Bread Meats Bread stands out on Chatham Street downtown Windsor with their seasonal, rotating menu of sandwiches and small plates. The sunny restaurant is bustling with lunch customers and people dining in for supper. Behind the counter, you’ll find Chef David, making the delicious creations and chatting with customers.
Chef David Prantera is a co-owner of Bread Meats Bread with his wife, Silva. Growing up in Windsor, he developed his culinary career around the world before returning home with his family to open the restaurant.
In our list of the 76 Most In-Demand Jobs in Windsor-Essex, Chef stands out in the Sales and Services sector as the only Red Seal occupation. It requires culinary arts training, apprenticeships, and certification.
We talked to Chef David about the restaurant and how he got started:
What is the idea behind Bread Meats Bread?
I’ve always liked sandwiches. I had an idea for putting fine dining techniques and Michelin star recipes into a sandwich. People don’t realize it because it’s not pretentious.
How did you get into cooking?
I got into cooking when I was about seventeen years old. My mom was always a good cook. I would help her make pudding and things like that. I was in University because you’re supposed to go. When you’re young, you’re in school but you don’t know why. At the same time, I was washing dishes at La Guardia restaurant on Pitt Street and I got fascinated with the kitchen. One day, I decided to leave University and go to St. Clair for the Culinary Management Program to be a chef.
At the same time, I got a job cooking at the Casino in 1995. I worked at Spago’s too. It was really hard work; working full time and going to school full time. In my second year, I was working midnights at the Casino and going to school during the day. I couldn’t do that now. It was a good set up for the industry because it is a lot of hard work.
I was at the Casino for thirteen years. Every couple of years, you would get a new Executive Chef. They would tell me, you’re good, but you should travel, go overseas, go to Toronto. I stuck with the last guy who came in when he moved to a property in Niagara with an opportunity to run a couple of restaurants.
When we got there, I remember my wife saying not to get comfortable because we didn’t want to settle in Niagara. It’s great, but we should keep looking forward. I did two years there.
I always had a fascination with the Ritz-Carlton. We visited it once in college and I thought about how great it was, five stars, a recognizable brand of luxury. I ended up applying to Ritz-Carltons anywhere. I kept putting in application after application. I got a job in Bahrain, small island in the Middle East, about a 40 minute plane ride from Dubai. We thought, let’s go do it.
From there, we moved to Dubai and went to the next level in the kitchen at the Rotana Hotel. It’s the flagship property of the most popular hotel in the Middle East. I was #2 in charge there. I learned how to do very extravagant, big banquets and attention to detail.
We stayed in Dubai for five years and I worked my way up to Executive Chef at a five-star hotel. My wife got homesick a bit and said one day that we should go back.
I ended up getting a job in Vancouver at the River Rock Casino. That’s how it started, because we thought that we’ll be closer to home. My daughter liked being back and stayed in Windsor for the summer. She said, why don’t we just go back home? We had just got to Vancouver! That was a bit of a crazy time.
We came back to Windsor to open a restaurant. We got a house and did the things that normal people do.
What have you learned working in a bigger restaurant that you’ve brought to your own place?
When you have systems, they will be the same in a large operation or a minuscule one, like ours. You’re always focusing on quality, handling products, HACCP principles, cleanliness, food cost vs. waste.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Usually, I’m here about 8:00–8:30 AM, rolling gnocchi. Since we make everything in house, I make all the sauces and meats. It’s always a race to get open. I’m doing prep until around 11:00 and we open at 11:30. We get ready for the lunch rush.
Depending on business, I’ll be continuously prepping all day. It’s only myself and one server at lunch. She goes home around 3:00 and I take over for the rest of the night. On the weekends, we’re open a little bit later. It’s a constant twelve hours.
How did your College program help you prepare?
It was encompassing more of the business side of things, which is important. School is great and it sets you up, but you have to work your way through the kitchen. You have to travel if you want to evolve. The worst thing is to stay put in one place and think you will excel at your trade.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become a chef?
My advice is to give it a lot of thought. It seems glamorous, but if you really want to perform at a high level, you should be going abroad. The kitchen isn’t always the friendliest place and it’s very demanding. You should have a thick skin and be expected to work long hours. You are always working while people are at home.
Don’t rush your career. With social media, you see Instagram chefs with these beautiful plates. You don’t understand what it takes to get to that plate, you just want to make it. You might be able to duplicate it, but it might not even taste right. You are missing the basic techniques. Take your time, travel, and be expected to work a lot and sacrifice a lot.
How is it being Downtown Windsor?
We’re happy to be Downtown Windsor. It can be difficult to do business Downtown because of the traffic flow, but it’s getting a lot better. We have great customer and our business is increasing. We really believe in urban centers, so that’s why we chose to be Downtown. Any expansion we do will always be in a walkable place.