Culinary Theater at De Gustibus
Sal Rizzo of De Gustibus Cooking School
“We’re always looking for the new chefs,” said Sal Rizzo, of De Gustibus. “It’s a rite of passage. When you come to De Gustibus, you’ve really made it as a chef.” Established in 1980 by Arlene Feltman Sailhac, (the wife of Chef Alain Sailhac, who earned the NY Times’ first ever 4-star review at Le Cygne) and rebranded by Sal in 2008, De Gustibus is the oldest cooking school in the country, where chefs from New York and beyond come to perform before a discriminating audience. “It’s a stage and the chef is a star,” he added, noting the wall of fame that supports the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Kurt Gutenbrunner, Jean-Georges, Naomi Pomeroy, André Soltner and more.
With a state-of-the-art Miele kitchen located at the front of the class, De Gustibus can host up to 80 students who come to witness the preparation of a four to five course meal, which is then served to the class complete with wine pairings, which for many of this year’s classes will be supplied by T. Edward Wines. “Arlene created something magical 30+ years ago,” said Peter Cassell, our Director of Operations, “and we love the way Sal is carrying on the tradition and culture that she started. It was an honor for us as a company to be asked to participate.”
Playing an integral part of every meal, the wines inform the cuisine; and if a winemaker can attend, then this too is arranged. This fall, we have Kevin Kelley of Salinia Wines speaking to the class on October 7th, which will be led by Wylie Dufresne and Jon Bignelli of WD-50 and Alder. And on October 9th, Maria Sinskey, a chef in her own right, will present a selection of Robert Sinskey wines alongside Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune.
“The chef entertains the audience, showcasing tips and techniques,” said Sal. “You get a sense of who the chef is; there’s a lot of interaction.” And not only do the students get to meet the chef, they are also encouraged to ask for the chef when dining at his or her restaurant, by way of the De Gustibus connection.
Taking over De Gustibus in 2008, Sal organizes and hosts the classes, alternating with Arlene who is still very involved. “She’s forever an integral part of the school as a founder,” said Sal. “She’s my confidant, my best friend, my everything. Arlene was the first to get Rachel [Ray], and Batali called her to do a class. She had the Marios, and I got the Gabe Thompsons [of L’Apicio]. I started bringing in the new blood. Dan Kluger [of abc kitchen & abc cocina] started in 2010 and wants to open every fall, and Marc Vetri [of Philadelphia’s Vetri and Osteria] is returning.”
Described by Sal as “a marriage of media and the kitchen,” the classes are an intimate experience for chefs who are media savvy. “Josh Eden of August said it’s the best PR you can get.”
An intimate experience not just for chefs and students, Sal spoke of some memorable moments that included having Jean-Georges with his wife, his son Cedric and Cedric’s wife on stage before a packed house. “Jean-Georges was like a teenager,” he said, “he was so happy.”
So moved by the experience, one couple got engaged during a session last year. And just before Sal and his partner wed, Arlene announced to a class that the wedding was upcoming while Dan Kluger brought out a sheet cake and Champagne.” When Laurence Edelman of Left Bank led a demonstration, his mother attended. So enamored that her son was on the stage, at the end of class “she grabbed his face crying and said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ I started bawling,” said Sal and laughed.
And because education is the gift that keeps on giving, De Gustibus further extends one’s pleasure by also offering featured wines for a discounted price at the end of each class.
For a schedule of upcoming classes, read here.
In addition to Wylie Dufresne and Gabrielle Hamilton, TEW is happy to be partnering with Alfred Portal of Gotham Bar & Grill; Dan Kluger; George Mendes of Aldea; Henrique sá Pessoa of Alma Restaurant; Mark Lapico of Jean Georges; Barbara Lynch and Kristen Kish of Menton; Ed Cotton of Fishtail; Matthew Aita of Le Philosophie; Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon; Cedric Vongerichten of Perry Street; Jason Hua of The Dutch; Florian Hugo of Brasserie Cognac & Cognac East; Damon Wise of Lafayette; and Christopher Hache of Les Ambassadeurs. We hope to see you there!