Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Freedom, and a Love for Local Food

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Freedom, and a Love for Local Food

Article excerpt

New Jersey transplant James "Jimmy" Baselici moved to Sarasota two years ago for "a change of scenery" and is now the executive chef at Louies Modern (1280 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 552-9688, louiesmodern.com). Before assuming his current post, Baselici studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, and worked locally as chef de cuisine at Portofino at the Resort at Longboat Key Club.

Q:How did your upbringing influence your decision to become a chef?

A:My parents were restaurant owners. My grandfather, Matteo, owned one of first bars after prohibition called Mattie's. My parents owned and ran Pep's Place in Deal, N.J. When I was 11, I started washing dishes and cleaning up. My mother taught me how to do the basics and the cooking foundation (sauteing dishes and peeling potatoes) and I worked for my parents until they sold their business.

Q:What kind of cuisine is on your radar right now?

A:I'm lucky to have owners that allow me to throw anything on the menu. I'm excited about heading into Florida's growing season and continuing to showcase locally cultivated food and produce, like Mote Marine sturgeon caviar. I enjoy going to the Sarasota Farmers' Market and Worden Farm. You can't go wrong with something grown locally.

Q:What was the most memorable meal you ever ate?

A:The potato gnocchi at Hearth, an American/Italian/American restaurant on 14th Street, east side, in New York. Marco Pendora has a parallel cooking style to my own. It's a very relatable style, not too overdone, and you can taste the love in his cooking, as if he puts himself into every dish. That's what I aspire to.

Q:What is your daily schedule like?

A:Busy and all-consuming. A good restaurant is only as good as the chef who's running it. You stay until the work has been done. A full day starts at 9 a.m. and I leave around 9:30 or 10 p.m. I take a midday break when I can. When I'm not at Louies, I spend as much time on Siesta Key as possible. …

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