Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Philip Sireci of FINE & RARE in NYC
Philip Sireci brings his longstanding culinary prowess to Fine & Rare, where guests enjoy classic American fare, hand-crafted cocktails, and the timeless sophistication of old New York.
After years spent chasing his dream of being the next Eric Clapton, Chef Philip pivoted to food after realizing it shared the same creative and emotional energy of the music that he loved. Studying at the French Culinary
Institute, he whet his appetite for elegantly run kitchens as Sous Chef at such Manhattan mainstays as Eleven Madison Park, Union Square Café, and Gramercy Tavern, before becoming Chef at Cerutti and Co. in Provincetown for two years, learning tips and tricks from masters of the industry. From there he began Food Science, a company that created meals and dining experiences for Manhattan's elite. Chef Philip soon moved to East End Kitchen as its Executive Chef, before taking on the same role at Stack Exchange (drawn by the beauty of its kitchen) to create daily, in-office meals for all of its employees. After instilling his passion for quality products and quality meals to its extensive workforce, Chef Philip, in pursuit of a change, found his way to the contemporary eatery, Fine & Rare. Upon entering the transportive dining space, Chef Philip felt instantly at home, and knew he had found his kitchen.
At Fine & Rare, Chef Philip brings respect to the state-of-the-art kitchen, showcasing ideals learned from his self-professed role models Larry Forgione and Danny Meyer, with whom he worked closely. The most important figure in his culinary history, however, is none other than his grandmother, who, at a young age, fostered within him a passion for quality products and a strict make-it-from-scratch attitude. When not in the kitchen, Chef Philip enjoys dusting off his collection of vintage guitars and reliving his life on stage, riffing on chords as easily as he would a classically inspired recipe.
.What was your earliest interest in cooking?
My Sicilian grandmother molded my love for cooking from a very young age. She would pick me up from school and take me to the Italian market. We would shop together, and then she'd take me to the kitchen to cook, and I was her sous chef. My fondest memory is preparing pasta dishes with my grandmother. My favorite was with sardines, breadcrumbs, and raisins.
Who were some of your career mentors?
While my grandmother inspired me to cook, my career mentor is an old friend who owns a restaurant in Nantucket (The Gallery). We met while I was living in Florida. At the time, I hadn't thought of becoming a chef. She convinced me I was born for it, and I'm so grateful she did.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I'm influenced by music, art, travel, and of course, the ingredients that change with the seasons. Like an artist painting a picture, I don't like to limit myself to black and white, I want to use all the colors, or in this case, all the ingredients. My style of cooking is contemporary American, and I'm motivated by America's melting pot of cultures. I'm constantly inspired by new trends and cultural traditions, as well as people. Early in my career, I stopped cooking for myself and I started cooking for others, and that's when the magic started to happen. I listen to what people like and want, and that's how I prepare and present my food.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
Having a background as a musician, I naturally approach a dish like a beautifully written song. I try to let all the notes fall naturally while taking risks and being adventurous. I've always been quite daring in the kitchen, which I would say is my most distinguishing feature as a chef. Some of my notable dishes at Fine & Rare include an Ostrich Egg (equivalent to 20 chicken eggs!) and a poisonous Scorpion Fish and Chips. I'm always on the hunt for rare and unique ingredients. With that said, one of my favorite and signature dishes is Sasso Chicken. It's simple yet elegant. It's the dish I cooked for Tommy Tardie during my interview at Fine & Rare. It's organic roasted chicken, mash potatoes, and string beans, but it's the fresh, natural taste of the chicken that I love.
What is your favorite meal or meals?
It's a very close call between pizza and sushi! Sushi of Gari on the Upper East Side is my favorite sushi spot. As for pizza, I like the greasiest New York pizza I can get my hands on!
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Fine & Rare is truly a hidden gem in Manhattan. We opened our doors in early 2017, creating a destination for fine food and rare spirits, which pulsates with the passion of rhythmic jazz. It's a destination where contemporary diners enjoy the timeless sophistication of old New York with a modern twist. Meant to enhance but never overtake, Fine & Rare's atmosphere features daily live jazz performances. A subtle touch that makes a dramatic difference, diners are serenaded by a variety of ever-changing acts from an LED-lit stage that supplement a well-rounded experience. As for the menu, Fine & Rare is a true American dining experience. The culinary selection is internationally spanning, where Osso Bucco sit comfortably beside crowd-favorite Flatiron mac and cheese for a well-read menu of mouthwatering offerings.
Fine & Rare is a part of the Goodnight Group Hospitality Group, which also owns Manhattan's The Flatiron Room, 37 W 26th St, New York, NY. For more information about Fine & Rare, visit https://www.fineandrare.nyc/ like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fineandrarenyc/ and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @FineandRareNYC.
Photo Credit: Ben Hidler and Courtesy of Chef Philip Sireci/Fine & Rare