Universal Orlando 1989 – Present; Omni Hotels 1983-1989
Sal Serecchia (my first culinary instructor) Steve Jayson Joe Amendolla There are so many in central Florida that I could name dozens.
How did these Chefs impact your career?
I was a young kid in culinary school, and on one very unfocused day my instructor Chef Serecchia decided to make an example of me. He asked me, “do you want to screw around today?” When I did not answer him, he picked me up and dunked me in a full dirty pot sink and said “now screw around.” It’s a funny moment, but one that I will always be thankful for. You can’t do that today!
Favorite dishes to prepare?
I grew up in a Sicilian family with life centered around the dinner table. Osso bucco with Pecorino orzo is way up there on my list. Sicilian comfort food.
Favorite foods to eat?
My Mother’s eggplant parmesan & Dim Sum.
Over the years I have collected over 700 cookbooks. For process and illustrations, one of my favorites would be – La Varenne Pratique.
What gives you pleasure on the job every day?
Watching success is great, seeing that moment when a team member’s face lights up with pride in themselves. And when I hear the words “thank you, Chef”…I know I’ve made an impact.
What was your worst disaster in the kitchen?
I was around fifteen minutes away from starting a plated dinner for a group of 750 in one of the sound stages when I got some very bad news. It seemed that an entire tram (20 sheet pans) of a delicate piped vegetable had tipped and fallen off the back of a truck! What a mess!
How did you turn it around?
Not much you can do in a few minutes for a party that size. Thank God it was not the protein!
What advice do you have for new Culinarians?
Focus on proper technique, and don’t get to far ahead of yourself trying to learn every ingredient. Do not allow yourself to get into wasteful habits. Remember that you can have a little fun doing what you love – no matter how stressful the moment may be.
Being honored as the ACF/CFC 2010 Chef Of The Year by our chapter members…thank you. I am very proud to have been an ACF member since 1992 and on our chapter’s board for the past decade. Wishing you all a great 2011!