GWILT email@example.com_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-01-02 published
'There was always singing in the house'
By Alwynne GWILT, Staff Reporter
When Pasquale CARPINO began to cook, two things were bound to happen: good food would sizzle and he'd break out into opera.
Fans of his Italian cooking shows, which have aired around the world since the mid-1970s, will always remember CARPINO as the Singing Chef in his double-breasted, bright blue smock.
"If I sing when I cook, the food is going to be happy," CARPINO once said.
Pasquale passed away on Friday of complications from surgery. He was 69.
"I think people in Canada can reproduce Italian food now thanks to him," said Mary McGRATH, former food columnist for the Star.
"At one time I can remember we had Chef Boyardee at home and then we caught on a little bit to spaghetti and lasagna. I think he really contributed to that movement."
Mixing music and munchies made audiences realize cooking could be relaxing, long before the dime-a-dozen cooking shows of today, McGRATH added.
"His singing... was really quite pleasant, it made him approachable and he came across as a very happy person," McGRATH said. "(He showed that) food was really a wonderful thing and that cooking for your family and Friends can be pleasant."
Pasquale came up with the names of most of his recipes, many based on opera characters, composers and singers.
By using ordinary ingredients, viewers with little time felt comfortable recreating his recipes.
To family members, his life on television was no different than life at home.
"The show was just Dad, nothing was made up, nothing was done for television. It was just Dad all the time," said Beatrice, his oldest daughter. "He was always full of life; what you saw on television, that was him."
Pasquale once said he introduced his singing and style to keep Beatrice interested in her Italian heritage and language.
"She was in kindergarten and she was losing her Italian because she was in school," he told the Hamilton Spectator in 1999.
"I didn't want to force her to speak Italian. Then the idea came to sing and be colourful because children like colour."
It worked, not only on Beatrice but his other daughter, Lisa.
His life was full of accomplishments since he emigrated from Italy in 1958. Arriving with only a few dollars in his pocket, he started out as a dishwasher at a Toronto restaurant.
"When you came to a strange country you have to do anything you can," said Evelina, Pasquale's wife.
But dishwashing paid off as he quickly moved up the ranks to chef and soon after, saucier. A job at Toronto's Waldorf Astoria followed. Simultaneously, he studied opera at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
"(Music) was his first love but sometimes you can't make a living with love," Evelina said. "He loved to sing but cooking gave him an opportunity to make a living."
The two sweethearts met in 1964.
She was also a singer -- a soprano to his tenor -- and Pasquale happened to ask her brother if he knew any sopranos for an upcoming concert.
"We met by music," said Evelina wistfully. "He was a very kind gentlemen."
The couple had two children -- Beatrice in 1968 and Lisa in 1973 and Pasquale moved on to cooking on television.
Growing up in a house of food, music and love has made Beatrice appreciative.
"As a child you don't really think about it but now I am so grateful to have been brought up that way," she said.
"I like to cook now as it's been passed on just from being around it; he was always trying new things and we were the guinea pigs, " Beatrice said. "Music is there, and I couldn't picture my life without it. There was always singing in the house. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in."
For Beatrice, this meant a loving family life growing up and a confidant when she was older.
"There were a lot of hugs, a lot of kisses and we were able to talk as Friends," she said.
"My dad was my dad but he was one of my Friends, and he always encouraged me to go after any dreams I had; no matter what I did he always said, 'You go after it,' and that showed how loving and caring he was."
Evelina said he would want to be remembered as an honest man and a family man, not only as the legendary operatic chef.
"He loved children and family and for people to be together," she said.
CARPINO is survived by his wife of 39 years; his two daughters his brothers Giovanni, Carmine and Mario; and his sisters Anna and Carmine.
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