Cheer the Chefs

Sculpting the Recipe of Life: Chef Dave Riccio


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“Life is too short to be doing something solely for money”. – Dave Riccio

There are very few people I know personally who truly mean when they say that Life is short. Life really is short and it doesn’t make sense to do something which doesn’t give you any contentment in return.

Chef Dave Riccio, born in Massachusetts, is an extremely devoted and headstrong chef who truly believes in the art of sculpting something significant and not just for material gain. I say this because his work reflects earnestness and immense hard work.  His work caught my eye and as and when I got to know Chef Dave, I learned that he has adapted himself to the gastronomic arena without any formal culinary education. I was stunned as his work mirrored perfection and immense potential.

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Chef Dave graduated from Massachusetts Maritime Academy and pursued a job in logistics and operations. He worked in that field for 20 years and earned good money, just the discrepancy being that he wasn’t happy or contented. That is the time Chef Dave decided to do what he loved the most, cooking! He molded his life in a way that would provide him the satisfaction that he yearned for!

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He felt that cooking was a great outlet for his creativity to come life. Since then, there has been no looking back for Dave! He told me that his friends always encouraged him to open a restaurant but he never took them seriously, but now he is preparing to start a restaurant soon and also launch his own book!

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We interviewed Chef Dave and got insights about his life!

Q 1: Was cooking your first career option? If not, then what sparked your interest?

Cooking was not my first career. I cooked a little when I was a child, helping my Mother or Father. However, I really started cooking for myself as a young adult, back when eating at home was all I could afford. Once I could afford to eat out at good restaurants, I realized that my cooking was on par with the pros. That was when I started to focus on learning new techniques and expanded my skill set.

Q 2: What is your food philosophy?

Use the best ingredients that you can afford. Season those ingredients to highlight their flavor, not cover up their inherent taste. I find that “more” is often not “better” when cooking, balance of flavor rules.

Q 3: Do you have any formal culinary training?

No, I have none what so ever. I’ve learned by simply experimenting, and taking guidance from cooking books and shows.

Q 4: How many cuisines have you experimented with? Which one is your favorite?

I’ve dabbled in about 8 different cuisines. Italian is by far my favorite as it is so varied, flavorful & beautiful.

Q 5: What are your thoughts on the current food trends in your country?

I see a trend of eating local growing very fast, and I think it’s absolutely fantastic. Eating local not only financially supports the community that you live in, but also gives you access to fresher food as it doesn’t have to be transported far to reach you.

Q 6: What are your top three ingredients to cook with?

The three ingredients that I would not want to cook without are really high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Garlic & Celtic Sea Salt.

Q 7: Do you use ingredients/spices from other countries as well?

Oh yes. As they say, “variety is the spice of life”! I enjoy using many different flavors to keep my food tasty and interesting.

Q 8: Who/what is your inspiration?

My very first inspiration to start cooking was Alton Brown’s fantastic show titled “Good Eats”. It was entertaining and it allowed me to learn, without being intimidated. I would like to meet him someday and thank him in person.

Q 9:  What advice would you give to a young, ambitious chef who is just starting out in the industry?

I would tell them to not get overwhelmed by all of the different ingredients & techniques available. Start with a dish that you can understand, get good at it. Then move on to the next technique or ingredient that you are interested it. Don’t focus on all of the things that you don’t know. Instead focus on what you understand and are good at, then expand on it.

Q 10: What does good food mean to you?

Taste above all is most important in defining good food. Good food to me also means, handmade. No pre-seasoned or boxed ingredients. Good food makes you feel good when seeing, smelling & tasting it.

Q 11: What is your first memory of cooking?

My first memory of cooking was making the bacon for breakfast while my siblings & parents made the toast, eggs and hash browns. If memory serves me, I had to use a little step stool in order to cook the bacon.

Q 12: Any kitchen calamities?

Yes, one or two! I remember once when I was making bread, the recipe that I was following called for adding water to a preheated pan to keep the oven humid. I didn’t have a clean metal pan handy, all I had available was a Pyrex pan. I won’t go into the explosive details, but as advice to those starting out….NEVER put water into a heated Pyrex pan!

Q 13: What are the challenges you have to face in your job?

I recently quit my career of 20 years, to do what I love, which is cooking. I was making good money at my old job, but was completely & thoroughly unhappy. Life is too short to be doing something solely for money.

Q 14: What goes into creating a dish?

When creating a dish the most important is imagination. I think of the main ingredient that I will be using, then think about taste possibilities. I imagine what the flavor of main ingredient is, then add various ingredients in my head, and imagine what they will taste like when combined. Once I know what flavor I will be going for, I then imagine what process will bring out the best taste. Once all of that is decided, I go on the hunt for the best ingredients that I can find.

Q 15: Is there a culinary technique that you use in a different way?

Yes, often. Once you grasp the process of a technique you are using, you can then apply it across the board with other dishes. For example, say you’ve learned how to pail lard a chicken breast (making a thin flat sheet out of the breast so you can stuff and roll it up), well there’s no reason you cannot apply that technique to a pork tenderloin as well, or other cuts of meat.

Q 16: Your favorite cuisines / eating joints?

I find that I most frequent Italian & Sushi restaurants most often. I would say a good Pho’ house is a very close third.

Q 17: Your ultimate cooking mantra?

Keep it fresh, simple and enjoy it with good company!

 

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We do not come across many people like him and Chef Dave Riccio’s inspiring story has set an example for each and every individual out there, making everyone realize that happiness weighs higher than money! We will be updating everyone about Chef Dave’s up-and-coming ventures and wish him all the very best for his future endeavours.

Cheers Chef Dave Riccio!

You can follow Chef Dave –

Instagram – @neighbour_dave

Email – neighbourdave73@gmail.com

Article By – Sakshi Deswal / Appy Bistro

Picture Courtesy – Chef Dave Riccio

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