Yesterday we spoke with Ciano chef Shea Gallante about how Italian food has evolved in New York City. Today we shift gears as he tells us about what it’s like being a chef and how he seeks out new talent for his restaurant.
What’s both the most rewarding and the hardest thing about being a chef today?
The most rewarding right now is a full dining room. The economy has gone up and down, but not really gotten better. Staffing is the hardest. The employee pool is much different than 10, 15 years ago. Just the aspiration and mentality and the direction that people have is different. For sure it’s lessened. There’s not the same dedication or ambition that a young cook once had.
Do you think that has to do with the rise of food television and everyone wanting to instantly become famous?
That could have a little role, but restaurants and cooking in general have become so popular. If a guy is unfaithful to one organization, he can easily find another to go to.
What do you look for when hiring staff?
When they come in for a trail [a culinary job interview], I just look at their body language and talk to them about their expectations. I see if they want to stay the whole night, or if they want to leave after two hours.
The James Beard Awards nominations were just announced. Are there any chefs or restaurants that you’re rooting for?
Any New York chef or restaurant. It’s always great to see chefs from New York being honored, especially in the national categories.
What was the last great meal you ate?
I guess I work so much that I don’t eat out as much as I should. God, I don’t even know.
Well, what’s your daily diet like then?
I’m not a big breakfast person. I’ll have coffee and a banana or yogurt. Then I have to taste all day, and then I always eat staff meal. Usually I’ll eat vegetables and salad. I try to watch what I eat and just try to be healthy.
What would we always find in your home fridge?
Chicken stock, Parmesan cheese, spinach, and yogurt, and then all the normal stuff. My kids love pasta, and we try to make them something different. But yeah, we always have sauce, cheese, stock, and butter.
What’s one thing people should know about Ciano?
Our lunch is by far one of the best deals. We do three courses for $20.12, which is funny because when they called us about participating in Restaurant Week, I had to decline because it would have meant raising our prices!