Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Armando Galeas is the guy you need to know. Why you ask? Well, not only is he the one making your food, but he's one of the ones who makes the new ZED451 in Boca come to life. When hearing that Armando has been in Chicago training these last few months with the already established ZED451 team, I wanted to get an insider's view on what makes Armando Armando. Here's a glimpse from our conversation.

JG: So Armando, what is your background?
AG: I was actually born in Honduras. When I left and had the chance to come to the US, I moved to New Orleans. I started off in restaurants as a dishwasher 7 years before learning and moving my way up at Nola, one of Emeril's restaurants. I was hungry to learn everything I could and being under the wings of Emeril, I feel so lucky to have had such a great mentor showing me thr ropes.

JG: Wow, you were in New Orleans? Were you there during Katrina?
AG: I actually left at 8am, the day the hurricane hit. My girlfriend and I went to Gainesville, Florida where she was from and I got a job
at Tchoup-Chop.

JG: Then what did you do?
A: Well, I was in Gainesville for a short while and then we moved to South Beach, FL where I helped open Emeril's. I learned everything about the business from him; he is and was so inspirational for me and my career.

JG: Wow, what was he like to work with?
AG: Yea, he's just like he is on television. He's fun, warm, personable and extremely caring. He's a down to earth kind of guy who has the patience to teach you all he knows.

JG: What else would you like people to know about you?
AG: Well, I feel very fortunate for all my experiences. I never went to culinary school, so everything I've learned is from those around me (especially Emeril) who have been willing to teach me. I learned how to make pastries, strong sauces and I learned about the management of restaurants both in the front of the house and the back.

JG: Then what...
AG: After working for them for about 10 years, I was ready to move on and try something different. That's what led me to ZED451. I love the concept. The philosophy. I also love working in different cites learning about different types of cooking. There's something that makes me feel alive opening new restaurants, and being involved with a bit of that organized chaos. It's a true adrenaline rush; being here has and is a great experience.

JG: What are you most excited about when it comes to working at ZED451?
AG: Working on a concept that's never been done before, that's exciting. I met Tim (the new GM for Boca) on the same day I interviewed in Chicago, and I knew that we'd make a great team. In fact, I couldn't do this unless it were for he and John. We're all close, like family, and having the ability to openly communicate is what's going to make this place a success.

JG: So when you're not at work, what do you like to do?
AG: I love to read! Since I never had a formal education, my mission is to absorb all I can. I love reading fiction, anything related to food, the industry or the kitchen. I can relate to it. It's my life.

JG: What are you currently reading?
AG: Heat by Bill Buford. It's great if you haven't read it.

JG: Who would you say inspires you in the kitchen?
AG: Hands down, my grandmother. I was raised by her. My mother lived in a small city (La Ceiba, Honduras) far from where I was, so my grandmother took care of me. She actually lost her eyesight in her late 30's or 40's and she was such an inspiration. She never depended on anyone to help her get around. She also grew her own her fruits, herbs, you name it in a garden next to her house. Despite not being able to see, she knew where everything was, it was amazing! She inspired me to cook and learn everything I could in the kitchen. She used all fresh, flavorful ingredients and from then on I knew I wanted to be a chef.

JG: How will you infuse some of those ingredients into your menu at ZED451?
AG: I love using fresh herbs (that are bright in color) in our distinctive cocktails. Being influenced from cooking in New Orleans, Honduras and South Florida, there's always an opportunity for me to add some of my own Latin flare. I love that!

JG: Before we sign off, what else would you like people to know about you?
AG: I want people to know that I'm approachable and friendly. I'm always open to advice and I think of myself as a good listener. I also like to try new things; after all, that's how I've gotten to where I am today. I want to help others like others have helped me. I feel fortunate so I like giving back.

Jen Gurvey
Marketing Manager

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