Chef Profiles

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Elliott Vogel
Daley’s on Yates
10 Yates Street, Schenectady
518.687.3561; olddaley.com
How well can you handle stress? How do you do it?
Stress is a mental and physical handicap for most people regardless of their profession. Harnessing this common disposition in a positive manner is essential for any notable short-or long-term success. Growing up and training in faced-paced, high-stress kitchen environments has helped me focus on what stresses are most important. Every stress is unique to the moment and inevitable in the day-to-day operations as a chef. Finding new ways to teach myself how to plan for the arrival of stress is probably the best way of approaching and interpreting its demands. This industry requires enormous amounts of spiritual, mental, and physical stamina. Planning, prepping, and strengthening these forms of energy are essential to bettering life and its business-related products.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Egg in a basket, nibble of rabbit confit, and a spoonful of cold duck demi glace
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
Kosher Salt. Pick one food that is used for cooking—all use salt. My favorite is having what I need to prepare food correctly.
A tornado blows through your kitchen. What would you grab before heading for shelter?
My crew. People are the most valuable resource to a fulfilled life and successful business.

Chef Mike Cohen
Chez Mike
596 Columbia Turnpike, East Greenbush
518.479.4730; chezmikerestaurant.com
How well can you handle stress? How do you do it?
I used to be great at handling stress; nothing would ever bother me. But now, as I am getting older, it’s not quite the same, but still, I think I do alright. I usually try to start the next day with a fresh outlook. It always helps me deal with things.
What did you have for dinner last night?
My son, Aiden, and I went to Honest Weight Co-op and bought cabbage, sweet potatoes, and sausages. We cooked them all together with onion and garlic. It was delicious.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
Favorite ingredient to cook with is onions. I start almost all my braises, sauces, soups, with sautéing onions. They add such a nice subtle sweetness and richness to everything.
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of? 
My recipe notebook. I have notes in there from the past 18 years.  It’s not replaceable.

Executive Chef – Guy Sementilli
Scotti’s Restaurant
1730 Union Street, Schenectady
518.393.7440; scottisrestaurant.com
How well do you handle stress? How do you do it?
I feel I handle stress well and my favorite way to do it – sitting on a dock overlooking a quiet lake with my wife, kids and chocolate lab – a great bottle of wine – what stress?
What did you have for dinner last night?
My bride made stuffed peppers and pasta with marinara sauce, of course. If it were up to me I would eat pasta every night.
Do you have a favorite ingredient to cook with? What is it?
I love cooking with squid. It is so versatile and there are many ways to use it. I enjoy coming up with new ideas with squid for daily specials. My new creation – Calamari Parmigiana – is delicious. I have customers coming in and requesting the new squid dishes all the time.
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that I have been running a successful restaurant for over 23 years. I am grateful for my loyal customers and feel blessed to be able to do what I love. I know my clientele appreciates the extra care and quality ingredients that I use to prepare their meals.

Chef Harry Chavarria
Jackson’s Old Chatham House
646 Albany Turnpike, Old Chatham
518.794.7373; jacksonsoldchathamhouse.com
How well do you handle stress? How do you do it?
I feel I handle stress really well. I always tell myself to think positive and never lose control over stress.
What did you have for dinner last night?
I made a shrimp and scallop scampi over fettuccine alfredo for my friend and me.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
Yes, I do. I like to use garlic and parsley.
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m proud of myself for who I am as a chef and I’m grateful to be able to work for the establishment. I work for Jackson’s Old Chatham House.

Executive Chef/Owner Michael Cella
Cella Bistro
2015 Rosa Road, Schenectady
518.381.2081; cellabistro.com
How well can you handle stress? How do you do it?
I have a very easy going personality that allows me to keep the bigger picture in mind when faced with the constant challenges of a professional kitchen. Plus, I have confidence in myself and my team – we have a motto at the bistro, “Never underestimate the power of plan B.”
What did you have for dinner last night?
Spatch-cocked whole chicken, grilled with chile, garlic, rosemary, lemon and olive oil, crispy roast potatoes, zucchini and onions stewed with tomatoes from my father’s garden and a beet and grilled onion salad with feta yogurt followed up with apples, plums and tiny oranges.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
I have many favorite ingredients to cook with, but perhaps the most transformative and essential are salt and acid. Citrus and vinegar add that needed pop or jolt or freshness that can either make a dish sing or foil the richness of it. Plus, put the two together and you have a pickle brine, and who doesn’t love a good pickle?
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of? 
I’m sure any chef would agree that developing a dish, tweaking it, executing it and finally handing it off to a customer who enjoys it gives a constant feeling of “culinary accomplishment.” The fact that each of my cooks, including my sous chef, began as dishwashers and have learned the craft from me and from each other–that’s both culinary accomplishment and personal satisfaction!

Executive Chef Fabrice Vittoz
Chez Nous
707 Union Street, Schenectady
518.344.6393; cheznousschenectady.com
How well do you handle stress? How do you do it?
I believe I handle stress pretty well. It’s like everything, I suppose. Training makes it better and better. Honestly, I don’t think of it because there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. So keep quiet, stay cool, and use your energy for your plates.
What did you have for dinner last night?
I have a real passion for fishing – trout and striped bass. When the season opens, every day my son and I go fishing; I freeze for fall and winter and on my day off I cook it for the pleasure of the whole family.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
Yes I do. I love leeks. I use them almost everywhere. It brings great flavors to everything you cook. You should try fried leeks. They are excellent for texture and decoration.
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of?
All of them of course, because everything adds to your knowledge to form the person you are today. But the edge goes to being the owner of my own bed and breakfast for six years. To be capable of opening your own place is an accomplishment and an unequaled sense of pride. Especially for me who, when I moved to the United States 20 years ago, didn’t speak a word of English. Every day for two years I went to Blockbuster and rented two movies to learn English and to read subtitles. The point of all that is that in a way it’s good to be stubborn and have a sense of discipline.

Executive Chef/Billy Schoonmaker
The Towne Tavern
2850 NY-43, Averill Park
518.674.3040; thetownetavern.com
How well can you handle stress? How do you do it?
Handling stress is the most important skill to have in a kitchen. No matter how prepared you are, there will always be a curveball thrown your way. So when I am facing these situations I always remain calm and and stay focused. As long as you continue making progress, you can and will work through it.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Yesterday was a Saturday, so I was on the line all day. Sadly these hours don’t afford the luxury of a conventional meal. Luckily, all of us that work in the kitchen look out for each other and cook for each other. For lunch another chef Ronnie and I split a BLT and dinner was burritos made by line cook Craig.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
I really enjoy cooking with different beer, wine and spirits. They can be used so many different ways and the flavors are endless. It also shows customers how something so simple can enhance even their home cooking. A tornado blows through your kitchen.
What would you grab before heading for shelter?
If a tornado came through before heading for shelter I would grab food, friends, and drinks. What else does anyone need?

Executive Chef Adam Padilla
The Inn at Erlowest
3178 Lake Shore Drive, Lake George
518.668.5928; theinnaterlowest.com
How well can you handle stress? How do you do it?
Superbly! As an Executive Chef you have to. The entire kitchen team looks to me for answers and guidance in stressful moments. Preparation and past experiences enable me to make decisions on the fly and focus the staff to the specific tasks.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Sushi! I am a big lover of sushi and spicy mayo. Spider Rolls are an all-time favorite.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
Yes, the Okinawan Sweet Potato. The potato has origins in Aztec South America and was brought to Japan in the 1600s. The initial planting was in Okinawa, the southern island of Japan. Eventually the potato migrated to Hawaii and is grown there for the U.S. Market. The Okinawan Sweet Potato is recognized as a super food and contains 150% more antioxidants than blueberries. A beautiful ingredient!
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of?
That’s a tough one. My first Sous Chef job was at the age of 18, I am a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, became an Executive Chef at the age of 26, but what fills me with the most accomplishing feeling is watching my cooks grow. Seeing them improve every day and move on to higher kitchen ranks. Dishwashers to Line Cooks, Externs to Sous Chefs, Sous Chefs to Executive Chefs, etc. Teaching is a wonderful feeling and I’m grateful to be in a position to continue it.

Chef Nick Ferriere
Crossroads Brewing Co.
21 Second Street, Athens
201 Water Street, Catskill
crossroadsbrewingco.com
How well can you handle stress? How do you do it?
I very rarely get stressed in the kitchen. I find that it’s not a mental state that benefits anyone. To deal with stress I rely heavily on my fellow kitchen staff, knowing that we can get through any rush.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Butternut squash salad with cranberry-tarragon vin and honey chevre.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for cooking? What is it?
I would have to pick eggs. They are so versatile and can be used in so many different applications.
What culinary accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Becoming the head chef of Crossroads Brewing Company.

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