Credo: Gary Danko

Gary Danko, a renowned restaurateur, tells us about his guiding philosophies, one of his mantras and who has given him the inspiration to fulfill his life dreams.

What do you consider to be the guiding principles or philosophy that has gotten you to your current position in life? Who did you learn it from?

As a child growing up in upstate New York in the ’60s, I was artistic and creative. I was regularly told by others that I could not do this or that, which was silly. I knew I had to leave my small town inorder to explore the world. I never wanted to be criticized for taking the easy route and being mediocre in what I do.

What religion, philosophy or set of beliefs guides your spirituality?

I believe that every person has a path inside them, and many of our paths cross for whichever reason. We are here to complete these paths and to move on to higher aspirations. Life situations test you and your values along the way and change and give directions. Life is for living and moving on; we can learn from our experiences and the past, but never live in the past.

You run one of the most successful restaurants in the world. How do you do it? What's the secret?

I remember a “Flintstones” episode where one of the characters said, “Face your fear and it will disappear.” I have used this mantra on a regular basis my whole life because, given the choice, fear can either kill you or motivate you.

Who has left the biggest impression on you as you’ve gone through life? Why?

The three M’s — mom, Mabel and Madeleine. It is hard to narrow it down to one person or thing. My parents instilled hard work and my “do it the best you can or don’t do it at all” attitude in my life. My father, a perfectionist; my mother, nurturing but strict, wise and frugal. When I was 12 my father got me a job working at The Village Inn in Massena, N.Y., with Mabel Cecot. I started as a hat-check boy and eventually moved on to dish washing, cooking and working in the front of the house, all the way through high school. Mabel was like a second mother to me. Eventually Madeleine Kamman, a French-born chef, teacher and cookbook author and I crossed paths and she inspired my further understanding [of] cooking, food history and food philosophy.

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