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
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…