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Q & A With Tom Valenti

The Modern American Ouest finally belongs to its rightful owner, Tom Valenti, the accomplished chef behind the Upper West Side restaurant’s success.  An undeniably fickle neighborhood to open any restaurant, never mind a serious one, Tom Valenti seamlessly opened to much success and an  impressive “Best New Restaurant” nod from NYM’s Adam Platt 2002.  Cozy enough to earn the label neighborhood go-to and yet polished enough to become a regular culinary destination, Ouest offers everything from braised veal breast with sweetbreads to homey meatloaf on Sundays.

TALES FROM THE INSIDE – Valenti, who left ‘Cesca in January 2006, decided to offer the buy out of both Ouest and ‘Cesca after an impass with his partners over a project in Atlantic City.  Certain parties incorrectly represented Valenti as a participant in a branch of ‘Cesca there.  Without Valenti, ‘Cesca didn’t survive in Atlantic City, opening and closing its doors in less than 8 months.  ‘Cesca continues to be run by the Off The Menu group with its principals also operating such restaurants as Ollie’s, San Luigi’s and the recently shuttered Ollie’s Brasserie.

Q & A

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A hockey player

How did you get into food?
At my grandmothers side in the kitchen and with grandpa in the garden.

What was your first job in food?
I apprenticed at a french restaurant in pastry right out of high school.

How did you decide you wanted to go off to Ouest?
We were shopping real estate on the upper west side and couldn’t find an apartment we could afford,or a good place to eat after!

What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
Smoked sturgeon with frisee,lardon, and poached egg

What’s your least favorite dish (and yes, you must pick one)?
Rack of lamb

Rumor has it you’re quite the fly fisherman.  How did you pick up that hobby?
I spent many years traveling through the Catskills to and fro form Ithaca to NYC and was strangely drawn to the rivers there. They’re just beautiful…..found fly fishing very calming.  Oh, and by the way, I NEVER eat what I catch….native trout population should be preserved as much as possible and while they are quite hearty and will, when properly handled and quickly released, be fine. Killing them is not something I endorse.  Don’t get me started.

What is your junk food of choice?
Potato chips

Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC?
Daniel,Gotham,Dinosaur BBQ,Babbo,sorry,but there’s a lot of talent
in NY…how can you choose?

What culinary trend do you most embrace?
Any that embraces heritage and acknowledges classic tried and true sensibility..let the product do the talkin’.

What culinary trend do you most detest?

Anything requiring the use of bunsen burners and safety goggles.

What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or restaurants in the works? Spill the beans…
Yes, but I ain’t talkin’…

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl
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