Apulian Chef Pasquale Martinelli, about his career in the U.S. and work as private chef in New York today
Apulian Chef Pasquale Martinelli, about his career in the U.S. and work as private chef in New York today.
Today you work as a Private Chef in New York with a long international track record as a chef. When did it all start? When did you know you wanted to become a Chef?
I am the head Chef of my own private Chef/Hospitality company in New York City, everything started as I was growing up in Puglia, Italy with my parents. They were farmers, and in 1990 I visited Scuola Alberghiera for culinary education and Hotel/Restaurant management in Bari. I knew that I wanted to become a Chef because of the love and passion of sitting at the dinner table and tasting everything my parents grew and prepared throughout the year. That gave me a great sense of happiness.
The real heroes of Italian cuisine are the grannies – be honest: is it hard to compete with them?
Grannies in Italy are great inspirations for people like me who are looking for a career in the food industry, and instead of competing with them, I pay close attention to the way they treat and almost “speak” to the ingredients. Almost in the same way they treat their grandchildren – with the same love.
Your roots come from the Apulian region of Southern Italy; a great region for delicious and wonderful food ingredients. Do you find the same delicious produce in the U.S.?
Puglia is a region that has been kissed by God, because everything that grows there has a much more distinctive flavor: from tomatoes to eggplants, fish and meat and this has a lot to do with the climate and soil and the geographical position in the Mediterranean.
I believe that 50% of the work is done by God, because if you taste a tomato, for example, it is already well balanced. All you have to do is eat it without any processing. In the US I need to kind of “dress” it with some herbs, garlic and salt in order to bring out the flavors.
In 2009 you founded your own company “Warm Palate”. What is the back-storey about that?
I started my own company mainly because I wanted to share the great experience of authentic Southern-Italian cuisine with my American friends and customers by not only having them eat my food, but also talking about my food in the same way a mother reads a story to her child before putting them to sleep at night. In the same manner I want to tell the story – with the same exact love.
How tough was the beginning/the infamous first year?
The first year was difficult for me because I worked both in restaurants and at my events. That was the only way I could earn enough money until my company became more successful, allowing me to step back from the restaurant.
In New York you organize many private dinners and special events for businesses and private clients. Can you be creative in this segment as a Chef, or do your customers define the menus?
I always think of hospitality first, before I can even start thinking of cooking. That’s why I have preliminary conversations with my clients and get as much information as possible about their dinner and only then can I design menus that meet their needs, always respecting the importance of buying the freshest organic ingredients grown locally in N.Y. or imported from Italy. I never compromise the quality, which is rule number one for my food.
Part of your success is the use of the freshest ingredients and organically grown ingredients from the region. Do you have a close relationship with local producers?
I am always looking for new producers, purveyors and farms. I constantly seek to build a relationship by meeting them on their business premises because I feel that connecting with them places great value on what I can purchase or what they can sell to me.
You use hormone-free meat and poultry from local farms in New York. Which of the farmers do you work with? Do you visit them as well?
One of my favorite places in New York is Eataly, where you’ll find extraordinary products from Italy and the U.S., as well as farms on Long Island, Up State New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which are the same farms where Eataly gets their products poultry and meat. When it comes to picking the fish, I drive to the Bronx N.Y. fish market at 3am, which is the second largest seafood market in the world after Tokyo, where fish come from all over the world.
You also offer gluten-free menus. Can you share one of these menus with us? Does it miss some taste?
I offer gluten-free menus because I believe very much in supporting the needs of my guests and make sure no one is left out when it comes to enjoying a dinner, and I do this because as I said, hospitality comes first. In today’s world, especially in N.Y., I can find a great selection of gluten free products and it might be more work intensive, but my final product is HOSPITALITY. I believe if we find high-quality ingredients and treat them with respect by recipes that enhance their natural wonder, the taste does not change at all.
During your career as a Chef you have appeared in various television formats, including The Martha Stewart Show. How was that experience for you?
My experience on TV with Martha Stewart was amazing because it all began while working in a restaurant in the west village in nyc. I was cooking for a table of 2 and I was able to not only cook for them but also deliver the dishes and tell the stories behind them one dish at a time (hospitality) and a day later I received an email from the guest saying she was the vice president for the show and they had the most beautiful EXPERIENCE of their life (did not say the best food ) and they wanted me to go on TV…hospitality first.
If you could choose a country in the world to take a job as a Chef for a while, where would it be?
If I could choose a country, that would without a doubt, Japan.
Thank you very much, Pasquale!