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
News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

National

Donut capers stymie police in Oregon

For more than a month, mysterious vandals have been smearing pastries on cars, depositing donuts in lawns and leaving cakes strewn about the streets.

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.