Article by Carly Stracher
The Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of New York will be presenting chef Michael Lomonaco with this years’ 2018 Chef of the Year Award.
Lomonaco started out his career in the 1980’s at Le Cirque, working with and learning from Chef’s Alan Sailhac and Daniel Boulud. By 1989, Lomonaco was revitalizing the New York institution 21 Club. In 1997, Lomonaco was named executive chef at Windows on the World restaurant at The World Trade Center, where he was integral in creating themed menus including Latin Night. In addition to working in these restaurants, Michael Lomonaco also hosted his own cooking shows on the Discovery Channel’s “Epicurious” and “Michael’s Place” on The Food Network. Currently, Lomonaco is the chef and managing partner at the New York restaurants Center Bar and Porter House Bar and Grill, which focuses on the American grill, described as a reimagined steakhouse.
Kurt Keller, Treasurer of the Les Amis d’Escoffier Society, described Michael Lomonaco as an icon in the industry. He also said that for the Chef of the Year Award, the Society looks for someone who has made a difference in the industry, gives back to the community, helps mentor individuals, and continues to thrive in the field they have so much passion for. Keller stated, “We follow them throughout their career to see how they have grown and prospered in the industry.”
Philip DeMailo, first vice president of the Society and former honoree, who has worked in the culinary industry for over 30 years, spoke about Lomonaco in high regard, adding, “He continues to grow as not only a proprietor and an entrepreneur, but also giving back to the community and mentoring young culinarians at his establishments.”
Michael Lomonaco has looked up to Chef Auguste Escoffier, who the Society is named after, throughout his career, disclosing that he has used Escoffier’s book since he was studying at the New York City College of Technology, and still has a copy of it in his office. Lomonaco has followed Escoffier’s principle of creating simple delicious food, saying, “Escoffier continues to teach us things about simplicity, great ingredients, source of ingredients, quality of ingredients, and how the simplicity of great cooking can be so rewarding.”
Lomonaco expressed his passion for cooking in saying, “I think this is one of the true ways to express care for other people.” Along with his fellow chefs, Lomonaco spends a lot of time curating his ever-changing menu with fresh ingredients and new dishes. One of Lomonaco’s favorite dishes is the Côte de Boeuf, which is dry aged for 28 days then roasted and charred to perfection.
One of Lomonaco’s main focuses is his diner’s overall experience, placing importance on creating every dish to order. While the menu at Porter House Bar and Grill is constantly evolving, Lomonaco sticks to classic themes in the cuisine, saying, “We may not be trend watchers, but what’s important to us is to keep elevating the experience for the diner. For us, Porter House is warm and welcoming, but also a luxurious experience, and that’s different from what has become New York steak houses.” With that said, Lomonaco also discussed how food trends are what keeps cooking fun and exciting.
Former association president, Uwe Toedter, has been involved with Les Amis d’Escoffier for over 20 years, with a long and highly esteemed career in the culinary industry prior to that. He described his passion for cooking and the society in saying, “I was hooked on great food, great wine and history of Escoffier ever since, that was our mission and it still is today.”
Michael Lomonaco is in great company as Chef of the Year, former winners include Jacques Pépin, Abigail Kirsch, and André Soltner. As someone who continually looks up to Auguste Escoffier, Lomonaco said, “This is amazing to me, it is such an honor. I am so deeply and profoundly touched by this honor.”
Toedter, Keller and DeMailo all recently did a tasting of the menu for this year’s event, recounting it as the best they have had in their 20 years of being involved with the association. The 82nd Annual Les Amis d’Escoffier Chef of the Year event will be held this October at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City, described as a one of a kind event not to be missed.