Local sous chef authors book
By Natalie K. Pollock
When Jamie Bordonaro graduated from college, he did what most young people in their twenties do – he started on a journey to find the career path that excited him. After a stint in student-teaching, his vivid memories of his Sicilian grandmother’s cooking led him to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
“I remembered how my grandma’s cooking brought the family together. There was a connection between food and family. Cooking at home became my true passion. I had no knowledge, just the fundamentals, but the experience of cooking fueled a fire in me,” said Bordonaro.
The summer of his junior year in college, he took his first cooking job at the Tunxis Plantation Country Club, helping with banquets and in the tavern. After graduating from Central Connecticut State University with degrees in history and secondary education, he traveled throughout Europe with the International Kitchen program and spent one week in Tuscany, Italy and one week in Provence, France learning about regional cooking.
Bordonaro went on to complete a two-year associate program at the renowned CIA in 2013 and then, relying on the school’s network, he spent a few years working at premier restaurants in New York City.
“At Le Bernardin, where I worked for two and a half years, I learned about treating seafood, the different flavors and textures. But the chef Ripert had so much restraint. He had a remarkable focus on the freshest product. Fish of the highest quality is the star on the plate,” said Bordonaro.
Le Bernardin is a three-star Michelin French seafood restaurant. The young aspiring chef also worked at Bouley, one of Connecticut-born David Bouley’s restaurants in the City; Picholine, a two-star Michelin French restaurant, where he did his CIA externship; and Vaucluse, a French restaurant on Park Avenue by famous chef Michael White, now permanently closed.
While in the Bernardin kitchen with chef Eric Ripert, Bordonaro created his own dish by accident, the sea urchin popcorn served with seaweed at the bar.
Bordonaro also recently published a book entitled Pursuit of Passion, which he began writing while working in New York.
He writes as an introduction, “The initial motivation…[was] an effort to transform my traditional patterns of behavior. Overconsumption of alcohol had become my primary coping mechanism for the stresses of the professional kitchen and isolation from family and friends.”
He added that while evaluating his own wellness, he thought about the struggles of his colleagues.
“A lot of people don’t realize the pressures and stresses in the industry. Chefs take that for granted. After I read chef Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential [an internal look at the industry] from cover to cover, my book was influenced by his style. I have a strong support system, and I decided I did not want to disappoint my family, so this book is an important call to action,” he said.
Bordonaro encourages readers to find healthy ways to let off steam and pent-up energy.
“After five years in New York City restaurants I was ready to leave, and I wanted to be closer to my family,” he said.
Bordonaro then came back to Connecticut. For the past two years he has been working at Millwright’s in Simsbury as the sous chef. He shares a condominium in Farmington with his younger brother Sebby, and they visit their parents on weekends.
“[With the book] I also wanted to move the national spotlight on Connecticut. There are a lot of dedicated and passionate chefs here like Tyler Anderson of Millwright’s in Simsbury, Joel Gargano of Grano Arso in Cheshire, and Jeffrey Lizotte of Present Company in Tariffville, who also worked at Le Bernardin,” he said.
Bordonaro explained that rather than a cookbook his new published work is a collection of stories about his culinary journey and his favorite foods.
“Each section starts with the inspiration for the dish and then a description of the flavors and [the desired] look, followed by the recipe,” he said.
The young chef self-published his book, which is selling on the Pursuit of Passion website. It is the culmination of six years of work and photography and printing by his friends. He is donating $5 from each purchase to support the World Central Kitchen, an organization formed by chef Jose Andreas to feed hungry people in need, first in Puerto Rico after the last devastating hurricane.
Bordonaro has been working with chef Tyler Anderson and chef de cuisine Ashley Flagg at Millwright’s for two years and was allowed to use the restaurant’s kitchen to perfect his recipes.
“She started a fermentation program with vinegars and preserves and has been my inspiration. She taught me that a chef can be kind and gracious and still maintain discipline in the kitchen,” said Bordonaro.
Chef Flagg worked with chef/owner Billy Grant at Grant’s restaurant for 10 years when she was first starting out, then the Republic in Bloomfield, the Winvian restaurant in Litchfield, and in the Boston area with the Little Donkey restaurant. Her cooking degree comes from the Connecticut Culinary Institute, and she has been at Millwright’s for one and a half years, where she collaborates on the menu and recipes with chef Anderson, as does Bordonaro she pointed out.
“I am jealous that I don’t have Jamie as my sous chef. I came here in March after the Blake Hotel in New Haven closed. It’s crazy working on to-go. Every order has 10 different orders. Jamie has been amazing to work with because he is so organized,” said Flagg.
When the restaurant opened for outdoor and indoor dining, there was a major decrease in to-go orders, which have been scaled back to just Fridays and Saturdays. She cooks for about 120 diners outside from the new outdoor kitchen, while chefs Anderson and Bordonaro take care of the inside orders from the original indoor kitchen.
In addition, the restaurant’s new Tac-Que food truck is parked nearby with its own outdoor seating and a menu focused on tacos blended with barbecue items, such as pork tacos, swordfish or chicken tacos, plus street corn.
“Jamie has a future as a lifetime chef. I think he is ready to run his own kitchen, and he will probably do that soon. He is very creative and intelligent and would be great,” said Flagg. VL
Pursuit of Passion may be purchased at www.pursuitofpassion.net, where inquiries about Bordonaro’s availability for special events made be made.