Yesterday, we talked to Angelo Sosa about his forthcoming restaurant, Social Eatz, expected to open the first week in March. Today, he tells us a little more about how his second time around — both as a restaurateur and Top Cheftestant.
With Xie Xie, you talked about wanting to expand. Do you still have those ambitions?
I think my biggest thing now is to take the day in. I know it’s kind of a generic answer, but I think it’s important to just take it one day at a time and see what that day reveals. That’s been my approach to everything that I take on. Because one day can affect everything. There’s no point in planning ahead too much into the future.
Would you say you learned that lesson from your first restaurant?
Sure. Being a restaurant owner is not an easy challenge. But, more so, competing on Top Chef — now, two times — [has helped me to learn] to take things one day at a time. You just have to plant that initial seed, whether it be in a relationship, or with the dishes in front of you. Just focus on what you have in front of you and if you nurture that, hopefully good things will come out of it.
What are some of the trends in cooking that you’re excited about these days?
I’m truly excited about the comfort-food trend. That’s something we really want to take advantage of. And value. Like, our hamburgers are huge! When you go pay the bill, you’re gonna be like, oh my God. You’re gonna feel like you’re ripping us off. So, that excites me. But I do this for pleasure. I do it for the love of cooking. So, when I can excite people through my cooking, that excites me and motivates me.
Anything you’re sick of seeing at this point?
Let me put it this way: I’ve been confined for the last five months on Top Chef. Trends I don’t know these days.
Was Top Chef very different this time around?
Top Chef All-Stars was far beyond Top Chef. It was just amazing. I hope this makes sense: It broke me in a good way. It made me meet myself at my limit and then I totally broke through that. It let me see further than I’ve ever seen before. A great example is how I created the menu at Social Eatz. There are 30 items on the menu and I literally created the menu in three days. I’ve never in my life imagined doing a menu in three days. When I did the Buddakan menu, it took me six months. I was just so motivated [this time]. And I just have a new philosophy coming out of Top Chef All-Stars: I have no fear.
So, it’s a real competition and not just entertainment?
When I’m on it, I put all of myself out there. This is metaphorical, but when I go to the judges’ table, I’m naked. That’s my heart. And when you get negative criticism, you have to be wise enough to learn from it. So, that was really great for me.
What do you think you would have done in life if you hadn’t become a chef?
Well, I’m half Dominican, half Italian. So, I probably would have stayed true to my blood and become a baseball player.
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