Andrew Carmellini is the executive chef for A Voce restaurant in New York CIty. In 2000, Carmellini was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. He also won the James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, and was nominated as Best Chef in New York City by the foundation in both 2002 and 2004.
Question: What is the best meal you ever cooked?
Andrew Carmellini: The greatest meal I’ve cooked in my life was never in a restaurant, and I’ll stand by that 100 percent. I have had a lot of great customers over the years that love my food, and this particular customer has a couple of houses around the world and one time when I was in Japan visiting, you know, and they were in Tokyo and we went with-- I was going around seeing a bunch of different sites, and I went to Kappabashi, which is like the restaurant row supply row of Tokyo, it’s like two miles long, it’s a crazy place. And there was a store there that just sold yakitori equipment to make Japanese yakitori. And she’s a little bit food crazy and she’s like, oh, I’ve got to have some charcoal, I’ve got have some charcoal for my grill in New York and my grill in France. So she bought like a couple of hundred pounds of charcoal and like flew it to France and to New York. The following summer, I borrowed their house in the south of France; they let me have it for a little bit. And at the end of it, as a thank you, I cooked them dinner. And they have this beautiful outdoor grill that looks over the Mediterranean, and they had a bag of this Japanese charcoal from Tokyo. So I went to ... and bought a bunch of vegetables and some produce, and I went to the market in Nice and I bought some fish and some baby lamb, and I cooked everything, all the French ingredients with the Japanese charcoal on this grill. And my sommelier’s parents, I invited them over and they brought like homemade vin d'orange and homemade limoncello and there was some homemade wine in the mix. But the combination of like this Japanese charcoal cooking on the open fire grill and wood burning oven and the French ingredients, it just was amazing. And the setting was amazing, and the company was amazing, and those sometimes are the most amazing food experiences you could have in your life as opposed to, you know, the super high-end kind of setting.