Hot chef: John Villa, Tao

Visit John Villa at Tao (42 E. 58th St., 212-888-2288). Credit: Provided
Visit John Villa at Tao (42 E. 58th St., 212-888-2288).
Credit: Provided

John Villa is the executive chef at Tao, the city’s highest grossing restaurant. Read on to learn how this Italian-trained cook — who counts Daniel Boulud and Ruth Reichl as fans — ended up whipping up Peking duck every night.

You hit it big right after culinary school. In a highly competitive New York restaurant scene, what’s that like?

There’s a lot of competition among restaurants. Chefs in general are competitive with each another but we want others to succeed. Everyone wants everyone to be busy. We’re more competing with ourselves to do better.

Who pushes you as a chef?

At Tao, the owners know what they want. If something is not right, in a positive way they tell you that you can do better or you can do more. Our goal is always to make the guest experience as good as it can. We really stress that from the dishwaters to the top. Every day you come in thinking about what you can do better for the company and the guest. I’m constantly pushing myself, but if you don’t have support like that you could fall into a lull.

Who has influenced your career?

My brother was a chef. He got me in the business. My parents always went out to eat and I loved being out in restaurants, so that gave me the love of restaurants, and my brother showed me behind the scenes. I realized later on that a lot of my inspiration came from my Italian grandparents. My love of food came from them. They made their own pasta and canned their own tomatoes.

How did you go from an Italian cooking background to becoming executive chef at an Asian restaurant?

In New York you really see a lot of everything. You’re not pigeonholed into one thing. Growing up with Italian food and knowing it so well, I didn’t really want to cook Italian. Coming up in New York I worked with chefs that used a lot of Japanese ingredients. It just grew from there.

What dish matches the style you want to convey for the restaurant?

Peking Duck. It’s sharable but it’s also a technical process to make that duck. I think we do it as good as anybody. It’s a certain way you have to make that, and you have to be really skilled. People look at us like we’re a factory but you eat that duck and realize it’s some of the best Peking Duck you’ll have in the country. That’s what Tao’s about. You’ll have a great time when you’re there and you realize the food is as good as can be.

What separates a chef in New York from a chef anywhere else in the country?

I don’t realize until I leave the city how everything moves very fast in New York. There’s always something going on. We never let down. We’re busy from the minute we open to the minute we close. You really can’t slow down.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Actor Tracy Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in June…

By Jonathan Stempel(Reuters) - Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seat belts when their vehicle was struck by…

National

Connected cars: Is AT&T leaving Verizon in its…

By Marina Lopes and Bernie WoodallWASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier known for its widespread coverage, is falling behind its biggest…

Local

Grand jury begins hearing evidence in Eric Garner…

A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday relating to the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in July. Garner, 43, of Staten Island,…

Local

Mayor announces plan for solar panels at city…

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the planned installation of 24 new solar panels at city schools on Monday morning. The panels, a $28 million investment,…

Going Out

Taste what Lower Manhattan is cooking at today's…

The Lower Manhattan food scene has changed a lot in three years, which you can taste first hand when the neighborhood's food festival returns. On…

Television

Review: 'Selfie' tries to coast on the charm…

"Selfie" offers cute leads and some good jokes, but focuses too much on a vague distaste for social media.

Movies

Review: Jason Reitman's 'Men, Women & Children' is…

Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" takes a hysterical and melodramatic look at disconnection in the digital age, turning strong actors into zombies.

Television

TV watch list, Monday, Sept. 29: 'Castle,' 'Mom'…

Tune in for the season premieres of "Castle," "Mom" and "NCIS: Los Angeles."

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

MLB

Joe Girardi not confident David Robertson will return…

David Robertson was as seamless as anyone could be replacing Mariano Rivera as he converted 39 saves, with a 3.08 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony preaches patience with new coach, offense

While star forward Carmelo Anthony said he’s “enthusiastic” and “optimistic” for the upcoming season, he still wants everyone — from within the locker room and…

Education

How to ace your private school interview

Getting ready for a private school interview can be daunting for many, most of whom might never have been in an interview situation before. We’ve…

Education

5 questions parents should ask while visiting private…

It can be hard to know what to look for when searching for a new school for your child. Parents considering several different schools can…

Education

3 ways to save money on college application…

With the average high school student applying to 5 or 6 schools, hefty application and test score fees can add up quickly. We’ve compiled some…

Education

Nap rooms: The latest college campus trend

College is a time filled with new experiences (and lots of schoolwork), leaving little time for students to get a good night’s rest. University of…