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June 3, 2011 9:48 pm

FT Foodies: Andrew Carmellini

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Chef-restaurateur Andrew Carmellini built his reputation at many prestigious restaurants in the US, including Le Cirque and Café Boulud. In 2009 he opened the Italian taverna Locanda Verde at Robert de Niro’s Greenwich Hotel. He is chef-owner of the newly opened The Dutch in Manhattan, an American restaurant and oyster bar.

Do you have your own Proust’s Madeleine – a food that instantly brings back memories?

Cherry pie. I grew up in the midwest, where Michigan berries are great for baking. We’re making pies at the new restaurant [The Dutch] with rhubarb and coconut cream.

Who did the cooking when you were a child?

My mother did it all until she started working again when I was 10, and that’s when I started cooking. My dad never cooked and now he makes his own wine and bread.

What was your first job in food?

At a catering company when I was 14, washing dishes and setting up parties. I did it to make money so I could buy things to impress girls.

Did you ever consider/train for another profession?

I was always in love with music – hip hop and hard rock. I played guitar in a band called The Forgotten Few and then I wanted to be a session musician.

What drew you to Italian food culture?

In America there is no food culture that really surrounds us. Everyone’s from somewhere else. I grew up hearing about the old country and I wanted to go there to learn about it myself. In Italy I’ve done everything from hunting white truffles to fishing in Sicily.

What are you most worried about when you open a restaurant?

Opening in New York is a very intense experience. The hardest thing is getting all the employees to share your vision.

Who is the most difficult person you’ve cooked for?

Robert de Niro. He was very difficult the first time. It was at Café Boulud and we were scrambling a little bit.

Where are your favourite restaurants?

Recently I ate at Sushi Dai in Tokyo, right next to Tsukiji market. We had amazing bonito there.

Where do you buy your own food from?

Union Square Market is great – I go to get organic chicken, fresh vegetables and local cheese.

Who would work in your dream kitchen?

Daniel Boulud on meat, Eric Ripert on fish, Karen Demasco on pastry and Gordon Ramsay can clean my dishes.

What would you choose for your last meal?

In the South of France I bought some Provençal vegetables and baby lamb and we roasted it in the garden. Friends bought some local wine. If I could do that again I would be happy.

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