Executive Chef Anthony Ricco has been an integral part of Culinary Concept Hospitality Group’s team since he joined Spice Market in 2005. He is responsible for the operation and success of Spice Market New York and has traveled around the world to oversee operations, train Chefs and implement menu adjustments at Culinary Concepts’ newest properties.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Anthony Ricco knew he wanted a career in the food industry at an early age. As a child, he would often cook for his family and occasionally skipped class to prepare meals for his friends. After high school, he worked in construction as a machine shop apprentice while taking hospitality classes at the New York City College of Technology
Eager to pursue his passion for food, he left school and took a job as a prep cook at China Grill. Ricco knew he would need to attend culinary school if he wanted to excel in this profession and enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education. After graduating in 2001, he worked at a restaurant in Long Island City before going to Jean Georges, where he worked for three years, spending time at every station in both the casual and the fine-dining parts of the restaurant. He soon received an offer to become sous-chef at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market. Nine months later Ricco took over as Executive Sous-Chef and eventually rose to his current position of Executive Chef. He enjoys the high volume of the restaurant’s operations, which can top 1000 covers a night on weekends. “When you work for Jean-Georges, everything is quality, no matter how high the volume is,” he said. “Nothing leaves the kitchen if it’s not 100 percent perfect. That’s probably my favorite part of the job.”
I am really psyched to have been named Chef of the Month for The Chef’s Connection. I think my mom is even more excited about it than I am, she is so proud. My earliest memories in a kitchen are with my grandmother, helping her make her amazing meatballs and pasta fagioli for Sunday Supper. Her care taker when she was sick was Polish so I also have a lot of memories of making pierogies with her, the table would be covered in dough and flour. The love started there and never stopped. Growing up in Brooklyn, it was a choice of Italian Food, Chinese Food, or Shake ‘N’ Bake pork chops, so I have always had an appreciation for Asian ingredients and cooking methods. I remember my father made turkey won tons with ginger and sesame one year for Thanksgiving, those ingredients always stood out to me. The rest of my family wasn’t thrilled, but I was so interested in it. It’s the same interest and passion for ingredients that I bring to my restaurant The Spice Market every day.
I am fortunate enough to have been able to travel throughout Asia to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and I even lived in Turkey for a little while. Turkish cuisine is really special to me and I use its influence a lot in my restaurant. There are all of those pungent florals like Sumac and a lot of citrus and warm spices. The kebob sandwich is so complex and layered there, it was amazing to watch how much work goes into bringing the proper spice and seasoning. Since it is a pretty delicate and light cuisine, I use it in my lunch menu especially often. Singapore really stuck with me too; it is the New York of Asia. It is a complete melting pot, you can get the best of all worlds there.
That is something I try to do a lot at my restaurant is keep it fresh. When I am planning my menu I am always planning a season ahead, and scoping out the farmers markets for new and exciting things to inspire me. Traveling always excites me and gets me thinking of new flavor combinations and dishes. My menu changes every couple of weeks and I do it all by feel. I don’t read books, I just grab a scale and start figuring out what works.
Interview by Leigh Suznovich
From the book STREET FOOD