Chef Interview: Mark Militello at Trina
With a new project in sight, this James Beard Award-winning chef, who is part of the original Mango Gang, expects nothing short of perfection from both himself and the foods he prepares. We were fortunate enough to catch a few minutes with Chef Mark to learn a bit more about the man behind great restaurants like Mark's South Beach, Mark's City Place, and Mark's Mizner Place.
New Times: We did some research and found that you started as a premed student and then transferred to hospitality. What prompted the decision?
Chef Mark: My father used to design restaurants in upstate New York, so I was always working in them during the holidays. I've worked at some of the original Buffalo wing restaurants and made more wings then I care to remember. Now I don't eat them.
So why med school?
I was young, only 17, and I could get in, so I decided to do it. But I quickly realized that I wanted to be a "doctor of food" instead.
You were on In Julia's Kitchen With Master Chefs. What was it like to be on air with Julia?
It was the best day of my life. She was firm and definitely put me to the test. We worked from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., at which point she said, "It's time for a glass of wine!"
When you eat out, where do you go?
I don't reallly eat out much except when I am in New York or L.A. If I do go out here, it is generally something very low-key and off the beaten path.
What do you like to cook at home?
Perfect food [smiles].
Isn't that subjective?
No, perfect food is perfect food. But at home, I make a little bit of everything. I love a good pasta. My mom and grandma were great cooks. My grandmother was Sicilian, so she made homemade pastas, Italian rice, fennel and orange salads... real Italian food.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Butter... and vegetables. I think vegetables are underrated. I like what Chef Jose Andres said in an interview earlier this year -- everyone goes out and eats a steak, but it loses flavor fast; there is so much more flavor and texture in vegetables.
On the weekends, I got to a hydroponic farm with my wife, and we pick our own vegetables -- beets, tomatoes, strawberries, chards.
Do you watch any food shows? If so, which is your favorite?
Definitely not. I actually don't watch a lot of TV. If I do, it's usually news or the Travel Channel.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
I have to say my wife. But a good second would be Margo Timmins from the Cowboy Junkies. She would have to promise to sing me to sleep afterwards.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview tomorrow, when we learn a bit more about what Militello has in store for Trina.