We are starting a series of interviews, Chef Chat, with notable chefs to give us all more insight into the catering and foodservice industry. The first of many ahead, this interview features the winner of Catersource’s 2014 DICED Competition—a battle between six culinary teams in a live mystery box style challenge. Cambro was honored to be one of the major sponsors of this event, providing all of the cooking utensils and pans, shelving and food storage containers which housed the staple ingredients, temperature maintenance tools and of course, the mystery box itself.
Chef Mario Amaral and his partner, Chef Matthew Fresinski took First Place with a $3,000 prize and a trophy. This winning team represented Buddy V’s Ristorante, owned by world-famous “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro and is located at The Venetian/Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas.
The DICED Competition
Q: How did you feel competing in the recent DICED Challenge?
I loved it! I really enjoy competition, helps me stay focused and shows me where I need to improve.
Q: Have you worked with your partner, Matthew for a while now? How do you know each other?
Matt and I both opened Buddy V’s together.
Q: How did you feel when you won? What will you do with the prize money?
I was very excited and relieved at the same time when they announced us as the winners. Haven’t decided on what to do yet, probably go on a vacation with my family.
Q: How long have you been cooking for? And for how long at Buddy V’s?
11 years cooking. We opened Buddy V’s in October 2013.
No not always, I’ve always cooked even as a kid, when I was in the Coast Guard I had a roommate that was married to a chef, I went to his restaurant a few times and was hooked. I knew right away that was what I wanted to do. I told my Station Chief that when I got out I wanted to go to culinary school and he made me the station duty cook for my last year, and that’s where it all started.
Q: What excites you about the business? What keeps you motivated to keep cooking?
I love the controlled chaos of the kitchen. I love challenge– it really keeps me motivated.
Q: What do you oversee at Buddy V’s and what is your biggest challenge there?
I oversee day- to-day operations, purchasing, service. The biggest challenge is the business, this place is crazy busy!!
Q: I understand that you trained under Chef Todd English! Wow! How was that experience for you? How long were you with him and what was working for him like?
I worked for Chef Todd just under 7 years, starting from the bottom at OLiVES then opening his PUB as a sous, this is where I had the opportunity to travel a bit opening new locations and learning A LOT. He is a great chef and a wealth of knowledge, learned a ton from him.
Q: What was your favorite location that you helped open and train at? Is a lot of your cooking style influenced by Todd, would you say?
Spending a summer at his seasonal place in Nantucket was a blast! It was a ton of work but it was a great learning experience, definitely took a lot away from that experience. I would say yes, working for him definitely has an influence on my cooking style.
Q: Now that you have settled down at Buddy V’s, how do you compare the work between the two operations and the styles of both chefs? Does Buddy come to the restaurant often?
Definitely two totally different styles of cuisine, but both offer new learning experiences and challenges, I love that! Yes Buddy comes here quite a bit, always a blast when he is here, the people love him!
Q: You have now worked for 2 celebrity chefs. Why do you think these 2 chefs are so successful at what they do?
They are both extremely talented in their craft, have amazing drive, and great personalities. I really look up to both of them.
Always keep an open mind when it comes to learning new things and never stop learning, the day you think you know everything is the day you will stop advancing.
Q: Do you feel that because you managed to work for 2 big-name chefs, that it has advanced your career more rapidly, rather than starting out with your own business from the start?
No not really, I am lucky to have been able to work with and learn from these two talented chefs, but there is a lot of self-taught talent out there.
Q: What is your favorite recipe or cuisine to prepare? Why does this cuisine appeal to you?
My favorite cuisine to prepare is Mediterranean/Italian. I really enjoy the ingredients and flavor combinations, working as a cook at OLiVES I got to see a lot of this up close and personal, just kinda stuck.
Day in the Life
My day usually starts by getting up early and getting my daughter ready for school, from there try to go to the gym and squeeze in a quick workout before heading to work, usually 12-13 hour days sometimes longer, then come home and try to relax for an hour or two before doing it all over again! Sometimes it is tough trying to balance the two but we make it work and make the best of our time together when we do have it, and yes I do the cooking at home!
Favorite Cambro Product
I love Cambro food storage containers, helps me keep my walk-ins clean and organized!
Thanks to Chef Amaral for sharing his story with us and if you’d like to connect with him, check out these links: