Angelo Sosa was the youngest of his siblings, born in Connecticut to a Dominican father and an Italian mother who believed meals were serious affairs. He graduated with High Honors from the Culinary Institute of America in 1997, after running the kitchen at the Escoffier Room, one of the institute’s highly acclaimed restaurants.
In 2010, Angelo was cast as a Season 7 “Cheftestant” on Bravo’s hit reality show, Top Chef. He was then invited to compete on “Top Chef All Stars” which is currently airing.
Angelo’s most recent project is Social Eatz where he’s signed on Executive Chef and Owner, designing a menu that reinterprets NYC staples with flavors from across Asia.
We were lucky to meet with Angelo at Social Eatz to know more about him. Read the Q&A below on his favorite knife, dish, restaurants and how he became where he is today!
1. How did you become this great chef that you are today?
- I don’t know about great chef. Well food is definitely a part of my family. I am half Dominican and half Italian. I came from a big big family. Growing up, my father believed in providing for the family. We had a huge garden, and not only growing vegetables and fruits, he would also have animals. I was always his sous-chef. Sunday was always the big family get-together feast. Saturday and Sunday morning I would always be cooking with my father. Food has always be integrated with my growing up-, but the greatest influence was my aunt Carmen. I remember when I was 8 years old, we would visit aunt Carmen in queens. There were 7 of us kids, they would all run to go play but I would go to the kitchen and watch her cook. And to this day the flavors are so precise and clean in my head. She just inspired me to cook.
a. Where did you start?
- I was very very young when I started cooking. I can probably say back when I was 8 years old, my parents were always about teaching me about different cultures and exposing me to new things. I would never have a normal lunch. No peanut butter jelly sandwich, I would have cows tongue sandwiches, pickled pig feet, all these crazy things. Nobody would ever want to trade lunches with me.
- It has always been a organic process, spending time with my father in the kitchen. The true impact that made me realize my passions for food was my aunt Carmen.
- I was 18 when I went to culinary school, I went to 2 different school. I was from Connecticut so I went to a school in Connecticut. It was not a love, but an obsession with food. I was just obsessed with being the best, so I knew going to CIA and being with the best would make get me there.
b. How did you know you wanted to become a chef?
- Food was always integrated into my existence. It has always been in my blood. Before I went into cooking school, I did consider on becoming a professional athlete- to play professional baseball since I am half Dominican. However, I love the action of food, I love the provision of food, and I love how detailed it is. I was a very quiet child and food was a means of expressing myself.
2. What is your favorite knife and why?
- It is the Ittosai. I am a very ecstatic person, I love the detailed parts, I think they are amazing. You see the precision and I like the focus on details. I believe in quality and not quantity, and the passion of the craftsmanship that went into the knife. But I also love to do more delicate work, and I believe that having a knife with that caliber enables you to have more power in your style. I had an Ittosai but it was stolen.
3. What was your first knife? What knives have you used in the past?
- My first knife was probably whatever they gave me at school. At that time I was naive so I liked whatever they provided for me. Other knives that I have used are Misono and Nenox. Nenox is an amazing knife, what I love about it is that the blade is so thin, it is great for fish and you get clean cuts from it. Having a thin knife is very important. Also the handle is extremely important. A perfect example would be Japanese knives with wooden handles.
4. What’s your favorite restaurant (not the one you work at) what is your favorite dish?
- I am a simple person. I have 3 favorite restaurants. Toloache NY- I am obsessed with their Mexican food. I love their Hamachi tartar, with peanut broth, I think it is amazing. Yakitori Totto NY is amazing, I like the beef hearts and cartilage. Pepes Pizza in Connecticut, it is the best pizza in the world. I am obsessed with pizza, and they have this white clam pizza that is the greatest thing you would ever eat. For my birthday I wanted pizza so I drove there and had a pizza and drove back.
5. What is the weirdest food you ever had?
- When I was in Istanbul I had sheep intestines and the thought of it was just disgusting, but when I had it was pretty amazing. I still tried it in the end because I was with a lot of people and there was pressure. Later I went to Korea, and I have a video of this, I had live squid. I put it in my mouth, and it was disgusting so I took it out of my mouth and just threw it. Marja Vongerichten and Jean-Georges Vongerichten have this show called Kimchi Chronicles, and there was an episode where they went diving for live squid and ate it. When I watched it I kept saying how I must try it in Korea. So one night when I was there I went to sleep early but everyone else with us had it. The next day they told me ‘we had it’ but I didn’t believe them so they showed me pictures. The next time we went out the pressure was on, and they ordered a plate of live squid for me. It was moving, and with soy sauce on it it went even more crazy. And everyone was just taking pictures and video. I ate it and was chewing it, but it was sucking on the inside of my mouth and didn’t know what to do, so I just took it and threw it. It was really disgusting.
6. What’s your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
- Two things I am obsessed with are pizza and kimchi. I always put kimchi on pizza. I also love pickles, it needs to have pickles. I love pickles with toloache, and other things that are spicy- I even make my own toloache.
7. Whats next?
- I have a different philosophy now. When I was on Top Chef I realized that an empire can rise and fall within a day, so I would like to focus on the things that day, really nurture them whether it is a relationship or business and really focus on that because we can really lose focus on what is in front of us. What we plant today we can really see tomorrow. Another area where I have a different philosophy now is flavor in food. I have a study called the trinity of flavor, it can be from sweet, spicy, earthy or even sweet, sour, salty. Dishes all need the trinity of flavor. I believe in something called the Y factor, food needs to be YUMMY, you start with yummy then follow through with technique, flavor first then work backwards. Also, putting tradition flavor with a modern dish. I explain more in my book that is coming out soon, “Flavor Exposed.”
On Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 to celebrate Angelo’s new cookbook, a book signing party will be held in Korin from 7 PM to 10 PM.
This event will take place in Korin’s showroom, 57 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007.
Angelo will only sign books and/or products purchased in-store on the day of the event.
RSVP in either of the links below for this once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Angelo and get his cookbook autographed!
PS. If you live in NY or is visiting NYC soon be sure to stop by Social Eatz to try the amazing burgers, tacos, soup, fries and more!
Curry Tomato Soup