1. Why did you become a chef? Describe your culinary life before going to school.
I grew up in the family food business and started to prepare and cook food at 12 years old in my father's neighborhood supermarket and catering store. It was there I learned how to properly handle and care for fresh produce, meats, and fish, and realized the importance of food in all of our lives.
2.You attended The Art Institute of New York -- did you ever consider not going to culinary school?
I actually didn't go to culinary school right away. I got a real estate license first and did that for two years until I decided I hated it!
3. What led you to the Tribeca Grill and what was your experience like there? What other restaurants did you work at?
I went directly from culinary school to the Tribeca Grill as an internship and worked for three months for free before they hired me full-time. It was the still one of the hottest restaurants back in 1993, packed with celebrities and anybody else who could actually get a table or a reservation. I stayed there for 11 years and worked my way up from salads to the No. 2 chef. I never worked in any other NYC restaurant, and frankly, didn't need to work anywhere else. I received the best knowledge and experience that any cook, sous-chef or chef would ever need to succeed in this business -- not to mention trained by some of the biggest names in NYC.
4. What made you decide to go the catering route instead of staying in the kitchen at the Grill or somewhere else? Do you ever sometimes just want to stay in a kitchen? And how did NYC Culinary Events come about?
Well, I didn't actually go with the catering route -- I started NYC Culinary Events first as a food consulting/special events firm and second as a catering firm. I never aggressively went out after catering jobs and I only cater to a very select Manhattan clientele -- all of whom were celebrity contacts from the Tribeca Grill. All my business is by word of mouth and recommendation and I personally cook at every event, if you can afford to have me... As for staying in the kitchen, my former chef and mentor, Don Pintabona (Tribeca Grill), spoiled me the last three years at Tribeca Grill and took me around the world to every national and international food event (of course I did most of the work too ), and it was then I decided never to get stuck in one kitchen again. My life is special events!