While we love showing you delicious food 24/7, we also think it's important that you know who is behind the food you're eating. So, our "Twelve Days of Chef-mas" series will introduce you to a dozen noteworthy chefs from across the state. You can see our full lineup of Chefs here. That being said:
🎶 On the sixth day of "Chef-mas," CT Eats Out brings to you.... Chef de Cuisine Anthony Kostelis of The Whelk in Westport, CT 🎶
How You Got Started In The Kitchen:
My cooking career actually started when I was 15 working in a pizzeria. My father had his own wholesale food company, so I worked in a couple of restaurants that he had accounts with. I moved on to working front of house in my early 20's at Scoozzi (now closed) in New Haven. I decided after a few years that I wanted to get back into the kitchen. The chef there, Jeff Caputo, took me under his wing and got me prepared for culinary school. Being a CIA alum, he knew what I needed. After graduating, I met Bill Taibe at LeFarm where my cooking went to the next level. I've been with this company for about 5 years now and love it.
Favorite Ingredient To Work With:
This is such a hard question because as seasons change, ingredients completely change; so I think my answer is going to be something I couldn't work without. Salted anchovies. Many people think they don't like anchovies probably because of a bad experience eating them as a child. But shhhhhh.... I use them all over the menu. The idea isn't always for the item to taste like anchovies but to take that deep umami flavor which enhances the flavor of other ingredients on the plate.
Favorite Menu Item:
My favorite menu item literally changes every 3-5 days or so. Working with Bill for so long, he was constantly looking to change, or improve dishes daily. That mindset has transferred over to me. So currently, my favorite dish on the menu is a new green chorizo with pommes aligot and a ton of herbs dressed in nuoc cham. It's ground pork sausage seasoned with roasted jalapenos, garlic, shallots, parsley and various spices. The potatoes get whipped with butter and two types of Mystic cheeses. Then a pile of parsley, cilantro, mint and basil literally cover the dish. Super simple and clean flavors. The herbs make it feel lighter than it really is.
Funniest Kitchen Story:
We try to have a lot of fun in the kitchen. With the long hours, constant stress, and general pressure of working in a high level restaurant, humor keeps us sane. That being said, only kitchen folk would really understand our strange sense of humor. The kitchen at The Whelk gets incredibly hot, definitely the hottest kitchen I've ever worked in. There was one day, in the middle of a 90+ degree heat spell where I think we all just broke mentally. A couple of us on the hot line decided that we would just act like we are at the beach in the Caribbean to get us through service. We cooked parts of the night with sunglasses on, our pastry chef made pina colada style smoothies (minus the rum of course), and we played a few beachy songs to make it through the night.
Favorite Holiday Dish To Eat or Cook:
Being Greek and Italian, I think my favorite holiday meal is roasted lamb on Greek Easter. Nothing fancy here, but it was always delicious. We would stud the lamb legs with way too much sliced garlic and then season it with salt and pepper and roast it over potatoes. Not much better than lamby, herby, salty potatoes.
Restaurant in CT You're Dying To Try:
I try to get out to all the chef driven restaurants in the state. One that I haven't tried yet is Community Table out in New Preston. It's quite the drive, but I'm curious what Marcell is up to out there. He has knowledge and training in Nordic cooking which is something I haven't seen much of.
You can follow Chef Anthony on Instagram @akostelis