What is your earliest memory of being interested in food?
Growing up in an Italian American family, holidays were always a big deal. Especially Easter and Christmas Eve. We went to the fish markets early in the morning and cooked all day to then enjoy a memorable meal with lots of family and friends. For me, food has always been the special part of social gatherings, it is what brings together people who care for each other. I try to express that through my cooking.
How would you describe your culinary philosophy?
I believe the product you serve is the star of the dish. Less is more and keep it simple. If you have the freshest of ingredients let them speak for themselves, don’t fuss over them too much and you can turn out a winner every time.
What are your most indispensible ingredients?
If I had to choose just three I’d say some good sea salt, olive oil and fresh herbs from my garden.
What kind of experience do you hope to give guests dining at the restaurant at the Hotel Fauchere?
To me, cooking is a joy. When I convey that joy to my guests through incredible food, then I know the guests are having a great experience. Whether it’s a bowl of mussels, steak frites or a piece of roasted fish, I want my guests to experience as much pleasure eating the meal as I experienced preparing it. And of course having them come back for more is the best testament!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
The proudest moment of my career is right now, having been given the opportunity and privilege to become Chef de cuisine here at the Hotel Fauchere. It’s been years of hard work and sacrifice to get here and I feel lucky every day, particularly because I work with a passionate and dedicated team of professionals.
And how about the toughest?
Working in a Michelin-rated kitchen in Manhattan and, at the same time, having a second job at a restaurant on Long Island, where I grew up. It was intense and exhausting, but now I’m grateful for that experience because it showed me what I was capable of.
Describe your menu and how often it changes…
If I have an idea for a menu item I’ll run it as a special and get afeel for how our guests respond. Items that work might make the menu, while those that don’t get pushed to the back burner or given a makeover. I change the menu as the seasons change and depending on what we have available from our farm. The trick is learning how to cook to please yourself while simultaneously serving food that is exciting and pleasing for our guests. You have to do both; a chef who is unhappy with what he is cooking isn’t pleasing his guests and guests who are unhappy with what they are being served is no pleasure for the chef.
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world just for one meal, where you go and why?
Right now, I would have to say Rome, which is always nourishing for my Italian roots. I could spend days just wandering and eating around that old city. When I’m there, I am humbled by being reminded that in my own small way, I’m part of a very long tradition of an ever-evolving art that is older than all others. Before there was civilization, there was food. Before there was culture, there was food.