What is the difference between a chef and a cook? I ask myself this question all of the time. Maybe I’m insecure, maybe it’s just my tremendous respect for chefs, or maybe it’s a bit of both. Either way, when people introduce me as a chef, in the back of my mind I’m thinking “but I didn’t go to culinary school…really, I’m just a cook.”
Then I started working on improving the school lunch program locally with Chef Tony Cammilleri, Executive Chef of Rizzuto’s in West Hartford, Connecticut, and another non-culinary-school trained “cook.” Except, I would never even dream of calling Tony anything other than “Chef.” It occurred to me, perhaps the difference wasn’t just the schooling, but the experience of running a restaurant kitchen. Realizing I had not one, but two strikes against me, I set out to get a glimpse of everything I was missing…and that’s how I found myself working side-by-side with Tony in the kitchen at Rizzuto’s.
It was just one day (so far), but even in that short time, I received quite the education. And the biggest difference? When I’m contemplating what to make for dinner just 30 minutes before I plan to serve it, Tony is preparing for lunch and dinner for today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that! But it turns out that Tony and I work in many similar ways as well. We both start with the freshest locally grown ingredients and then create our menus from there — letting the ingredients inspire our creativity and using all of our senses to yield dishes that look, smell and taste delicious — wether it’s a gallon of shallot pomegranate vinaigrette and wild mushroom risotto for 100 or Pumpkin and Cannellini Bean Chili with a salad for four.
I’ll be returning to Rizzuto’s to be schooled on the fine art of working the line and the bar, but really I’m going back more for the sheer enjoyment of working alongside a creative and accomplished chef like Chef Tony.
Eat clean live well!