Chef brings Windy City chic to Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Chef Giuseppe Tentori, who will be cooking in Vail, Colorado this week, grew up on a small farm outside Milan, Italy. At 17, he received an invitation to work at an Illinois restaurant, prompting him to jump on a plane without knowing a word of English.
The risk paid off. Today he is the executive chef at Boka in Chicago, where he invented such delicacies as a squid stuffed with baby spinach, spicy pineapple and black tapioca. Those who attend the Taste of Vail chef showcase dinner on Thursday will get to taste Tentori’s smoked salmon roll. Here, the chef dishes on learning English, his obsession with potato chips and the Gnarls Barkley song that gave him inspiration.
1. Vail Daily: You don’t use much butter or cream in your cooking. Why is that?
Giuseppe Tentori: I don’t cook with a lot of butter or cream because I don’t like to eat food with those items in it. When I am done with a meal, I like to still have energy to do things … I don’t want to sit around, lethargic after I eat.
2. VD: You grew up in Milan, Italy. At 19, you jumped on a plane ” without knowing any English ” to work at a restaurant in Illinois. How did you overcome the language barrier once you reached the United States?
GT: I learn best by hands-on training. To me, it builds character and it forces you to learn much faster. I worked with great people who were very patient and willing to help me learn English.
3. VD: One of your dishes at Boka is squid stuffed with shrimp, scallops, baby spinach, spicy pineapple and tapioca, with squid ink seasoning. What inspired that dish?
GT: I was driving around Chicago while listening to Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” I started thinking about new takes on traditional recipes when calamari came to mind. I thought about how many times I have seen calamari on menus and how many restaurants prepare it the same way: fried, with some sort of tomato sauce. It’s frustrating to me because squid is so amazing: Its texture, flavor and range. So, with “Crazy” playing in the background, a new recipe was born.
4. VD: For you, is cooking at home completely different than cooking on the line? How so?
GT: I think twice about what I cook at home, because I want to minimize the amount of dishes I have to clean.
5. VD: If you had the power to ban a food from American supermarkets, what would it be?
GT: I would ban potato chips. I’m addicted to them.
6. VD: If you were limited to eating one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
GT: Dining isn’t just about the food: It’s about who is sitting at the table with you. So, I could eat gummy bears for the rest of my life as long as I am in good company.
7. VD: The public is getting more and more educated about authentic cuisine, techniques and ingredients. Does this give you as a chef more freedom or less?
GT: I think it gives chefs more freedom because people are open to trying new ingredients and methods of preparation.
8. VD: What ingredient or technique are you all fired up about?
GT: We just built a bigoli pasta stool at Boka and I love using it. It reminds me of my first job in Italy after culinary school. I would sit on the stool and crank out bigoli. It’s kind of therapeutic, I guess. There’s a lot to be said about making your own pasta, especially bigoli. You can’t just buy it. It has to be fresh.
9. VD: What ingredient or technique are you just plain tired of?
GT: I think using tongs in a professional kitchen is disrespectful to the ingredients. It just looks like you are slapping food around. Proper spatulas should be used. It’s a pet peeve of mine.
10. VD: What’s the best perk about being a chef?
GT: Being able to participate in events like these is one of the best perks about being a chef.
What: Chef showcase dinner
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday
Where: Atwater on the Gore, Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, Vail
More information: Visit http://www.tasteofvail.com or call 970-926-5665
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