Anthony unexpectedly found himself a fan of food. “When I was in high school, I worked as a busboy at a busy restaurant near my house. It was my first experience in the workforce and I remember seeing the cooks in the kitchen and just thinking they were so cool.” When you’re on the outside looking in, chefs seem to know a secret that only they can share with you once you’ve earned it. Anthony said that “they were like a gang, and [I] wanted nothing more than to be somehow accepted into that group.” Right out of the gate, he found his calling. “I ended up making it into the kitchen and loved it.” Never looking back!
He knew he had to make this his career. He told me that “when it came to the time to start looking into colleges, my mother suggested I look into culinary school as an option. I ended up visiting Johnson & Wales University in Providence and made my decision that day.” When the kitchen is calling, it waits for no one! He enrolled and got his associate’s degree in culinary arts after two years, but in the “third year I decided to apply to the nutrition program and focus more on food science.” A smart move, as it’s a valuable skill to have in the kitchen! Chef Anthony then got his bachelor’s degree in culinary nutrition in 2010. He was so thankful for his educational experience because he was “able to explore the country through work and travel programs and internships.” Getting to know the world of food by experiencing it one plate at a time.
Anthony has been around the culinary block, getting to work for companies like Heinz, Legal Seafoods, and becoming head chef at Antonio’s Bacaro, a Venetian wine bar and restaurant in Hyde Park. But along the way, places and faces have a way of sticking with you. I asked him about the highs and lows of his career so far.
“My least favorite job was working as a line cook at a resort in Southwest Florida. It was the most beautiful setting, and I had an amazing winter there, but the job itself was my least favorite. Working at a hotel wasn’t for me at the time. There were so many employees and the resort was so big. I worked in a small restaurant right on the beach (I got to see the sunset every night over the Gulf) but it was extremely slow and a lot of the food was already prepped from another kitchen.” When the job is wrong for you, you know it not matter how nice the setting is.
“My favorite job is obviously working at CSCA! My goal after leaving JWU was to gain enough experience to be able to share my passion as a teacher. I get to help people find their passion in food, make great connections, and continuously hone my skills as a chef.” And we thank you for adding your expertise to the team, Chef!
Speaking of Anthony’s expertise, he told me that his “specialty is both seafood and Italian cuisine.” His Legal Seafood days really helped him hone his seafood skills. He said that he “was able to learn from so many great chefs while I was there.” And Antonio’s Bacari brought his Italian cuisine to the next level. “Joe Garufi, the owner, gave me full control of the menu and BOH [back of house]. To ensure the menu remained authentic and exciting, Joe graciously took me to Italy a couple of times for ‘research’, basically eating and trying all foods of the region. It was an amazing experience and the highlight of my career, for sure. Kudos to Joe. Wouldn’t be the chef I am today without him.” Well, it looks like the student has become the teacher.
And as a teacher here at CSCA, I knew Chef Anthony would have a go-to summer recipe, and I had to know it. Now you can too! He told me that “in the summer my favorite dishes to prepare come from the sea. Something about New England summer seafood is just right.” Hey, I won’t disagree! He said, “One of my favorite summer dishes is a braised octopus. This is a versatile dish because after the octopus is cooked and chilled it can be served in many different ways. My favorite is simply grilled with some roasted fingerling potatoes and a light frisee salad dressed with vinaigrette.” I will back up Chef Anthony on this one—when octopus is done right, it’s an incredible delight.
Chef Anthony’s Braised Octopus
2 octopus (2-3 pounds ea)
10 garlic cloves, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 300 F
- Prepare the octopus by removing the head right below the eyes so the tentacles are still connected. Stick your finger through the hole to remove the beaks.
- In a large pot, bring about 6 cups of water to boil. Add bay leaves, peppercorns, and red wine vinegar. Turn off heat.
- Using tongs, slowly dip the octopus in the hot water a couple of times until the tentacles gently curl up, then place in water. You just want to poach the octopus long enough so it’s firm. This will allow it to hold a good shape while it braises. After about a minute, remove the octopus and set aside. SAVE THE LIQUID. YOU WILL NEED IT.
- In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high eat. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until soft. Add the Roma tomatoes and cook for about one minute.
- Take the octopus and place them in the dutch oven with the garlic, shallots, and tomatoes.
- Next, using a strainer, pour the poaching liquid over the octopus until it’s almost covered, about 2/3 the way up.
- Cover the dutch oven, with foil, then the tight-fitting lid. Braise in the oven for 1.5—2 hours.
The octopus will be fork tender and still have the integrity of its shape. Cool and let chill overnight.
- When ready to use, simply brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about a minute and then flip. You want it to be heated through with a little char.
- Serve over roasted potatoes and top with a light salad with your favorite vinaigrette