OCCUPATION: Head chef, Olympia Tea Room, Bay Street, Watch Hill.
BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: 'Rhode Island Born, Rhode Island Bred and when I die, I’ll be Rhode Island Dead." (Go URI Rams!)
RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Menu testing for the upcoming season, lots of cooking and tasting.
I ENJOY SPENDING MY TIME: Exploring the world through food, with my amazing wife Alex!
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Probably about four years ago when my head chef at the time, in Dallas, gave me free range to redesign the dinner menu for the Italian restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency Dallas. It was my first time designing and implementing a complete menu and it was a huge honor.
I’D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: My integrity, my humor and my passion.
TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: I want to eat the Southern United States. I fell in love with the history of the food when I was in Texas and I would love to travel all the southern foodways, from Charleston, to Nashville, to New Orleans, just learning as much as I can about the true American cuisine.
I ALWAYS CARRY: My knife roll. It has taken me years to accumulate all the tools I need to do my job so they are never far from me.
WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: I always wanted to be an Air Force Pilot.
MY MOST MEMORABLE PET: My kitten Stoli. We rescued her in Texas. We found her about 10 years ago inside a cat cage by a dumpster. Ever since we moved back about six years ago, she's been living a happy life with my in-laws.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE MOST INFLUENCED ME: On a personal level, there are two chefs who have influenced me the most: my former sous chef Romel Begonia in Dallas, and my old chef, Richard Silvia from the White Horse Tavern in Newport. They gave me technical foundation in cooking and wisdom I carry with me everyday. On a more spiritual level, the late Anthony Bourdain has always given me purpose through his writing, and currently, chef Ed Lee inspires me to be true to my roots.
FAVORITE AUTHORS: My favorite authors are somewhat unconventional, they are mostly comic book authors; Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and Kelly Thompson have gotten me through some tough times with their Marvel comics. Ed Lee and Anthony Bourdain’s memoirs also serve me well in times where I need reaffirmation that cooking is a noble task.
BOOKS ON MY NIGHT STAND: Currently its this weeks new comic books and "Buttermilk Graffiti"by Ed Lee. (I seem to mention him a lot.)
I AM LISTENING TO: When I am in the kitchen I like to prep to anything metal, particularly Dio, then when service starts it’s more mellow, some Mos Def or Common, then when the shift is over, whatever is the loudest thing I can put on.
FAVORITE MOVIE: I am an admitted B movie cine-file, and unapologetically, my favorite movie is "Scream."
FAVORITE TV SHOW: I could re-watch every episode of "Mind of a Chef," 100 times over.
FAVORITE RADIO SHOW: I’ve been getting really into David Chang’s podcast lately.
FAVORITE SONG/GENRE OF MUSIC: My favorite type of music is mid-2000’s emo or punk, I guess I never grew up.
TOP COMFORT FOOD: My wife’s lasagna, I am rarely energetic enough to cook when I get off work and her simple recipe is everything to me.
MY FAVORITE DISH TO PREPARE: Anything slowly roasted. I love the prep and the care needed to see a piece of meat all the way through over the course of several hours.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES I USE MOSTLY: Instagram, it’s essential to being a chef nowadays...follow me! @yankeechef1391.
TRAITS I MOST ADMIRE: Dedication and passion for sure.
PET PEEVES: When cooks mix the salt and pepper together in the same container.
FAVORITE QUOTATION: “Life is not a two sided coin ... the only binary is life and death. Everything in between is a potluck dinner” - Ed Lee
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: The food, the history, the vistas. I love the unapologetically workmanlike history of New England and the culture it espouses.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Travel.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I was the dishwasher for three years at the Olympia Tea Room more than 10 years ago. I’ve come a long way.
BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: “Focus on the small, and the big gonna come”, my old Sous Chef Romel told me that and it still resonates.
ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: Cook. Your. Food. That is the advice I give to any aspiring or current chef. Don’t try and conform or please everyone, cook what is true to you.
IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: Please refer to the song, “I want to Conquer the World” by Bad Religion.
IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: Pay off all my debt and then build my dream restaurant and work there six days a week.
I DRIVE A: Black 2014 Ford Focus
I WISH I DROVE A: 1967 Chevelle, Black.
ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Milk and a six pack of Narragansetts
IF I COULD HOST A DINNER PARTY WITH A GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM THE PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE, I WOULD INVITE: Anthony Bourdain, Paul Bocuse, Ed Lee, Bruce Springsteen, Gabriella Hamilton and Billy Joel on piano.
— Interview arranged and edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro