William Muzio was inspired to become a chef at the young age of 13 when he started cooking in the most formative kitchen, at his grandmother’s house. At age 14, he started his culinary career working in his uncle’s New Hyde Park restaurant, Union Street Tavern. It was there that Muzio learned he didn’t just want to be a chef, but he wanted to be a great chef.
Muzio graduated at the top of his class from The Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park, New York, where he received the Chef’s Award for academic excellence, culinary skill and knowledge in 2001. Following graduation, he went to the Hamptons where he was sous chef at Pacific East in Amagansett and then opening sous chef at East by Northeast in Montauk. William Muzio decided to expand his knowledge of Asian cuisine by traveling Southeast Asia beginning with Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Upon his return, he accepted the executive chef position at Babylon Carriage House in Babylon, New York, where he was first able to show his creative side and garnered the gold medal for “Best Chef on Long Island” by the American Culinary Federation.
After three years, Muzio seized an opportunity to work at the three-star Michelin rated restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City under world-renowned chef Eric Ripert. Muzio decided to go back to his family roots on Long Island where the resources are abundant. In 2009, he became executive chef of Riverview Restaurant on the South Shore in Oakdale. Lessing’s Hospitality Group reincarnated the 23-year-old restaurant in 2010 with the launch of VIEW, boasting a brand new menu, look and concept with Muzio at the helm in the kitchen. In 2017 Muzio expanded his duties within Lessing’s Hospitality becoming the executive chef for all Main Street Properties which includes five restaurants across Long Island. In 2018 Muzio added another restaurant to his roster as the executive chef for Lessing’s newest incarnation Hatch, a breakfast/brunch spot in Huntington, Long Island.
Total Food Service had the opportunity to speak with William Muzio about his inspiration to become a chef and how he manages a full roster of restaurants.
What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was 14 years old I was invited to work with my uncle who is a chef. I remember every single thing I made that day, from a basic marinara sauce to stuffed jumbo shrimp and even hand-made ravioli. I was making all these cool things from scratch and working with so many ingredients, I was hooked!
Where did you receive your formal training? What was your most memorable moment of culinary school?
I was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I graduated at the top of my class and won the Chefs Award. I have a lot of great memories from there, but the one that stands out the most is the traveling back and forth every single weekend from Poughkeepsie to Montauk for two years straight! It was a real grind and extremely difficult but well worth it.
Who are your culinary mentors and what are the most important takeaways you gained from them?
My mentors are a combination of all the great chefs I have had the privilege to work with – my uncle, Michael Castino, Anthony Silvestri, Bradley Ogden and Eric Ripert. I’ve been a sponge in all of their kitchens and learned a lot about how to do things and how not to do things. I truly learned what real kitchen discipline is in Chef Ripert’s kitchen at Le Bernardin. I learned not to settle for good or mediocre, but to demand only the best from myself. I try to preach that same mentality to my chefs today.
How have your travels influenced your menus?
I’ve been very fortunate to travel to many different countries and experience first-hand many different cultures. I have seen everything from rich countries that are able to get whatever they want shipped in, to very poor countries that survive on what is indigenous to their specific region. I have always taken a little something back with me from each experience whether it’s a new ingredient or an amazing technique that I can’t wait to try as soon as I get back to the states. On my menus you’ll always see something that I was inspired by on my travels.
In your current position with Lessing’s you manage several different restaurant concepts, how do you navigate the menu planning for all the concepts?
It is definitely difficult to wake up in the morning and say to myself, “ok today we’re doing breakfast, tomorrow is Gastro Pub food, Friday is casual family dining and Saturday I’ll be working in a fine dining restaurant.” I have learned to adapt to each establishment, and realized that I literally have to reinvent myself every day. Some days I’ll be in five different restaurants, so imagine what that feels like. It is a challenge however that is the reason I love it! I also love working with our many talented chefs and being able to help them and teach them something new.
What is your favorite tool to use in the kitchen?
My favorite tool would have to be my tasting spoons. It may sound boring but I have to taste everything and that’s what I teach my fellow chefs. Taste, Taste, Taste!! I also love my Masahiro palette knife.
What do you predict is in store for the future of restaurant kitchens?
I predict we will see a tremendous rise in To-Go or Take out food. We as a company have already seen a huge boost in To-Go food. As a result we have partnered with Uber Eats, Grub Hub and Door Dash. We have seen a big increase in take out sales and I do believe we will see even more in years to come thanks to the ever growing delivery services and