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The Interview: Chef Tony Mantuano

The Interview: Chef Tony Mantuano

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Chef Tony Mantuano was born in Wisconsin but got his start in Italy, where he worked at several of the country’s Michelin-starred restaurants. In 1984 he opened Spiaggia in Chicago, which remains the city’s only four-star Italian restaurant, was named #59 in The Daily Meal's 101 Best Restaurants in America for 2012 list, and won the Chicago Tribune’s highest culinary prize, the Good Eating Award. Mantuano has won more awards than can be counted, including the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, and was named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 1984. His The Spiaggia Cookbook was also named one of the top 25 cookbooks of 2004 by Food & Wine magazine. President Obama has been known to frequent Spiaggia, and celebrated his 2008 election victory there. Mantuano also was one of the finalists on Top Chef Masters season two.

Mantuano is also proud to serve as a mentor, judge, and spokesperson for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition.

This week he talked with The Daily Meal to answer some questions about his experiences, successes, and failures.

What was your first restaurant industry job?

My first, first job was making deep-dish pizza when I was 18 or 19 at a pizzeria in Milwaukee. But the first job that began developing my career was working with Swiss chef Kurt Weber, who had several restaurants in Milwaukee. I completed a five-year apprenticeship program.

When you first walk into a restaurant, what do you look for as signs that it’s well-run, will be a good experience, etc.?

I look for sincerity at the front door. The team that greets you upon entering a restaurant is vital. Are they happy to see me? Are they welcoming? Are they setting me up for a great dining experience?

Is there anything you absolutely hate cooking?

Not really, I love cooking everything.

If one chef from history could prepare one dish for you, what would it be?

Whoever the chef is that first created spaghetti carbonara — the true Roman way. I would want to have that prepared for me.

What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?

I’ve been fortunate to have many successes over the years. Winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef was one moment I’ll never forget, as well as receiving the keys to the city in Molise, Italy, for being an ambassador of Italian culture. Also, mentoring the young talent at Spiaggia and my other restaurants; molding them into the next generation of great chefs is highly gratifying.

What do you consider to be your biggest failure as a chef?

Maybe that I never learned how to cook Asian cuisines.

What is the most transcendental dining experience you’ve ever had?

Most recently, it was having dinner at Ristorante Quadri in Piazza San Marco in Venice. It was so perfect, from the service to the wine to the food and the hospitality. You’re in one of the most unbelievable settings, a 400-year-old restaurant, overlooking one of the most famous squares in the world and having an incredible dining experience. Everything was wonderful, with one unbelievable standout being a risotto dish made from a fish the Venetians call "go." I did something that I’ve never done before, especially not while traveling abroad — I went back the next night.

Are there any foods you will never eat?

Melon or cucumbers — they don’t sit so well. Other than that, nothing else is on my do-not-eat list.

Is there a story that, in your opinion, sums up how interesting the restaurant industry can be?

I probably know six married couples that met at Spiaggia. I love that about our industry. Also, the ability to share our food with the people, whether it’s new guests, regulars, or the notable names. I’ve cooked for presidents, heads of state, and some of the biggest names in entertainment, from Paul McCartney to Elton John and Lady Gaga, and more.

Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.

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Nini Nguyen used this recipe on Top Chef All-Stars L.A. to win over the judges. This recipe requires a bit more time than others on this list for the broth and masa ball preparation, but the end result is restaurant quality.

One of the most important parts of the dish is to strain and pick off the meat on the chicken bone to make sure you're getting the most tender pieces in the soup. Some of the other ingredients include lime wedges, coconut oil, eggs, green onion, green chili, and lemongrass.

The Interview: Chef Tony Mantuano - Recipes

Amy Tarr: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
David Reynoso: I started working in the kitchen in Chicago with Tony Mantuano at Spiaggia, but I didn’t think I was going to be a chef. I was a dishwasher then. Tony inspired me to take a trip to Italy.

AT: Did you attend culinary school? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs today?
DR: I attended Washburne in Chicago. It was great. It’s a trade school. I paid $2,500. The program was very helpful to learn basics, terminology, butchering, baking. But you definitely learn more when you get into the real world.

AT: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
DR: I love Alice Waters. I met her once. I love books from Patricia Wells – like the “At Home in Provence” cookbook. I love Tony’s book (The Spiaggia Cookbook)!

AT: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
DR: I like food that has soul, background, tradition. I see food as holding family together, a way to connect to each other. I don’t like things that are too out there. I like more simple, more traditional foods.

AT: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like?
DR: I like to use cloves. It settles in the back of your mouth. I make a rabbit dish with clove and cinnamon. These ingredients go back to my background– clove, cumin, garlic, onion.

AT: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
DR: Rubber spatulas – you’re able to get everything in the pot or bowl. They’re useful for tossing pasta. The metal spoon breaks it. The spatula is more gentle on the pasta.

AT: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
DR: Do you want to be a star? Are you in this business to be a showman or do you want to cook? I’m interested in someone who’s more about the food, not the show.

AT: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
DR: Be honest in what you do. Work hard. Be humble. You need to be humble and learn from everyone else. That’s what I try to do.

AT: What cities do you like for culinary travel?
DR: Chicago. My brother lives there and has a taqueria place. I like to go to Mexican restaurants there. My favorite is on Milwaukee Ave. It’s run by a kid who used to work for Rick Bayless.

AT: What are your favorite restaurants – off the beaten path – in Boston?
DR: In the North End there’s a place called Pizzeria Ernesto. Their pizza is really good. I like the white pizza with ricotta and broccoli.

AT: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
DR: Lot of food to-go, like what we’re trying to do at The Butcher Shop. People go out, but they also want to do one or two meals with really good food at home.

AT: Where do you see yourself in 5 years-10 years?
DR: I see myself doing something on my own someday.

AT: What range do you cook on?
DR: I cook on four Chefmaster induction burners and a Rationale combi- oven. This place was never meant to be a restaurant. Business has grown a lot in last year.

AT: Tell me about your cooking classes.
DR: I started doing them last spring for neighborhood people. We did them upstairs and closed for the night. We had a Cinco de Mayo theme! Another theme was wild game and wild wine. They are an opportunity for me to introduce myself to our customers.

The master of classic cuisine Interview: Chef Tony Sartori presides, prayerfully, over Marconi's legendary dishes.

Very few of his old-line Baltimore customers would disagree with him. Marconi's, which opened in 1920, is the dowager queen of Baltimore restaurants, traditional, comfortably elegant, predictable, slightly old-fashioned and out of time, but firm in the defense of the old verities. It is a place where grandmothers remember being courted -- while they eat lunch with their grandchildren.

Antonio Sartori has had a hand in creating Marconi's cuisine for 41 years. He's 60, and he started as a kitchen helper. He's been the chef for 35 years, probably the longest run for any chef now cooking in Baltimore.

Sartori is gray-haired now under his chef's toque, but, remarkably for a cook, thinner than he was, say, 20 years ago. He's still energetic as ever, lugging 30-gallon kettles of lobsters from stove to stove as handily as a stevedore shifting oil drums.

He's one of the keepers of Marconi's traditions and idiosyncrasies, especially since the 1994 death of John C. Brooks, the restaurant's legendary manager, maitre d' and sometime owner. Sartori changes his menu about as often as Congress amends the Constitution. But he has added his own favorites to the time-tested list, like the soft-shell crabs he loves to eat.

But he's more preservationist than innovator, more Escoffier at the Ritz then Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, more Grande than Nouvelle Cuisine. Marconi's is an exceedingly nontrendy institution. Marconi lore has it that "lobster cardinal" appeared on the menu to honor Cardinal James Gibbons. He died in 1921.

Cardinal Gibbons may or may not have eaten at Marconi's, but Cardinal Lawrence Shehan certainly did, and Archbishop William Borders, too.

So did H. L. Mencken. He ate lamb chops at "the Marconi," as he called the restaurant, with his wife, Sara Haardt.

But Silvio Passalacqua, an 88-year-old kitchen helper, recalls that the ultimate accolade came when a murderer condemned to hang at the Maryland Penitentiary asked for a plate of spaghetti from Marconi's for his last meal.

Favorites are still there

Many of today's mainstays first appeared on the menu when lobster cardinal and filet mignon each cost $1.50 and Mencken's broiled lamb chops 85 cents. And there are no contemporary surprises. That's pretty much the way old-guard Baltimoreans from Roland Park, Guilford, Homeland and the Greenspring Valley like it.

"The customers when they come in here they know exactly what they want," Sartori says. "They don't want no change."

And they can be sure they'll get their favorite dish prepared just as it was the last time they ordered it, even if they last ordered it in 1948.

"If people come here and enjoy it, I like to make it," Sartori says. "I love anything that keeps people happy."

Not everything at 106 W. Saratoga St. has remained the same. You can make reservations these days and use a credit card, too. The scenic wallpapers of the front room familiar to generations of diners is gone. The room is an elegant key-lime color with painted festoons and medallions, and swagged drapes at the windows. Three crystal chandeliers gently light the gleaming white napery.

Gentlemen -- all male customers are gentlemen -- are still expected to wear jackets in the front dining room, and ties, too, preferably. (The dress code is more relaxed amid the Burgundy accents of the rear room.) And you're still charged 10 cents for the ice in drinks on the rocks, a charge that was probably on the menu when Marconi's was a hotel dining room.

Tony Sartori arrives and says his prayer each day around 5: 30 a.m. He often doesn't get back home in Westminster until 11 p.m. He cooks most of the orders himself and does an amazing amount of the preparation. And he has the classic chef's fetish for freshness.

"We cut all our own meat," he says. "We cut all our fish. We make our own mayonnaise. We make all our dressings. I make my own sauces. We don't buy anything precooked or precut."

No portion control. No synthetic seafood compiled in Thailand. No computers. The waiters dressed in tuxedos appear in the kitchen and announce their orders from notes scrawled on plain white pads.

His fish and seafood arrive daily. He fillets flounder, rockfish and salmon with the speed, dash and nonchalant expertise of a carnival knife thrower.

"We make our own crab cakes," he says. "All jumbo lump crab. I don't use anything else but jumbo lump. I would not make crab cakes if I didn't have jumbo lump."

Tony Sartori has been an American citizen since 1962, but he's still got enough Italian accent to give a lilt and rhythm to his conversation. His descriptions of his dishes are little acts of poetry.

He was born in Piacenza on the Po River, southeast of Milan. He went to cooking school and did some cooking in Italy. When he first arrived in America, he worked part-time at Velleggia's and the long-gone Savoya before landing his job at Marconi's. He was understudy for half-a-dozen years to Giacomo Chichero, a considerable cook in his own right, before becoming Marconi's third chef in 1962.

Around 10 o'clock each morning, Sartori prepares his basic Mornay sauce, a white cream sauce with a multitude of uses at Marconi's. He whisks up a white roux from the butter and flour, adds boiled milk, salt, a little bit of sherry, then folds in a generous dollop of whipped cream.

"We whip our own cream fresh every day," he says. "Anything you make with cream, you use that sauce."

It turns up in his lobster Newburg, lobster cardinal, chicken tetrazzini, crab meat bonne femme, creamed sweetbreads and his creamed spinach, a lovingly prepared ambrosial delight that sells out every day.

"You don't get through the day without that sauce," says Keith Watson, who has worked with Sartori 18 years. He's making the day's supply of mayonnaise. He thinks Marconi's is probably the last place in Baltimore that makes its own mayonnaise fresh every day. And he's probably right.

"Fifteen eggs, oil, Colman's dry mustard, white pepper and salt and you finish it off with lemon juice and wine vinegar when you're whipping it all up," Watson says.

We're not talking spa cuisine here. Abandon your calorie and cholesterol counters all ye who enter Maison Marconi.

Sartori's famous chocolate sauce is kept warm at the back of one of his ancient Vulcan stoves, dark and secret and bittersweet as a clandestine love affair. He'll slather it over a bowl of ice cream, but he won't give you the recipe.

"I can't," he says. "I'm sorry. I think I'm the only restaurant in Baltimore making that. And I want to keep it that way."

He makes his inimitable chocolate sauce in a battered, round-bottomed copper pot about as old as he is. It's irreplaceable. And he may be, too.

Interview with Chef Tony Santoro… and #giveaway

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Tony Santoro to Inspy Romance! I’ve known Tony for a long time, since about 2011 in Real World Time™, which is about twelve years ago in Story World Time ™. He was a gangly, mouthy teenager back then, but he’s turned into a fine man.

Wild Mint Tea, in which Tony is a lowly teenage dishwasher in Galena Landing.

Tony: You would remember that phase of my life. Man, I hated running the dishwasher at The Sizzling Skillet back in Galena Landing, Idaho. The only good thing about that crummy job was the head chef, Claire Kenzie. She was still Claire Halford back then. Anyway, she was great to work with, but the big boss? What a jerk. I might have deserved getting fired, but it was also a huge relief.

Valerie: Right, I remember. And then Claire took a summer job cooking for a treeplanting crew, and you worked for her directly. Is that when you decided you wanted to be a chef?

Tony: She had a big part in it, for sure. She was totally committed to cooking from fresh, local ingredients. For the treeplanters, it was solid, hearty fare, but also really delicious. My mom’s brother owned a restaurant — still does, actually — in Twin Falls, so he also encouraged me to go to culinary school after high school.

Better Than a Crown, featuring Tony’s chef buddy Levi Esteban.

Tony: Yes. I roomed with Levi Esteban. Your readers might remember Levi. We both worked at the Fireweed in Seattle after culinary school, but then he went to cook at Grizzly Gulch Resort in Helena, Montana. He signed on for a temporary gig, but he met a girl and stayed.

Valerie: That happens a lot to folks who live in my Story Worlds. I remember Levi and Heather well. Did you stay in Seattle until moving to the Santoro family nest here in Bridgeview?

Tony: I spent the interim working for my Uncle Leo at Italiana in Twin Falls. He taught me a lot about the business side of running a restaurant. He also passed on dozens of family recipes. Not the Santoro ones, the Ricci ones (grin).

Valerie: Did you live with your uncle and aunt there?

Harvest of Love, in which Tony appears as a roommate to the hero, Zane Russell.

Valerie: I, uh, might have introduced him to Kenia Akers and given them a nudge or two. It’s kind of my job to be a matchmaking fairy.

Tony: About that. I’d like to talk to you about something.

Valerie: Oh, what’s that?

Tony: I’m going to want a matchmaking fairy in about five years. Can you pencil me in?

Valerie: What’s wrong with right now? You’re in your late twenties now with your own restaurant. Congrats on opening Antonio’s, by the way. I hear it’s a happening place and that Spokane’s food critics are quite impressed.

Dancing at Daybreak, in which Tony helps the hero, Dan Ranta, look after his kids.

To say nothing of kids. I love kids — I adore my niece and nephew, and enjoy being around my cousins’ kids here in Bridgeview. I lived with a single dad over the winter, helping him with childcare while he sorted things out with the children’s mother. I wasn’t as busy then, just helping my uncles with building renovations, planning menus, et cetera. But kids need both parents invested in them, and my schedule these days just isn’t compatible. So, yeah, while a wife and family are definitely my dream, five years from now sounds about right.

Valerie: Oh. Well. There’s a little problem. Remember that bit about being a matchmaking fairy?

Tony (raises eyebrows): Uh huh?

Valerie: I may have (cough) started sprinkling some of that glitter dust around.

Tony: Did you not notice I have zero time and am living with Nonna? She’s almost eighty and had a bad fall a couple of weeks ago. Broke a few bones, including her pelvis. No, you need to vacuum that fairy dust back up and save it for later.

Valerie: But… your grandmother needs a live-in nurse for a while. I was thinking…

Tony: Don’t even start. Seriously. It’s not that I’m not interested in romance, but it’s a bad time right now.

Valerie: So you say…

Nursing the neighborhood matriarch through her convalescence from a nasty fall gives Makenna Johnson the break she needs from the head nurse on her ward. The family is plenty involved. Maybe too much so, since it includes a disapproving grandson who lives in Marietta’s basement.

If chef Tony Santoro weren’t so busy launching his new restaurant, he’d take on Nonna’s care himself, but it isn’t possible. If only the nurse was more obsessed with decent meals and less obsessed with polishing baseboards, he’d rest a lot easier.

How can two driven professionals who clash over Marietta’s care — and everything else — ease up enough to see each other’s hearts?

Lavished with Lavender releases June 23. While it is the ninth tale in my Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, it can be read as a standalone.

Click to pre-order on Amazon today, or stick a reminder on your calendar app to borrow via Kindle Unlimited on June 23! It’s currently $2.99 US, a savings of 25% over the post-release price.

Now it’s your turn: Do you like your life all planned out? When’s the last time (or a time you can share) when something major derailed your five-year-plan, sending you in a different direction that turned out to be better?

Interested in reading Lavished with Lavender? I’m offering one reader a copy (e-book only, worldwide). If you’d like to put your name in the hat, please comment by Thursday evening, June 11. I’ll contact the winner before the announcement in the Sunday Edition.

“Void where prohibited the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.”

Valerie Comer is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner who writes where food meets faith and fiction. She injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Her life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Those who know me and longtime readers know that I dream of being a Chef one day, having started my site years ago while living in southwestern Germany. I got my start with a stack of cookbooks that my husband gave me as inspiration to start pursuing my dream. If you had told me back [&hellip]

Though the tragic events in Paris on November 13th cast a shadow over À la carte Chicago, the spirits of my French colleagues gradually recovered as hope and determination replaced fear. One week later the 31st annual Passport to France event began with an uncorking of emotions in a celebration of French culture and resolve. [&hellip]

Interview with Chef Tony Florian

We had the pleasure to connect with Chef Tony Florian on IG Live to hear how he and Seven Hills are adapting and finding solutions in San Francisco, California. Tony had lots of ideas to share, from making a small streamlined daily menu, supporting local farmers by buying as much produce as possible, offering prix fixe ‘Sunday Suppers’, and leveraging social media to connect with the community. Thank you, Tony, for sharing your ideas with us!

Here are a few of Tony’s tips:

  • Streamline a small, seasonal menu for takeout which rotates daily and requires as few people in the kitchen as possible.

As an upscale Italian restaurant specializing in farm-to-table offerings, Chef Tony works to uphold the same unique experience for customers by curating daily dinner menus for takeout.

Recently, Seven Hills offered a Prime Rib dinner for $60 a head.

  • Offer value-added pantry items from your kitchen for sale: fresh ricotta from local milk, house made sausage, bone broth, etc.

The new “Seven Hills Pantry” combines items Tony sources from the farmer’s market, and adds a Seven Hills spin.

  • Leverage social media as a tool for managing takeout in place of subscription services: announce daily menus and provide direction for calling in orders within an assigned time window.

By using social media, Seven Hills has avoided having to hire an outside service, and is able to build new engagement by steering customers to Instagram to find the daily offerings.

  • Manage takeout orders by establishing a max capacity and assigning pick up times in 15 minutes increments (i.e. 5 orders every 15 minutes from 5 pm to 8 pm nightly)

Assigning quantities and specific timing allows Seven Hills to manage inventory while also controlling health and safety.

As an added bonus, Chef Tony recommended his favorite seasonal spring pairing: farmer’s market asparagus, lightly blanched, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Watch the full interview for even more inspiration and actionable ideas.

Connect With Us @corto_olive for even more industry tips and stay tuned for another installment of our #TogetherWithChefs series!

Interview With Chef Toni Elkhouri

We had the pleasure to connect with Chef Toni Elkhouri on IG Live and hear how her restaurant, Cedar’s Cafe, is adapting their business in Melbourne, Florida. Toni shares some tricks and tips on reconfiguring a menu for meal kits and how she is working with other chefs across her county to collaborate. Thank you, Toni, for sharing your ideas with us!

Here are a few of Toni’s tips:

  • Think of your restaurant as an extension of the grocery store. See what’s sold out at the store, and use that as a guide for adding new items to your menu

Toni unexpectedly saw pre-cooked jasmine rice become a top selling item, partially because boil-in-bag rice was in short supply at local stores. Take notice of what is lacking in the market.

  • Offer dressings, sauces and items by the pound which customers can use as building blocks in their own at-home cooking.

Toni offers deli-style selections on a rotating weekly basis to make it easier for her customers to combine staples into more than one meal.

  • Create meal kits with versatile components to cater to individual preferences and dietary restrictions within one household.

Cedar’s Café introduced Power Bowl Kits, incorporating rice, protein, veggies, nuts, beans and sauces which could all be combined, or utilized separately. One customer used leftover chicken to make fajitas for an additional meal.

  • Work with chefs in your community to divide and conquer by defining a niche (i.e. large family-size meals, breakfast) and catering especially to that focus.

By staying in communication, Brevard County chefs worked together in a response which allowed each establishment to excel at what they do best and refer business back and forth.

Toni has hired a local chef to regularly bake her pita bread using their own facility which has temporarily closed.

  • Use direct-to-consumer offerings from suppliers as an opportunity to educate and introduce customers, allowing them to appreciate the quality and price of products used in the restaurant (adding value!).

Toni incorporates local greens from Springer Farms for all her salads. These greens are more expensive than traditional greens, but also fresher and more flavorful. She has packaged Springer Farms greens into salad kits she now has available without markup.

Watch the full interview for even more inspiration and actionable ideas.

Connect With Us @corto_olive for even more industry tips and stay tuned for another installment of our #TogetherWithChefs series!

Making Magic in the Midlands – Wineport Lodge Head Chef Shane Ennis Interview

Even those who haven’t travelled to the heart of the Midlands might be familiar with the idyllic setting of Wineport Lodge. Nestled on the banks of Lough Ree, and surrounded by native woodland, the picturesque backdrop to the luxury Lodge played on our screens on several series of the popular TV series The Restaurant, both on RTE and TV3.

But of course, as the title of show suggests, it was Wineport Lodge’s restaurant that was the star of the show. While resident food critics Tom Doorley and the late Paolo Tullio made themselves at home in the rustic dining room, and in its kitchen well-known faces like the late Tony Fenton, State Pathologist Marie Cassidy, and Irish rugby player Andrew Trimble donned their aprons.

A more permanent fixture behind the pass at the Wineport Lodge restaurant is head chef Shane Ennis, who stayed out of the spotlight during filming, but through his cooking continually shines a light on fantastic local producers and attracts foodies from all over Ireland to the southern shores of Lough Ree.

Growing up in Kildare, and later Dublin county, Shane credits another Irish chef for giving him a head start in the world of cooking, putting him on the path to being the top quality chef he is today. After studying in culinary arts in DIT Cathal Brugha street, Shane’s dad spotted an article in the paper about a then up and coming chef, Neven Maguire. Driving Shane to Blacklion, County Cavan, his gut feeling that Neven would see something in Shane was proved right, and it was through Neven’s contacts that the young chef secured himself an elusive stage in a 2 st Léa Linster, a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Luxembourg.

“That started me on the route to where I went next,” says Shane, who following the stage landed himself a job in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, which to this day is only the restaurant in Ireland to achieve the those elusive 2 stars. He gained further experience in the 5 star Drumoland Castle, and during a gap year in Australia, which Shane says was “very different to Ireland at the time, lots of fusion and a big Asian influence.”

By the time he returned from his travels, his parents had upped sticks and moved to Athlone, where they had a boat moored on the Shannon. It was those family ties that pulled Shane to the Midlands, and he himself has been docked at Wineport Lodge ever since.

Shane says he had experience hotel kitchens prior to Wineport, working in The Central Hotel on Exchequer Street as well as at Drumoland Castle, but that the approach they take to dining at Wineport Lodge is unlike at his previous posts. “Drumoland was more banquet style cooking. Wineport is a bit different. Unlike a normal hotel, Wineport is all about the restaurant. I prefer that more hands on approach rather than functions and that.”

With a focus on local cuisine, like the beef they source from CR Tormey and Sons Butchers in Mullingar and pork from Horans Pork Shop in Athlone, the “classically Irish and French style” menu that Shane has designed means that Wineport Lodge has built as reputation as a food destination. “The reason why it does so well is because we have great food and a great location,” says Shane.

Regularly changing the menu in keeping with the season, and adding “little twists here and there, with a few influences from different countries”, means diners keep coming back. Shane adds further interest with nods to current food trends, like the current crush on homemade charcuturie, and creative vegetarian and vegan additions, like Grilled Parmesan & Basil Polenta with roast red pepper salsa. “You have to move on with the times and keep up with the Jones’. If you don’t you get left behind.”

Shane says working in fast paced kitchen like at Wineport Lodge is what he loves about the job: “I love the buzz, I love the gratitude you get from guest on a really busy night. I look forward to a really busy service too, it really gets you pumped.” Despite the long, often unsociable, hours, he says he would promote cheffing as a career choice: “I definitely would encourage anyone to get into the industry, because we are running out of chefs.”

“But you pretty much know straight away once they come into the kitchen whether they have it or not. Often they come out of college thinking they know it all, but you must have the passion for it. You have to put in the long hours and the hard work and if you do that you reap the rewards.”

While fledgling chefs now look up to him, Neven Maguire continues to be a source of inspiration for Shane, who admires how Neven has grown into his role as an ambassador for Irish food. Shane has huge admiration for Ross Lewis too, and makes sure to fit in a visit to his Michelin starred Chapter One restaurant whenever he is in the capital, and Shane says younger chefs like Conor Dempsey in Amuse, and Karl Breen in Locks Brasserie “are really upping the game.”

Though humble in his own skills, this unpretentious chef has the passion and flair that make him just as much competitor in this “game”. The uninterrupted lake views and natural setting of Wineport Lodge will draw you in, but it’s the cooking of Shane Ennis’ that will keep you coming back.

Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.

Watch the video: Antonio Mantuano (July 2022).


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