Chef Profiles

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Roberto and Cesar Bermejo
El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant
289 Hamilton Street, Albany
271 Lark Street, Albany
elmariachisrestaurant.com
elmariachitapas.com

What dish are you most proud of and why?
Mole poblano and chile reyenos (stuffed poblano peppers) are definitely our favorite dishes. First, because they are our mom’s recipes and second because they represent the most traditional dishes from our home state of Puebla, Mexico

Why the food industry?
We have a passion for it! We grew up in a large family where we always got together, and cooking was a big part of those gatherings. We cooked, we baked, and we ate every time we got together with the family. We have respect for the food industry. You’ve got to love it to be in it!

How and where were you trained?
We received most of our training at home and through working in the restaurant industry.

How do you manage your staff?
Managing staff and keeping calm on a busy day are probably the two most difficult and challenging things to do in a restaurant. But with many years of experience it becomes a routine. You work with your staff, treat them with respect, and you get only good results back.

What is your favorite food and beverage pairing and why?
Our favorite cuisine is Italian paired with a good bottle of wine.


Mike Cohen
Chez Mike
596 Columbia Turnpike, East Greenbush
518.479.4730; chezmikerestaurant.com

What dish are you most proud of and why?
Country-style pâté, because not many casual restaurants make that kind of thing from scratch anymore. We’ve had it on the menu since we opened. I’m always excited to teach the recipe to new cooks who start in my kitchen, because I know this type of technique will stay with them throughout their career. That’s why “old school” stuff is important.

Why the food industry?
I’ve always liked to eat…still do. While other kids were watching cartoons after school, I was watching Julia Child, or Great Chefs. The more I worked at restaurants, the more I liked it. When you’re in it, it feels like you’re doing the most important thing in the world. I love it.

How and where were you trained?
For me, training started at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. It was a great education; they take it very seriously. After that, all the chefs I’ve worked for have had an influence on me for sure. But one, in particular, Gunther Seeger, had the most impact on me. He taught me how to appreciate the ingredients. I can remember one night in particular, washing and drying arugula by hand a couple of leaves at a time until 2 am. He said any other way would bruise the lettuce.

How do you manage your staff?
We have nightly meetings right before service. Besides going over that night’s specials, and guests’ requests, we address any issues we need to improve upon. I’m pretty good about keeping calm during hectic times on the outside; I’m not a screamer. On the inside, sometimes it’s a different story.

What is your favorite food and beverage pairing, and why?
Pastrami on rye with mustard with Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. It reminds me of my childhood, and where I’m from.


Devin Ziemann
The Cuckoos Nest
234 Western Avenue, Albany;
cuckoosnestalbany.com
Crave Burgers and Frozen Yogurt
217 Western Avenue, Albany;
cravealbany.com

What dish are you most proud of and why?
Fried chicken, hands down! After months of experimenting with fried chicken brines and cooking techniques, we came up with what we believe to be the perfect creation. It is a dish that is great all year round, something I crave myself. The feedback we get from customers traveling through Albany from the south and telling us this is the best fried chicken they have ever had…honestly, nothing makes a chef prouder.

Why the food industry?
My father was always my inspiration, cooking amazing meals at home, and teaching me how to cook. I wanted to learn more, and after culinary school, I knew I had found my passion.

How and where were you trained?
I have learned so much working hands-on in restaurants from different chefs. I continued my education at SCCC (Schenectady County Community College).

How do you manage your staff?
I know that I have to set the tone in the kitchen day in and day out. The more I show my staff that it’s more productive to stay calm, they follow suit. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

What is your favorite food and beverage pairing and why?A classic bacon cheeseburger with a cold beer. There is nothing more satisfying than that all–American classic.


Jaime Ortiz
677 Prime
677 Broadway, Albany
677prime.com

Prime Burger and Shakehouse
River Street Market
433 River Street, Troy
primeburgertroy.com

What dish are you most proud of and why?
I don’t have a favorite one, but based on success alone, I would have to go with the tempura Surf and Turf Roll. This appetizer came about when we were opening 677 Prime, and I thought to myself, “what best represents a steakhouse?” and came up with the steak and lobster combination in sushi form.

Why the food industry?
I was going to school for business, paying my way through school as a short-order cook. I realized along the way that I thrive in a chaotic environment, and what has more chaos than the restaurant industry? I love the fast pace and (aggressive at times) passion, which contrasts with the delicate hand needed to attain perfection on each plate. I eventually fell in love with the infinite possibilities that come with cooking and creating and seeing ideas not only come to life, but also be enjoyed by our guests.

How do you manage your staff?
It is odd; the crazier things get, the more focused and in control I become. I try to pass this on to my team by conveying a sense of urgency while keeping composure and driving focus. There is nothing we can’t do so long as we remain cohesive in our goal and keep guests our focus: in service, in the glass, and on the plate.

What is your favorite food and beverage pairing, and why?
I can’t tell you one thing, my love for food and beverage is too vast. If you gave me a category, say beer, I’d pair it with a burger topped with bacon. Wine? A bold cabernet with a ribeye steak. Spirits? A premium margarita with authentic tacos.


John Sqadrito, Baker / Chef
Duncan’s Dairy Bar
890 Hoosick Road, Troy
518.279.9985; cakesbyduncans.com

What dish are you most proud of and why?
Probably our Turkey Pot Pie and our Pot Roast dinner. Everything is made in-house everyday. We are also well-known for our homemade baked goods.

Why the food industry?
I was born into it. My grandmother taught me to bake, and I still use those same recipes today.

How and where were you trained?
I started working in the kitchen when I was 13 years old. I learned by watching my grandparents, particularly my grandmother.

How do you manage your staff?
I like to ensure everyone is well-trained and equipped to handle a busy shift.

What is your favorite food and beverage pairing and why?
Our two eggs and homemade hash with coffee! Because…yum!

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