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: When did food first spark your interest?
Andrew Carmellini: You know, I grew up in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, and there was a little bit of that ‘70s health thing going on, and my mom and dad, I mean, they weren’t like health nuts but they just wanted to have good stuff. And for them good stuff wasn’t, it wasn’t, you know, processed foods. They wanted just, you know, if it was the winter time and they just wanted like really great grapefruits that maybe didn’t have pesticides on them, and they wanted, you know, we bought some grains from a local, you know, in Ohio we have some mills that make local grain mixes and stuff like that, so we used to go there for that. You know, we had a garden out back, we called it a suburban garden, and we always planted stuff back there. They just wanted the good stuff, and the good stuff wasn’t, you know, restaurant food, it was, there were no foodies back then. But they just-- that’s what they wanted. And so I think that’s kind of how I got interested in food. I used to bake with my mom when I was a kid, and then I got my first restaurant job when I was 14 mostly because of the money, and it might be kind of cool. And that’s kind of how it got started, and then I slowly; I started as a dishwasher and then slowly made my way into the kitchen. I worked as a busboy, I worked as a bar back, and then I made my way in the kitchen and then just sort of fell into it and then worked for my first chef, and then that’s really kind of how it started.
Question: Why did your parents pursue “the good stuff”?
Andrew Carmellini: I don’t think they got it from anywhere. It was really that, I think really the driving force, if I was really to kind of analyze it, was, you know, the food making process in America I think started to come out in a little bit in the ‘70s. I remember there was a newspaper article that we had about companies putting marble dust into ice cream, and this was allowed at that time, as a food additive for mouth feel, and how that really really like made, it made my dad so mad, he’s like, “Why are they putting marbles--“ my family’s in the marble business, marble and terrazzo business, and they really, it really made them mad. And so my dad bought an ice cream machine and we started making ice cream just because he didn’t want to buy anything at the store anymore. And granted, he would only make ice cream in the wintertime because he didn’t want to buy ice, because it was one of those old time ice cream machines where you would put ice on the outside of it and then spin it, so he never wanted to buy ice in the summer time to make ice cream so we could use snow. So we were always making ice cream in the wintertime, which never made sense to me even as a kid.