Executive Chef Anthony Giacoponello, Sebonack Golf Club, Southampton, New York
Anthony, tell us a little about how you became a chef and where you’ve worked.
My first endeavor in a kitchen was when I was in junior high school. My father, who is a very close friend of Sirio (Maccioni) through business, arranged for me to stage for two weeks at the old Le Cirque.
After I graduated from high school, I was fortunate to be able to work at the Grand Hotel Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken, Switzerland. I wanted to study hotel management at the time, and my objective was to try and rotate through all the departments before I went to college for a hotel management degree. My first job there was in the kitchen, and everybody spoke German.
I was working in the restaurant kitchen of the hotel where I met Marcus Samuelson. He was working his station and he saw me trying to figure out what was going on. Fortunately for me, Marcus was raised in Sweden and spoke perfect English. He called me over and started to put me to work. After that we became pretty close. We hung out together, went to movies, etc. Even after I left Switzerland, he came to visit me in New York and stayed at my family’s home for a few days. It was great fun. As he became more involved in his career, we didn’t keep in touch as much. We reunited a few years later and I worked a few months at Aquavit with Marcus. It was an experience I will never forget!
After a few months at Aquavit, I was fortunate enough to be able to stage at Lespinasse under Gray Kunz. At the time, you didn’t know who may be working next to you. In this kitchen, the young chefs included Andrew Carmelini, Floyd Mandoza and the Executive Sous chef Troy Dupy, for whom I would later work.
I applied for the Culinary Institute of America and graduated in the summer of 1995. After I graduated, I decided to take a year and work in London, England, where I experienced a whole different level of cooking. I started at the Hyde Park Hotel just to get my feet wet in London. I then fought my way into Le Gavroche, which was the first Michelin star kitchen where I worked. The Chef was three star Michelin Chef Michael Roux who I did not know much about, but when I left I had the highest respect for him. It was here I learned discipline and respect.
When I got back to the USA, I hit the pavement the old fashioned way and landed a position in the Gotham Bar and Grill with Alfred Portale. It was quite the place. They were doing 300 covers a night for dinner and 180 for lunch. Chef Alfred Portale was very precise with his cuts, flavors and food quality. It was a great environment for my first “real job” in the industry.
In 1998 I went to Monaco and worked under the great Chef Alain Ducasse at Le Louis XV for a year. He was very intimidating, and as a stagiare, I never talked to him much. Even as the great Chef he is, he would walk through kitchen to see if everything was going well with each chef, and we had to speak French to him. It was an eye opening experience as the Europeans respect the culinary industry better than the Americans. When you work in a place like Le Louis XV, you are certainly well respected. The community respects the business and the man who owns it, which also turns into respect for everyone who works in the restaurant. Le Louis XV is a very demanding restaurant and it is a three star Michelin restaurant.
Sebonack Seafood Platter, a members favorite (featured in Golf Club World, behind the gates) Want to see this recipe? Send us an email.
Tell us about your time at Daniel.
Towards the end of 1998, Chef Daniel Boulud was in Monaco having dinner at Le Louis XV and came into the kitchen. As he walked through the kitchen he recognized me. I did my externship for school at the original restaurant Daniel where Café Boulud is today. During my externship, I had the opportunity to experience my first New York Times review. That was a big deal. While in school, I was doing countless hours of prep work and was given a job to prepare canapés. So as the final night came for the review, the NYT reviewers came in and sat down. Chef Daniel was alerted to their arrival and he ran off to get his notebook, as he kept track of what they had in the past, and he never wanted to repeat himself. He is that dedicated a chef! As he ran up to his office, I received the ticket for VIP canapés. Not giving too much thought, I quickly started filling the ticket. Just as the waiter walked out of the kitchen, Chef Daniel comes ripping out of his office yelling, “OK, WHAT TYPE OF CANAPES WILL WE SEND?” My heart sank, as I had to tell him that they went out to their table already. Needless to say, Chef Daniel was not very happy. (He said a few things in the only way a Chef can say it.) From that point on, not one chef in the kitchen would talk to me. I was thinking that I was done, and would definitely be fired the next day. I was in before the newspapers were circulated, so I had no idea what was going on. To my saving grace, he was awarded four stars from the New York Times! There was also a mention to the tasty canapés that arrived swiftly and hot! Later that day, he came up to me and offered me a position at his new restaurant in New York. I was ecstatic! I headed back to New York to work with Daniel Boulud, at the new restaurant Daniel. I was part of the opening crew, and was actually prepping for mock services while construction wheelbarrows were coming through. It was so intense. During my time there I was able to work on the first induction unit installed in a kitchen. It was really difficult to get the hang of it since it heated up pans in seconds and boiled water in mere minutes. It was a station that got hit hard and fast, and I really learned how to cook fast. It was here that I honed in on my pasta rolling skills, as the different pasta shapes and raviolis was made from scratch. I really fell in love with that art, and I worked at Daniel for a little over two years until after the millennium.
Sounds like your Dad is an interesting man and was a big influence in your life.
My dad lives in Garden City, New York in the same house where I grew up with my two sisters. My father worked in the hotel industry for over 30 years before he retired. Without him, I would not have had the opportunities I had. He opened a lot of doors for me, but made it clear it was up to me to go through them. If people think you’re here because of someone you know, you get a whole different experience and very little respect. It was sometimes very difficult for me, as there were certain times that I wanted to call it quits for a variety of reasons, but didn’t as I wanted to prove that I belonged.
So getting back to your career… Where did you go after Daniel?
After I moved on from restaurant Daniel in late 2000, I realized I had submerged my entire life into working there, and I wanted something else. I staged at a few places looking for the right fit. I discovered I was used to working so meticulously, fast, and under extreme pressure, that I'd find myself chopping food just for the act of doing something. I started to think that I was a little high strung and wanted a little balance in my life, perhaps even start a family one day.
I started at La Grenouille in the winter of 2000 as a Rotissuer. It was a classic French restaurant and a NYC icon. It was also another very tough place to work, and I submerged my life into cooking meat with different techniques. I even had to cook kidneys! Now I don’t like organ meat at all, nor have I ever eaten one, but I had to learn how to cook them and cook them well.
I took a position at La Caravelle with Troy Depuy in 2001. He was previously the Exec Sous Chef at Lespinasse when I was there. It was a seamless transition. I had only been there three weeks on September 11, 2001. Due to the economic reaction, the restaurant was only serving 10-20 people a night for a few weeks. I was nervous about my position because I was the newest employee. I will never forget when I heard something that will stick with me forever. Chef Troy was talking to the two owners who were inquiring about the possibility of cutting some staff. Chef told them “If you want to get rid of anybody, you get rid of me first.” They stuck by him, and for two or three weeks, we continued to do 10 or so covers, but no one complained. Then that passed and things slowly returned to normal. It taught me to be loyal to my staff. He treated us respectfully, and we wanted to do our best for him.
In 2002, after La Caravelle, I made a career decision to go into hotel side of cooking. I started at The Mark Hotel as a Sous Chef/Chef de Cuisine. The Mark was Mandarin oriental at the time. I started to get a different perspective on life and cooking. They put me in many management program with seminars that taught other sides of management in the kitchen - people, staff, schedules, how their lives blend with each other's lives. I was there for two years, and during that time is when I married my wife Nicole.
I wanted to start a family, so I needed to make some choices. I was commuting to the city from Long Island daily, and that is when I took a job as Sous Chef of the Muttontown Country Club. There I met Troy Albert, who was the General Manager there. That was in 2005, and my life changed significantly, and I’ve been in the club scene ever since. During this time, I had my first son Anthony and my daughter Sofia. After my first year, I was promoted to Executive Chef and never looked back. I was there for five more years, and I reunited with Troy at the Sebonack Golf Club in 2009.
Sebonack Golf Club - The panoramic view from the 2nd green.
Sebonack is well recognized as one of the finest clubs in the world. Was the transition difficult?
No the transition went extremely well, although the club was in its early stages and in the midst of growing pains. I interviewed with the owner Mr. Pascucci, Mark Hissey, and Troy. They really wanted to make sure the personal chemistry was good, and that I really knew how to cook. I accepted the position in March 2009. Shortly after joining, Mr. Pascucci wanted to taste the entire menu. That's when I realized I would be part of something different here. I had to make four different versions of chicken salad and tuna salad using different ingredients, and we laid it out at the bar for him to taste. Of course, he had questions about each dish and that's how we got started. I wasn't sure what to expect here, but it’s certainly a high-end and quality driven culinary program. Sebonack has grown significantly from a food perspective since 2010, and we have a passionate and dedicated team always looking to expand our menu.
It seems like you’re at home at Sebonack. Has the experience lived up to your expectations?
It’s been a great experience working for the Pascucci family. Mr. Pascucci is tough, fair and has a passion for food. The ability to use such beautiful farm fresh ingredients is so important to me. The membership here is very exclusive. I have members who only dine here in the summer, despite having other alternatives in the Hamptons. Recently, a member pulled me over and said, “I can eat anywhere I want, but I choose to eat here because you prepare this food wonderfully, the service is great and the view is spectacular.” Comments like that are what every chef wants to hear, and makes me happy that our team earns the respect of our members every day.
I'm getting closer to the membership in the last few years, and they are getting more involved in food and the food movement at Sebonack. While we have some limitations for a club that is still growing, we continue to do our best.