a lot of people have the tendency to cook it through until it's well-done, dry and rubbery, and it's not necessary. You can have a great, well-marbled Berkshire pork chop that you could go get at your local fine butcher shop and you could cook that to medium and you're not going to have any issues with it - it's not going to make you sick. It's just so different from what you've been used to growing up, like your parents cooking pork for you and just cooking the hell out of it.

How do you test new sandwich combinations?

For the most part, they slosh around in my head for a couple weeks or months. And by the time they come out to me making one, it's kind of where I want it to be. But ultimately, we try it on ourselves. We make them as a team and we all say what we can improve upon and how we can make it different or better, and how it's going to function in the service. Just as a team, we kind of break it down and figure it out.

We get suggestions all the time. I get told that I should have applesauce and roasted peppers and sautéed onions, all these things. And all those things would be great, but at the end of the day we still have to keep in mind what the concept is and stay within certain parameters to a degree. And some things, as good as they may be, aren't going to work. And we have such limited cooking area and space that it's difficult to throw in monkey wrenches here and there and keep everything moving efficiently and consistently.

Nick Auf Der MauerAside from you, which restaurant makes the best sandwich in Toronto?

I'm going to cheat a little bit and say Burger's Priest. It's not technically a sandwich, but I think they make an amazing burger. And if I wasn't open I would be supporting them on an even more frequent basis. I just like how it's simple, fresh, and just naturally tasty. There's no pretentiousness in the food, it speaks for itself and it's just good stuff.

What's your least favourite protein?

I don't know. I like all protein, but I guess if I had to say one, maybe turkey? It's tough for me to answer because I would eat anything pretty much.

Would you ever launch a Porchetta & Co. food truck?

At this point, I would have to say no. I'm very skeptical about the whole food truck scene. Right off the bat, you have the City that's working against it. You can't park it in certain boundaries, there's a whole lot of licensing kind of issues around all that. But for the most part, we're a winter climate. We have bad weather except for this winter, you know, six to eight months of the year. And I don't think it's a very suitable food truck climate. And it's a lot of work. I give my hat to all the food trucks that you see in Vancouver and New York and San Francisco.

I'm happy where I am with the shop, and we have more than enough work to dish out. And I don't want to make it more complicated than it already is and I think the food truck would just be maybe too challenging this stage in the game.

Any plans for additional locations?

No plans as of yet. We're still wanting to improve upon our current brand as we have it now, always trying to make it better any way we can. So, who knows? There could be, but as of yet there aren't any plans to expand beyond our first location.

Nick Auf Der MauerRAPID FIRE QUESTIONS

Most underrated ingredient? Parsley

Best culinary tool? Microplane

David Chang or Daniel Boulud? David Chang

Can you win friends with salad? Yes

Favourite Toronto restaurant? Campagnolo

What would people be surprised to find in your fridge? Miso paste?

What's one dish you can't live without? Nachos

What's one food trend that needs to end? Cupcakes

Photos by Natta Summerky

Discussion

20 Comments

KnifeTroll / March 12, 2012 at 01:30 pm
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Is he using a Nakiri/Usuba bocho to cut non-vegetables in the 2nd pic?
meare / March 12, 2012 at 01:43 pm
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Thank you for not jumping on the food truck bandwagon.
CAC / March 12, 2012 at 02:26 pm
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Fuck cupcakes.
DJ / March 12, 2012 at 02:31 pm
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Nick and Vicky are an amazing couple, putting out a simple, fair priced amazing product. We stumbled into their restaurant a few days after they opened, and have been preaching the pork gospel since. I can't believe we missed the porchetta waffle! Need to pay more attention to the facebook/twitter feed I guess.
Tina / March 12, 2012 at 02:40 pm
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BEST SANGWICH OUT
John / March 12, 2012 at 03:51 pm
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Hand pulled bro... Hand crafted. Wash those hands bro!
neilson / March 12, 2012 at 04:22 pm
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Man, the bassist from hole has really changed her look.
BillyO / March 12, 2012 at 04:58 pm
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Been to his shop several times, good stuff.
Jarrett / March 12, 2012 at 06:46 pm
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Pork isn't animal
Guy / March 12, 2012 at 09:05 pm
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Funny thing about cooking pork properly, a group of friends got very sick after eating here.
LA replying to a comment from neilson / March 12, 2012 at 09:27 pm
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Hahahaha!!!! Best comment on here!
Observation over Time / March 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm
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He is not the nice guy he pretends to be and the wife is not quite as bitchy as she seems to be. But she is more bitchy then he is not nice. The sandwich is good enough to eat.
Smrt / March 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm
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Fantastic sandwiches, great after a TFC game.

Shame I work so far away and can't make lunch runs though.
Spicy! replying to a comment from Observation over Time / March 13, 2012 at 01:26 am
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Well put! HA! I only go there when my boyfriend picks it. I find it greasy. Good beans though!
Welshgrrl / March 14, 2012 at 11:30 am
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I picked up a sandwich from P & Co. yesterday after work - it was very tasty, but a little too fatty for my liking
mmmm fat replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / March 17, 2012 at 09:13 am
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Yep - that is the problem. There is no good way for them to control the fat so it is very inconsistent from sandwich to sandwich. I hate when I get one with chunks of fat too. By the time I throw that out, there is barely any meat left. I guess it's really for people who like to eat the fat. I know my dad can pack away steak fat pretty good. LOL
Peggy replying to a comment from Observation over Time / March 18, 2012 at 12:40 am
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Come on! Say it like it is. She is an upset bitch!!!
Really? / March 20, 2012 at 04:22 pm
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Wow. Food commentary has reached a new low. It has become too frequent that commentary sections on food blogs have reached the level of a stall in a men's bathroom. Here are two people just trying to make a living and serve up a quality product at a reasonable price. People are not perfect 100% of the time, and when you have a bad day at the office, you probably don't have to worry about someone slagging you off on the internet.

You should really be ashamed of yourselves, and I hope that blog to revisits their comment section policy when people are using it as a sounding board for what is obviously their own personal issues. Food industry people are people too.
A Person Too / March 26, 2012 at 02:35 pm
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I have to agree with the above, working for the public face to face is the BITCH! That is why she maybe comes off grouchy, anyone in the service industry has those days. Especially when they deal with ignorant commenters/customers.

I have been to this shop before and they have excellent sandwiches and superb service. They are a great couple and deserve the support of real appreciative people in this city.

Keep up the good work P & Co.
mike / March 28, 2012 at 04:50 pm
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is it just me, but I think the pork here tastes just like roasted pork from chinatown... from the meat down to the crackling...

just throw the roasted pork on a bun and viola, porchetta sandwich...

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