“A dining experience is a lot like theatre. You have the Chefs as directors, food as the story line and servers as the actors to bring it to you all in a live setting, everyone must work together.” -Anthony Iannone
March 15-20 is Spring Restaurant week! Two times a year we get together with the best Chefs in Jersey, to bring you our cities finest food. It’s hard to believe SJ HotChefs is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year. We spend a lot of time at SJ talking about community and living locally, because that’s our heartbeat. Living in a big city isn’t always easy, but living locally makes every second worth it. Our founding member Anthony Iannone was recently interviewed by Haven Media and we are so proud to share it with you!
HM: So, how did SJ HotChefs get started?
Anthony: Actually Robert Minniti from Bacio restaurant approached me with this idea to start a group of independent/chef driven restaurants to collectively work together to let the dining public know what great dining options they had here in South Jersey. We made some phone calls to area restaurants and he we are 10 years later, (laughs.) As Chefs we checked our egos at the door and formulated a marketing plan to get us in front of potential customers. We were responsible for the first SJ Restaurant Week!
HM: What do you love the most about the food culture in SJ/Philly?
Anthony: Our customers today are savvy and educated when it comes to food so it gives us larger canvas to work with when coming up with new creative dishes. They are very eager to try new things are very supportive of local establishments. The dining scene on both sides of the bridge has really exploded with great restaurants with most being independent and chef driven.
HM: How did you get started in the restaurant business?
Anthony: I got started by accident. After graduating high school I decided to wait a year to start college. I originally wanted to be an architect. I needed to work so my family got me a job in a local restaurant where a cousin was the chef. I started as a dishwasher and eventually was doing some kitchen prep. I really enjoyed the action and creativity that was going on. Our cousin ( Chef Aldo ) was straight from Italy and had such a great passion for cooking. He taught me a lot about food and the culture of Italy. I worked for about 4 years with him trying to learn as much as I could.
“I opened my first restaurant in in Cherry Hill in 1980 at the age of 22.”
HM: What does living locally mean to you?
Anthony: From an accessibility stand point we want people to have many great dining options. 90 minutes to the north you have New York with tremendous restaurants and in 15 minutes you can be over the bridge into Philly where the dining scene is growing everyday. Of course right here in South Jersey you have incredible places to have a great dining experience. As a restaurant owner we use only the freshest vegetables, fruits, seafood, and poultry that come from the many farms that SJ is known for. We support our local farmers & fisherman when creating our menus.
HM: What do you hope happens with SJ HotChefs in the future?
Anthony: That the group continues to attract passionate restaurant owners that want to continue to support our mission statement – “ To raise the dining publics awareness of the excellent dining options available in South Jersey through a collective effort by the area’s top independent restaurants”. I also hope it will maintain the high level of charity that we do as a group annually with 3 different Charity Events and also as individual restaurants that give back to our communities in so many various ways.
HM: When you’re not working, what do you do in your free-time?
Anthony: I like spending time with my Wife and family especially down the shore where we rent a house for half the summer and they all come down and hang out. There is always plenty of great food and vino! I also like to golf whenever I can. I enjoy going up to New York with some of my chef friends and check out whats going on in the big city, I love the energy up there.
HM: How do you take in culture? Do you like movies, theatre, live music?
Anthony: I love it all. I like being in large groups, taking in their reactions whether it’s a tense movie scene, a band cranking out your favorite song or a broadway play were there is no room for error. .A dining experience is a lot like theatre. You have the Chefs as directors, food as the story line and servers as the actors to bring it to you all in a live setting, everyone must work together
HM: What are some of the biggest influences in your life?
My family. I’m from a large Italian family! I have 4 sisters and a brother and there are 10 nieces and nephews. My Mom is a great cook and my Father was a butcher so food was and still is the focal point at all of are get togethers which is quite often. My parents taught us to take pride and have passion in whatever it is we are doing. Everyone in my family is so supportive of my restaurant, it’s the most rewarding feeling ever.
HM: If you could have a meal with anyone dead, or alive, who would they be?
Anthony: George Perrier – He is responsible for what Philadelphia’s dining scene has become, voted one of the best city’s to dine in. A lot of todays’ Philly chefs are Perrier alumni. He also told me how much he enjoyed our risotto! Anthony Bourdain – He has experienced so many ethnic foods and cultures it would be great to pick his brain. The Rat Pack – Now that’s a party! Besides you gotta have great music!
Lot’s of people feel like they are living to work, just going through the motions of everyday life. At SJ, we are so proud of our members, their staff, and patrons, because we are living out our life’s work. Everyday for us is a new adventure, and we hope you come experience it with us soon. Can’t wait to see you all for spring restaurant week!