This week on Chef Wanted, star Chef David Burke called in Anne Burrell to help him find a new executive chef for Fromagerie in Rumson, N.J. Among Anne’s four candidates was Phil Deffina, a six-year veteran of David’s restaurants. This was Phil’s chance to prove himself to his boss and mentor and to finally make the jump from sous chef to executive chef. He did just that, serving an ambitious menu and keeping the kitchen under control during his trial night of service. “I knew coming into this that David has high expectations of me,” Phil said. We checked in three months later to see how he’s doing at Fromagerie.
David says his veteran sous chef (from David Burke Kitchen in Manhattan) has proved to be a great fit for Fromagerie: “Phil has fresh insight into cuisine for this community of affluent and discerning tastes.” He says Anne’s influence really helped Phil shine in his interview: “Anne is one of the most talented female chefs in America. Pushing the chefs motivated them to turn up the burners and perform at new levels of creativity.”
The restaurant is improving every day. Phil is working with David on new menu items and several promotions, including burger night on Tuesday, lobster night on Wednesday and steak night with special wine pairings on Thursday. Phil is also running a seafood special, focusing on local Jersey ingredients this summer. “Sales are slightly up from 2011 and we are working to make it an upward trend,” says David.
Much of what impressed David about Phil’s dinner service was his successful leadership in the kitchen, and this has continued in his new role: “Phil is great with the kitchen staff and a workhorse. He never stops trying to improve.” He educates the staff about dishes every night and has created a menu explanation sheet so that everyone on his team understands the necessary ingredients and mise en place for each dish.
Overall, guests have been “very positive and excited” about the new chef and his menu offerings. David is confident that Anne Burrell found him a great new chef – right in one of his own kitchens.
More from Chef Wanted:
James Beach (July 1)
Mucho Ultima (June 28)