The Proust Culinary Questionnaire

Joe Parrottino, Ace Coffee Roasters

In the late nineteenth century, French novelist Marcel Proust participated in an exercise which could be thought of as the Facebook of its era—he answered a questionnaire about himself in a friend’s Confession Album.

Proust’s answers have been published, in one form or another, for more than a century. Many have used the questionnaire for their own devices, the most notable being Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire featuring celebrities. The Tomato now gives it a culinary twist.

You could call Joe Parrottino, owner of Ace Coffee Roasters, a coffee impresario, a coffee expert, a concept builder. All apply. From his first business, Bar Teca in Hub Mall, Joe has attempted to teach us the importance of a good cup of coffee. From his days selling grilled sandwiches and cappuccino followed by a brief but glorious (for the diners at least) stint as a restaurateur in Edmonton Centre, to the Café Tech business selling and servicing espresso machines and his work with Danesi, to Leva Café and now Ace, it’s been all about mastering an artisanal approach to coffee. That, and respecting and emulating the masters of coffee who have gone before.

Joe Parrottino <br /><em>Illustration Rasmussen<br />click image to zoom</em>
Joe Parrottino, Ace Coffee Roasters


Years working with coffee?
After I left soccer I started in the coffee business. I repped Danesi Coffee and built a business that sold and serviced coffee machines.

Where would you like to live?
Wherever I can find good coffee.

Your favourite food and drink?
My go-to is Italian for sure but I love Japanese and Asian. I’m inspired by different cultures. Mostly I love fresh market food and I’m very particular about coffee.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the coffee business?
I would be a professional race car driver.

What do you most appreciate in your friends?
Honesty, sincerity, no bullshit. I like straight-ahead people with passion.

Your favourite qualities in a dish?
I like depth of flavour, it’s a big deal for me. And simplicity isn’t easy.

A cook?
The same quality I look for in the food. Focus on quality ingredients and don’t complicate things.

A wine?
Depth and flavour, not over-extracted or too fruity. I like to sit over a wine and enjoy it as it opens and develops in the glass.

Balance. Not over- or under-extracted. Chocolatey and nutty notes. Not with overpowering bitterness, but just right. A long finish.

Who would be at your dream dinner table (dead or alive)?
My mom and dad and the immediate family, my significant other, Neil Young, Jimmy Page. Lionel Messi, Johan Cryuff, Marco Tardelli, Paolo Maldini and Michael Schumacher.

Who would cook?
Daniel Costa and Francis Mallmann.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Current obsession/exploration?
Lately I’ve been focused on cheese.

Meaningful/crazy food experience?
Many have been in Italy but probably the most memorable one was in Tuscany at a wedding. There was a fresh burrata table, a prosciutto table, a table of fritti, all amazing. Then when we sat down to dinner. Somehow we made room. I still think about that.

Best thing that ever happened to you?
The wonderful relationships I have made in the food business with passionate, warm-hearted people. That I get to work with amazing people, both customers and colleagues, is truly rewarding and to have been able to do it for over 20 years — to have made an impact in some degree. It’s rewarding to get up every day and work for myself in a challenging industry. The greatest is when people say ‘we love your coffee, we really love your place’. That is super gratifying.

My dad was an inspiration and showed me how to be focused and committed to your work. Some local entrepreneurs were inspirational — Adriano Zenari and Mimmo Longo of Bar Italia. That was the first espresso coffee bar in western Canada. Mimmo was a pioneer — he paved the way for importing espresso machines on a local level.

Favourite casual cheap and cheerful/afterwork food?
Cheese and bread.

Keep life light, be inspired by your work and try to be a decent human being.

What’s next?
We hope to create a national identity for Ace Coffee. We are focused every day on improving quality and the calibre of the green beans we buy and roast.