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Sanctuary executive chef rated as one of the world’s best, talks about his trade, food history

By Staff | Dec 31, 2014

Sanctuary Executive Chef Daniel J. Scannell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Daniel J. Scannell is one of 64 Master Chefs and has been granted Global Master Chef Certification from the World Association of Chefs Societies.

He has served since March as the executive chef for the Sanctuary Golf Club in Sanibel.

Chef Scannell started in his trade in New York. He relocated as a teenager to Florida, working in the state’s finest seafood houses from 1977 to 1985. From 1986 to 1990, Chef Scannell worked as the Executive Chef of the Fraternity House Restaurant in Clearwater, Florida. In 1994 he returned to school, attending Johnson & Wales University, where in 1996 he trained in the Baking and Pastry Arts and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in food-service management in 1998. It was also during this time when Chef Scannell was introduced to The American Culinary Federation and the thrill of competing in culinary events. He has competed in the United States and Europe.

In Ireland he won The Jean Conil Perpetual Trophy for International Chefs. He was also a member of the Culinary Olympic Team USA 2000, 2004, and 2008.

Chef Scannell began with the Sanctuary in March. He is married and has two children. He paused from a busy holiday schedule to answer a few questions posed by the Islander.

Islander: You worked in food service early. But is there a cooking history in your family? What were the holidays like at home?

CS: I began in the food-service industry back in 1972 at a neighborhood butcher shop located in White Plains, New York. The tasks at hand were the sifting of sawdust, fishing for chitterlings, stocking shelves, and cleaning produce. Not much of a cooking history in my family for the exception of my father who used to like to cook chili on Saturdays. I am from a very large Irish family that celebrated a lot of holidays together.

I was always thrilled when my grandmother would ask me to cook her some potatoes — not sure how I knew how to make them — I just remember heating the cast-iron pan, frying some onions, adding sliced potatoes, and paprika, I guess I used some salt but for all I know they came out crispy golden brown and tasty. I still make them that way today with the exception of now I par-cook the potatoes.

Islander: What gives you the greatest joy in the kitchen?

CS: The greatest joy for me is to watch young culinarians develop and grow into really good cooks, knowing that somehow through perseverance we have helped them to develop a very marketable skill.

Islander: What is the most challenging part of managing a kitchen?

CS: Developing and maintaining a solid crew of culinarians that have the same focus as I do. Not to mention that this is not an easy business and the demands placed on one’s family takes a unique family structure to maintain this type of lifestyle. Cooking professionally is a lifestyle, not a nine-to-five job.

Islander: What are your feelings about achieving such a prestigious (master chef) certification?

CS: A good friend of mine, Richard Rosendale, CMC, told me there are three kinds of people in the world.

People that make things happen.

People that watch things happen.

People that wonder what happened.

I tend to believe that, for the most part, I am the kind of person that makes things happen. Type “A” personality so to speak, so the CMC exam was a natural progression for me in the industry, whether or not you get certified is not important. A lot of great chefs are not Certified Master Chefs and it doesn’t mean they are not masters of their craft as it pertains to the style of cooking they do and the restaurants they run.

Islander: The culinary trade seems to be thriving. What’s driving that/what new trends can we expect in the next couple of years?

CS: Chefs have always played a key role in the world. Napoleon set many trends with his chefs back in the daythat are still prevalent today. Chicken Marengo was supposedly first created in Italy after the battle of Marengo in 1800.

It was an important battle for Napoleon leading his forces to victory over the Austrians. As legend would have it, Napoleon refused to eat before fighting at Marengo and when he came off the battlefield he was very hungry. One version of the story says Napoleon’s Chef Dunand created Chicken Marengo from the only provisions he had: a chicken, some bread, oil, garlic, tomatoes, eggs, and crayfish. Napoleon loved the dish and the battle then turned in his favor. Napoleon was a superstitious man and this dish became associated with the battle of Marengo. As the tale goes, he insisted on having it served to him every time he went into battle thereafter. So I guess some trends come and go; I am not a trendy cook, I like the classics contemporized. They have a timeless appeal about them that will always be palatable.