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Q & A With Sam DeMarco

Having grown up in an all-Italian Brooklyn household, Sam De Marco was
raised on the caliber of authentic home cooking most New Yorkers travel
to the Italian countryside for.  He worked his way up the ladder,
training under David Burke at the The River Cafe as well as Gray Kunz at Adrienne.  Having forged on to develop his own imaginative global fare at both District and First, De Marco’s since reemerged at Fireside in The Omni Berkshire HotelIn
this sleek library nook, he infuses his signature global technique into
comfort food, serving smoked prime rib with horseradish cream, sea
scallops “Wellington”, lobster salad on a brioche bun, and wild boar
bolognese  strozzapreti (a nod to his Italian roots).  He’s even got
his own signature cocktail: Chef Sammy’s cucumber gimlet.

Married and a beautiful 1 year old daughter (Dakota
Kai DeMarco).

What favorite recipe
do you credit solely to your family upbringing?
Pork Braciole- which stems from my grandmother’s
beef braciole.

Your earliest work in
the food industry began with David Burke.  Where did you two meet?
At the River Café where he was the Executive Chef
and I worked for him as a line cook for about  2 weeks before I asked
whether I had a job and did it pay.

A true feat, you developed the restaurant Sam’s at the acclaimed Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas with the help of Steve Wynn.  How did this incredible opportunity come about?
Steve Wynn heard about the things that we were doing
at my restaurant First. We had a few phone calls, after a few trips to Vegas,
he showed up at First and made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Steve Wynn
is not a man who takes no for an answer.

How does the
restaurant scene compare or contrast from NYC to Las Vegas?

can build restaurants and have great food in Vegas, but you can’t buy it a
soul. Restaurants are about the people, the culture, the fiber of the
neighborhood. These are things that are unique that you can’t import and can
only truly be found in a few places around the world (i.e. San
Francisco, Paris,
Chicago, Madrid and most of all,
New York City).

You were invited to cook for the Royal Family in Thailand.  Another fascinating opportunity; where do you get the chutzpah to procure to such tasks? 
By the time I cooked for the Royal Family, I had
already been invited and cooked twice for the Masters of Food & Wine at The
Highlands Inn in
Carmel, California.
More importantly, I cook FTP…For The People of New
York, who have the highest expectations and have the ability to eat food
prepared by the best Chefs in the world. Once you’ve been battle tested by New
Yorkers, you can handle anything.
I guess it was fate because I met my wife on a
layover in
Tokyo, coming home from Bangkok.  Seats 56A and
56C. There’s a story for you!

What’s your favorite
dish on Fireside’s menu, and why?
The Lollipop Buffalo Wings.  After working with
some heavy hitters like Jean Michelle Diot, David Burke and Gray Kuntz, I
opened my little haunt in the East Village and wanted to offer food that people “yen” for.

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

Hotel Bar Nuts!!!!…. It’s a sacrilig!!!… but a
reality of being connected to a hotel.

What is your junk
food of choice?
A great Italian sub, a bag of chips and a bottle of
Diet Pepsi.

Other than your own,
what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC?
Bar Stuzzichini baby!! It’s my new
favorite hot spot. The food is very consistent, they’re open throughout the
day, they accommodate mi familia and they have the best damn affogatto this
side of Naples.

What culinary trend
do you most embrace?
Small shareable dishes with no
cultural or ethnic allegiance.

What trend do you
wish would die already?
Foam and Space Shuttle cookery!!!

What’s next on the
horizon for you? Are there any plans for future restaurants? Spill the beans…

Cinderella has her dress on and I’m ready for
somebody to take me to the Ball.

One Comment

  1. I was one of Sam DeMarco’s employees at Sam’s in Las Vegas. Such a nice man. But his sous chefs were rude. Really, really rude. I quit before we opened. As pantry workers, we never got it! It was not Las Vegas. I’m sad that it never caught on, because Mr. DeMarco was great.

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