Born in Westchester, New York, the oldest of four kids and the son of two Brooklynites. My dad’s family was Lebanese and I grew up trying foods most of my friends had never heard of, and ate small bites around a kitchen counter instead of heavy meals at a dinner table. It was a great food centric experience, but I truly learned to cook in my Sicilian mother’s kitchen. She taught me things about food and cooking in a way that made them seem a natural part of life; so much so, that when I went to culinary school, terrified that I knew nothing, I quickly realized the enormous head start she had given me from an early age. For that, Mama, thank you; you will always be the best chef I’ve ever worked for.
Fortunately for my career, there were a lot of contestants for #2 on that list. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the help of incredible chefs like Josh Ziskin, Seth Morrison, Rembs Layman, Kim Pengelly and Eric Gabrynowicz. There have also been countless cooks, porters, dishwashers, and yes, even servers, managers and owners that I owe much of my knowledge, sanity and palette to. Though I never directly worked for the man, Chris Schlesinger’s food philosophy was passed down to me through many chefs and cooks I worked with, and let me know that if cooking isn’t fun, it isn’t worth it. I also have a special place in my heart for Stephen and Mo Mancini, who taught me to always keep my head up, work on my ‘excellence reflex’ and of course, ‘go get it!’.
While I respect and appreciate what many of the big name chefs have done, it doesn’t take a big name, a million dollar restaurant, a cookbook or a tv show to make someone a good chef. Some of the best food I’ve ever had came off the back of a truck in Mexico; was cooked over a fire in the South African bush; came out of a fryer from a New Orleans hole in the wall; and on many occasions cooked in the home of a friend or family member. One guy with a few books and a few TV shows that I will always appreciate is Anthony Bourdain (whether he was ever a great chef is debatable), who has now spent years seeking out incredible food, in unpredictable locations, with fascinating people and uncommon customs.
Last but not least, is my favorite customer and my love since high school, my wife Kaitlyn. Without her constant encouragement and support I would probably be playing video games in my mothers basement instead of living the always exciting and unpredictable life I have with her. Thanks baby.