Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Coffee with the Chef: Al Scazafave

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Coffee with the Chef: Al Scazafave

Article excerpt

Twisted Elm, Elmwood Park

Al Scazafave, executive chef and partner at the Twisted Elm, was looking for a change. After working in metropolitan restaurants for more than 30 years, the 51-year-old Airmont, N.Y., resident wanted to run a smaller, more manageable place. So, about 2 1/2 years ago, he joined the Twisted Elm in Elmwood Park. He's familiar with North Jersey, having grown up in Oakland and having worked at several local restaurants, including Portobello Feasts over the years. He has kept his gastropub's diners well-fed with his famous lobster grilled cheese and Tavern burger. Here, he talks about his root- beer addiction, his use of duck fat (even in the disco fries) and his love of white truffles.

What does "gastropub" mean? Good food and a more casual atmosphere.

I've used duck fat in several dishes throughout my career, such as the disco fries. Why? We used to use lots of duck in a lot of classic cooking. We used to always use the fat from the duck to saute potatoes, vegetables. People used to ask all the time, 'Your sauteed vegetables are so good. What are you putting in there?' We never used to tell. And then it came into fashion, so I just put it out there: We're frying in duck fat, which is all-natural and adds great flavor. Using duck fat and goose fat, that's just classic cooking. It goes back to, you never throw anything away.

The most I paid for a meal: About a year ago, I went to Del Posto in the city. Between my wife and me, we spent $700, $800. It was worth it.

My signature dish at the Twisted Elm: It's probably the lobster grilled cheese; it's just kind of turned into that. We go through so much lobster, it's crazy.

My addiction: I'm a root-beer fanatic, it's a vice. I don't smoke, I don't drink, but I drink root beer all the time. It goes back to being a kid. They used to have sarsaparilla and birch beer on tap. …

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