Rapid Fire: Franco Robazetti of Zeppelin Hall

Chef Franco Robazetti is a native of Venezuela of Italian and Spanish descent. His interest in gastronomy started at a very young age when both sides of his family used to sit around the dining table at the family farm and argue the relative merits of each cuisine. He figured the best way to bring about familial peace was to meld the two cuisines together and have fun doing it, sFranco is a graduate from the Cordon Bleu Program in Caracas and has also completed Master baker Certification at the French Culinary Institute in New York. 

In Venezuela he trained with the top three Venezuelian Chefs: Sumito Estevez, Constantino Scanu and Pietro Neder. He traveled South America and the Caribbean honing his skills at fine dining steakhouses, five star hotels and country clubs In 1998, he opened Via Claudia Augusta restaurant where he served up the newest trends in Italian avant-garde cuisine.

In 2002, Chef Robazetti moved to southern Texas where he worked at Saltgrass Steakhouse and Saltwater Grill (Gulf of Mexico) before joining Palm restaurant team in 2005. At the Palm he helped designed menus that displayed new techniques of integrating elements of global cuisine such as using local flavors and produce into classic recipes. While working at Palm he received the 2005 Best Seafood Appetizer Award from the Texas Restaurant Association, the 2007 Silver Spoon Award for best restaurant in the city, and the 2007 Golden Ribbon Award.

In 2009, Chef Robazetti arrived in New York City and joined the famed Iridium Jazz Club as Executive Chef, where he added his signature tapas to the menu. These small plate dishes are a fusion of Spanish and Italian cuisine. He also introduced innovative seafood dishes to the menu. Franco received excellent reviews from the Times Square Chronicle and Night Life Exchange. His cuisine has been called a Brilliant fusion of Italian and Neo- Latino flavors.  

In 2011 Chef Robazetti accepted the position of Executive sous chef at Bobby Vans Steakhouse on Lexington where he further improved his skills and knowledge of the steakhouse model, demonstrating his talent as Master butcher and pastry chef.

In 2012, he joined the W Hotel in Hoboken, NJ as an Executive Sous Chef and Executive Banquet Chef at Zylo.  His Italian heritage flourished in Zylo, where he added the traditional Pollo Al Mattone cooked under brick, Robiola clam pizza, and his grandfathers recipe of the Cacciucco alla Livornese to the new menu.

In 2014, Chef Robazetti  was recruited by John Argento to elevate the food and service Zeppelin Hall. As a customer, he had enjoyed the German pub grub offered at Zeppellin Hall but knew that there was potential to do more.  He recognized an opportunity to put his ideas and skills learned while working with a German chef early in his career. He also saw the opportunity to innovate by creating food festivals throughout the year and taking the existing menu to the next level.

 

His culinary philosophy is ingredient-driven. Chef Robazetti selects a main ingredient and the culinary technique to enhance its flavor. He perfects the recipe, train others to duplicate it, and then makes sure the guests can fully savor the flavor of the main ingredients, and do what I can to highlight the flavors. I believe that superior taste begins at the farm and am always trying to expand our network of regional growers and purveyors. I try to make good food a celebration of life; its meant to be enjoyed with good friends, good wine and good conversation.


RAPID FIRE 

MK: What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

A professional photographer, Navy Seal, or a sniper.

MK: What is your earliest memory of food? What did it smell like?

I have lots of memories of my childhood in our family farm in South America and they all smell like fresh roasted coffee, sugar cane and open fire barbecues.  

MK: What or who has been the most influential on your ethos and cuisine?

My family background is multicultural including Italian and Spanish bloodlines that run through my veins and are reflected in the flavors of my cuisine. The chefs Marco Pierre White and Charlie Trotter are perfectionists to the extreme, which inspired me to become the kind of chef I am.

MK: Do you recommend formal culinary education?

Formal culinary education is definitely a plus in the kitchen but it is not necessary if he/she is passionate about food and is dedicated to learning through experience.

MK: What is the greatest honor/compliment you’ve received as a chef thus far? 

To have been able to cook for my father’s last Christmas at the Palms was a great honor that I cherish dearly.

MK: Passions or hobbies outside the kitchen?

I really enjoy off-roading with my Jeep. It is an exhilarating rush!

MK: What’s your perfect “day off” like?

A nice walk across central park in NYC with my beautiful wife and my two baby Yorkies.

MK: What's your zodiac sign….do you even believe in that stuff?

Scorpio and yes, you don't mess with a Scorpio

MK: What was your most memorable meal?

Smoked trout salad in Beverly Hills

MK: Do you have a favorite city or location? If you could open another restaurant anywhere, where would it be and why?

Austin,Texas 

Aruba or Barbados

1) Landscape 

2) Access to premium products

3) The people 

MK: Is there one ingredient you refuse to use in the kitchen?

Catfish 

MK: What ingredient or technique are you most excited about right now? 

Smoking meats. When I first came to America, I started out in Texas, home of the BBQ.

MK: What trend are you excited about? What trend is over?

Most excited: Nose to tail trend. Trend that's over: I think the cupcake and bubble tea craze.

MK: Favorite kitchen tool?

Thermomix 

MK: What was your worst cooking related injury?

A 600 degree pizza oven exploding hot dough and tomato sauce in my face resulting in the temporary loss of my eyebrows and vision is where it all began.

MK: Favorite cheap eat?

Empanadas and Mexican food

MK: Favorite childhood dish? Who prepared it for you?

Octopus a la gallega, which is an octopus stew, was a dish prepared by my mother.

MK: What is your favorite dish on your menus today?

At Zeppelin hall: Butchers Pick, which is a selection of BBQ pulled pork, Andouille sausages, Baby back ribs and brisket. At Surf City, Steam pot And lobster rolls 

MK: What’s the wildest thing you’ve done in the kitchen - culinary or otherwise? 

Langoustines with white chocolate sauce and sweet jalapeño caramel sauce

MK: What change(s) do you look forward to in today’s food industry?

Organic made affordable

MK: So, what do you think about food bloggers?

They are an excellent way to provide insight to the culinary world and it's always fun to compare thoughts and opinions.

MK: Any advice for upcoming chefs?

Stay focused, up to date, passionate and give it your 110%. If you can't, the industry will eat you and spit you out alive.

MK: What was your most embarrassing cooking moment?

The first time I ate wasabi in culinary school. 

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