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Friends of GRAIN: Q&A with Savio Volpe's Melanie Witt

One of our very favourite things to do is enjoy a drink and a few bites at Savio Volpe in Vancouver's Fraserhood. Born in Edmonton and raised on Vancouver Island, Melanie Witt is Osteria Savio Volpe’s Sous Chef, and her passion for cooking, agriculture, urban farming, harvesting, preserving and cultivating sustainable ingredients brings a rich source of knowledge and experience to the restaurant’s culinary staff. 

Mel works alongside Chef Mark Perrier and Chef Derek Gray to create items from a selection of GRAIN freshly milled flours, and grains milled in-house on their KoMo mill. We managed to snag a few moments with her outside of the kitchen to ask her a few questions. 

Q&A with Savio Volpe's Melanie Witt 

What drew you to cooking for people? 

One of my first cooking jobs was on Salt Spring Island, where I worked at a private estate in the summer.  I had no idea what I was doing (I was still in high school), but it was my responsibility to menu plan, stock the pantry, and cook every meal for the family and their guests.  My daily ritual was to wake up, cook breakfast, and then start gathering our ingredients to cook dinner, which usually consisted of picking vegetables and herbs from the garden, and then heading down to the dock to grab the bags of oysters, mussels, and clams that our friends at the nearby oyster lease would leave hanging.  It was a pretty idyllic introduction to cooking, but ultimately those experiences led me to drop out of university and sign up for cooking school.

You cook a lot of things. What is your favourite menu item at Savio?

I think I've said from day one at Savio that my favourite thing we do is the grilled chicken.  It's so simple and so versatile, also the best as an after-service snack - with a blob of kewpie mayo and a bottle of sriracha on the side.

You could work anywhere. Why did you choose Savio Volpe?

I think my style of cooking aligns closer with Mark Perrier's than a lot of other head chefs in Vancouver.  I shy away from over-manipulated food and out-of-season vegetables, so Savio was a pretty clear choice from the beginning.  Learning to cook on an open fire was a big draw, too.
How do you chill out when you aren’t working in the restaurant?

In order to balance out all the pasta I taste throughout the week, I try to do active things on my days off.  Lots of tennis and running in between coffee dates with friends.
Chefs tend to be a passionate bunch. What are some of your other hobbies apart from cooking?

I'm obsessed with playing tennis.  I'm scheming up a tournament for industry friends this summer that will also involve a spit-roast pig and a healthy supply of Pimms or Lillet on ice, it seems like those things go together. GRAIN is invited!
We’re always looking for useful life hacks. What’s your favourite app right now?

Aaptiv! I'm always plugging this app to my industry friends because it's really affordable and great for squeezing in a run or workout before a shift.  It's kinda like having a personal trainer with you, and if you're anything like me ..... you need all the motivation you can get. 

We've been happy to collaborate with members of this talented team before, with this Sausage & Lentils Lorenzo recipe by Savio's Peter Ciuffa as well as this Q&A with Peter here. We're also proud to be included in this brand-new mini-documentary featuring Chef Derek Gray's commitment to the craft of sourdough baking.