Join The Treasure Coast Foodie for his brand new video series where we get an inside look at chefs from Indian River County! We will get to see some of our favorite chefs, and some new ones, in their element as they answer questions from The Foodie Guy! In this episode, we dive into Counter Culture Vero and get to know Chef Anthony Damiano!
Q: Where did you acquire your culinary education?
A: I started my career as a dishwasher in a local family restaurant owned by very good friends, The Roussos, and from that point I realized I wanted to be a chef. I trained in Europe and did an externship through City University, they had a hotel / restaurant program in New York City and that’s where I graduated from back in the 1970s. From there, I was very fortunate to become executive sous chef of the Hotel Pierre, then off to Leeman Brothers where I was corporate executive chef worldwide for all of their locations and their fine dining rooms. At that time, I met the owner of the Russian Tea Room, and became the executive chef of the Russian Tea room in New York City, where I took care of many many stars, and also got to spend time with Pierre Franey, Jacques Pepin, we did quite a few videos together.
Q: What is the most important thing you learned in culinary school?
A: The most important thing I learned in culinary school was basics, how to make stocks, how to make basic things, knife cuts, so on and so forth. The other thing I learned from my instructor was, you have to give back, so we give back to the community, we do charity events, we get very heavily involved with all of that. The other main thing I learned from many of my instructors was, as a chef , you don’t cook for yourself, you cook for your guests
Q: What was your first culinary job?
A: My first culinary job was at La Serenata in Long Beach, NY as a young apprentice. I started washing dishes standing on a wooden milk crate, back then they had wooden milk crates, and I first started in the pantry. From there, I then went to culinary school and started my career.
Q: If you had not become a chef, what profession would you have chosen?
A: Had I not become a chef, I would have been a lawyer. It would have worked well as a lawyer that likes to cook, because with opening 17 restaurants over 30 years, I needed a lot of lawyers.
Q: What do you love most about being a chef?
A: I love feeding people, I love teaching people about food, not only healthy food, but where it comes from, what’s really available locally, and the best part about it of course is when I come out into the dining room , or I’m doing a party, and I see peoples faces and how happy they are, and usually they are very quiet even though they are at a party because they are enjoying the food, that’s what really wants me to get up every morning, and get in that kitchen.
Q: What is your favorite ingredient to work with?
A: My favorite ingredient to work with is. . . Tahini! Tahini is a sesame paste, there are so many things you can do with it, from dressings, vinaigrettes, sauces, cremas, you can also enhance any stir fry dishes with it, it’s very good for us, it’s a wonderful replacement for different oils and butters, and I just love the flavor, and I love the simplicity of it.
Q: What is your favorite kitchen tool?
A: My favorite kitchen tool is. . . my spiralizer! It’s an amazing little tool, it was heavily available when I was doing a lot of Asian style dishes, and when I was doing Cal Asian cuisine.
Q: Who is your inspiration when it comes to culinary creations?
A: My inspiration has been over the years, a very very talented chef that was way ahead of his time, his name is Jean-Louis Palatin. I was very fortunate to work for him, and apprentice with him in New York City back in the 1970s, and he was just a culinary genius and inspired me to get into the field, to learn what is going on, and it allowed me to participate as a rising star chef with the James Beard Foundation, in which I did my first James Beard House Easter Dinner back in the early 1990s, and then after Lisa and I opened an assortment of restaurants, we would go back to the Beard house two other times, and Jean-Louis was just an amazing amazing chef. He was known for his restaurant in Washington, DC called Watergate!