Name: Jamie Vincent Bordonaro, sous chef

Age: 32

Place: Millwright’s Restaurant and Tavern, 77 West St., Simsbury; 860-651-5500, www.millwrights restaurant.com.

Food prepared at Millwright’s: Chef Tyler Anderson, Chef de Cuisine Ashley Flagg and the Millwright’s team take great pride in showcasing local, farm fresh, seasonal ingredients as cornerstones of the dynamic, constantly evolving menu.

Education: Magna cum laude with a bachelors degree in history and secondary education from Central Connecticut State University n New Britain. Associate degree in occupational studies for culinary arts, Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

1. How did your interest in food and cooking begin? 

At a young age, I learned that the amount of love one has for the people they cook for is a fundamental ingredient to creating perfection on a plate. My Sicilian grandmother, Concetta, taught me this lesson from preparing her exquisite tomato sauce to twisting her handcrafted bread into perfectly symmetrical braided loaves. 

2. What made you decide to become a chef?

While volunteering to cook dinner for my mom one night, I discovered the many levels of satisfaction and gratification involved in the cooking process. The transformation of raw ingredients into a delicious meal is an incredible feat. The most powerful aspect of the cooking process was the possibility of creating the same sense of family and community my grandmother fostered with her food, through the execution of my cuisine to others. 

3. Who was your culinary mentor?

Chef Jonathon Mailo was my chef during the culinary externship program with the CIA at Picholine in New York City. He taught me a great deal about attention to detail, discipline, and respect for ingredients. Chef Jonathon also practiced a plethora of modernist techniques and always pushed the boundaries of taste and texture. 

4. Where did you work prior to Millwright’s?

Bouley, Le Bernardin, and Vaucluse in NYC. Once I returned to Connecticut, I worked with my cousin Dino Cialfi at Peppercorns Grill in Hartford and then spent two years as the sous chef at A’Vert Brasserie in West Hartford.

5. What do you feel is the next big trend in dining?

Especially in the current climate, it is crucial that we continue to hold and maintain high standards of cleanliness and sanitation. The safety and well-being of the guests and employees are the top priority. We continue to work diligently to deliver safe, enjoyable and memorable experiences. 

6. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever eaten?

Breakfast in Tuscany! After graduating from CCSU, but before beginning classes at the CIA, I ventured off to Provence and Tuscany. The group I toured with in Tuscany was an extremely eager bunch with different perspectives on the sociocultural impact of food on their lives. The remarkable breakfast routine began with a journey up the hills surrounding the bed and breakfast. We picked fresh figs from the trees and ventured into the acres of grapes that would be brought to the local winemaker for wine production. As we returned, a glorious spread of the same figs that we picked, local wild boar prosciutto, fresh cheeses from a nearby farm, and refreshing fruit juices welcomed us.

7. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever prepared?

In Paris, after visiting a local farmers market with a friend of mine from New York, I roasted an acorn squash, stuffed with fresh sausage from the butcher and served it with a fresh baguette and Mimolette cheese. 

8. Besides Millwright’s, what are some of your favorite restaurants and why?

Café Fiorello on the Upper West Side in New York City has a great selection of traditional Italian side dishes and phenomenal pasta. Marea, New York City, the Bone Marrow Fusilli dish reminded me so much of my grandmother’s cooking I nearly shed a tear from nostalgia years ago. 

9. What do you cook yourself and your family at home? 

At home, I usually opt for simplicity and comfort. The goal is rustic preparations with precise technical execution that doesn’t occupy too much of my time.

10. What dish is your signature dish and why is it that particular dish?

Rice Over Lamb: This dish represents the culmination of my professional culinary experience and serves as the embodiment of nostalgic inspiration. The dish is inspired by the New York City street food staple, lamb over rice. Lamb over rice became the perfect comfort food to satiate a crowd of cooks and chefs after a long day and night in the kitchen. The incredible aromas from the spices utilized in the preparation of the dish inspired me to pay tribute to the classic combination with my own version.

11. In a nutshell, what is your philosophy on food and dining?

It’s not enough to claim one merely loves food and cooking, but rather the love and appreciation of those we cook for is far more important.

12. My cabinet has room for only three condiments or spices. What should they be?

Salt, olive oil, and sherry vinegar

13. My bookshelf has room for only three cookbooks. What should they be?

“The French Laundry” cookbook, “The Nasty Bits” by Anthony Bourdain, and “Pursuit of Passion,” of course!

14. Imagine you had to prepare a meal for an old-school culinary master, like Julia Child or Jacques Pepin. What would you prepare?

I would do my best to serve them the perfect roast chicken with buttery pommes puree, and roasted carrots. I think they would appreciate the simplicity and hopefully I would be able to elicit a strong sentiment of nostalgia.

15. Do you have any funny memories of learning to how cook?

When I first tried my hand at baking, I quickly learned the importance of measurement when it comes to leaveners as I spent the night cleaning cake batter from the oven!

16. What inspires you to get up and go to work every day?

The passion for making memories for guests every day, as well as an appreciation of how far I’ve come since embarking on my culinary journey.

17. What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, one that you don’t like to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?

Horseradish, because it is such a potent ingredient that is generally only used for very specific applications.

18. What is your guilty pleasure food?

Potato chips; and I have a bit of a sweet tooth

19. What is your favorite food city to visit?

New York.

20. What’s one must-have at your last supper?

My grandmother’s spaghetti and calamari dish that she makes every Christmas Eve.

21. When you just want to prepare something simple, quick and delicious, what would you make? 

If I have access to fresh pasta, a light, vegetable-focused pasta dish

22. What are some of your most memorable moments around the table? 

All of our holiday celebrations growing up, surrounded by family enjoying delicious traditional Sicilian delicacies.

23. How would you describe the current dining scene in Connecticut? And what is Millwright’s doing to keep people safe and comfortable?

Connecticut is one of the most underrated culinary destinations in the country, bursting with talent and potential. 

Chef Tyler Anderson and the Millwright’s team are taking all of the necessary precautions in order to create a safe, comfortable dining environment. 

24. Your latest accomplishment is the publishing of your cookbook. What was the inspiration in writing it? Tell us a little about the book. How can one purchase the book?

We all have a deep-seated desire or passion for something. Only with unrelenting action can we create great opportunities for ourselves. Voraciously reading, constantly learning, and working hard will open new doors. And when those doors don’t open, we must knock. There is a path to success for all of us; it’s just a matter of pursuing the passion that drives us!

My hope is that this book informs, inspires and entertains. That chefs, aspiring chefs, those in the hospitality industry, and foodies of all backgrounds will find joy and see themselves when reading about my culinary journey, culinary techniques, flavor combinations, personal wellness messages, and stories from my childhood. Purchase a copy by visiting www.pursuitofpassion.net/shop. 

25. What recipe will you be sharing with the readers?

Rice Over Lamb.

Grilled Lamb Loin

2 (8-ounce) boneless lamb loins

2 tablespoons cumin seed, toasted and ground

2 tablespoons coriander seed, toasted and ground

<AF>1/2<XA> cup curry powder

3 tablespoons turmeric

<AF>1/2<XA> gallon extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 bunch thyme

4 sprigs rosemary

Kosher salt 

Turn grill on high heat. (If a grill is not accessible, a cast iron pan will suffice. Just be sure to carefully regulate the heat as the direct contact with the spices creates a potential for burning.) Mix all spices together and thoroughly coat the loins and massage it into the meat. Place the loins in the oil with the garlic, thyme and rosemary, and marinade for one hour. Remove the lamb loins from the marinade, allow the excess oil to drain and season evenly with salt. Grill the loins on one side to obtain dark marks, flip upside down to mark the other side, rotate and flip again to achieve a square crosshatch pattern and flip once more to complete the grilling process for an even internal temperature and consistent exterior. Makes 2 portions.

Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

8 cups water

1 cup kosher salt 

8 cherry tomatoes, scored on the top and bottom

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs thyme

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Bring a medium-sized pot of the water and salt to a boil. Blanch the tomatoes just until the skins begin to peel from the flesh, about 8 seconds, and shock in an ice water bath. 

In a bowl, mix olive oil, thyme, garlic and lemon zest and juice. Set aside.

Peel the tomatoes and place directly into the olive oil, thyme, garlic, and lemon mixture. 

Confit Zucchini and Squash

1 zucchini

1 yellow summer squash

Kosher salt

1 quart extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary

1 bunch thyme

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Use a melon baller to carve circles out of the zucchini and squash, making sure to include the bright skin in each sphere. Season the rounds with salt.

In a shallow metal pan or sauce pot, heat the olive oil with the remaining ingredients to infuse. Once the oil reaches a high enough temperature to lightly brown the garlic, remove from the heat, add the squash and zucchini balls to the mixture and allow to cool at room temperature.

White Sauce

<AF>1/2<XA> cup mayonnaise

<AF>1/4<XA> cup white distilled vinegar

4 ounces grated cucumber

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon Za’atar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Hot sauce for additional plate garnish

Whisk all ingredients (except for hot sauce) together and taste for seasoning.

Turmeric Puffed Rice

2 cups raw sushi rice

1 cup rice vinegar

<AF>1/2<XA> cup kosher salt

1 cup turmeric

<AF>1/2<XA> cup ground cumin

1 gallon canola oil

1 tablespoon Espelette pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rice, rice vinegar, salt, turmeric and cumin in a large oven-proof sauce pot with 2 quarts of hot water. Cover the pot with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 1 hour to cook until the grains of rice are easily crushed and the liquid is extremely thick and starchy. Line a tray with acetate paper and spread the rice mixture in an even layer. Allow the rice to completely dry and dehydrate overnight. Heat a pot of the canola oil until just before the smoke point. Test a small piece of the dried rice to see that it bubbles quickly and can be pulled out instantly without turning brown. Break off chunks of the rice sheet and fry very quickly in the oil and season with salt and a bit of the Espelette for color. (If acetate paper as well as the issue of space and time for dehydrating the rice is overwhelming, substitute the rice chip for a plain rice cake, seasoned with the same spices.)

Plating: The braised lamb neck recipe is available in the “Pursuit of Passion,” pages 93-94, or contact Chef Jamie at www.pursuitofpassion.net.

After the meat is cooked, drain tomatoes and zucchini on paper towels and place in a linear pattern in the center of the plate. Shave a cucumber on a mandolin lengthwise, slice the planks into quarter-inch strips and roll up to create cucumber ribbons. Dress the cucumbers with lemon juice and salt and arrange around the plate in whimsical fashion. Use a squeeze bottle or piping bag to dot the plate with the white sauce and another one for the hot sauce (in much smaller quantities of course).

Once the lamb neck is hot and the loins rested, trim the edges of the loins and cut each into <AF>1/2<XA>-inch portions. Drain on paper towels and place the braised lamb to the left of the garnish and the loin — with alternating pieces showing the grilled side up followed by the rosy red medium rare side up — to the right to complete the duo of lamb. Top the dish with the rice cracker and enjoy!

What chef would you like me to interview? Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products do you have difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at gw-stephen.fries@gwcc. commnet.edu or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.

Connecticut Media Group