Get grilled the Manhattan way

FROM SWEEPING sawdust as a young child, to sweeping celebrities off their feet with his culinary creations as a young man, Don Pintabona has come a long way indeed. The son of an Italian-American grocer, he grew up surrounded by food.



By Punam Mohandas (Staff Reporter)

Published: Sat 5 May 2007, 10:21 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:29 AM

"Food was a big part of our lives. To Italians, food is life," he says wryly. "My grandmother was always cooking. And, although I took an accounting Major, I would just sit in class and think about what dish to cook that night. I am very passionate about food."

Don eventually gave in to his great passion and went on to earn a degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. Many kitchens and many mentors across the globe later, he happened to meet Robert De Niro and the star quickly recruited the chef to head his soon-to-be launched 'Tribeca Grill' in New York.

And thus, Don came to entertain a bevy of celebrity clientele. "We had all the big names, Madonna, Springsteen, but my most memorable moment is when Nelson Mandela came to visit."

"But tell us more about his famous patron...is he moody, interfering, exacting? "Robert De Niro isn't as mean as some people make him out to be!" says the chef staunchly.

During his stint there, Don received several accolades including the 1998 Ivy Award for Excellence and The DiRoNA award and Wine Spectator's Grand Award of Excellence in 2002, and also penned the 'Tribeca Grill Cook Book'.

He is no longer with Tribeca Grill, having recently launched his newest venture 'Dani' in New York, which focuses on his home region - Southern Italy. "However, I still cook for celebrities. I did the catering for a party of 216 people for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes just last week. And the final scene of Catherine Zeta-Jones' new movie, 'No Reservations', was shot in my new restaurant, Dani".

Although Dani may focus on southern Italian cooking styles, Don's own style is fairly eclectic. "My background is Italian, but I am French trained. Moreover, having lived in France and Japan, my Asian experience really influenced me, and opened me up to different flavours", he elaborates. "I was one of the first to start doing fusion cooking - then everyone was doing it and fusion became confusion!" he grins.

Don has been featured in several publications and television shows. Life hasn't been only about high society movers and shakers though. Don was also the architect of the 'Operation Chefs with Spirit' campaign that fed over 600,000 hot meals to the relief workers at the World Trade Center site post the 9/11 horrific tragedy.

Quite naturally, it was an experience that deeply moved him. "We used three ships, all at different points on the Hudson River. The Mayor's office expected us to feed 5000 on the first day - we actually fed 25,000, and continued to do so every day for a month," he recalls. This experience also led to his second book 'The Shared Table'.

The culinary maestro is in Dubai until May 7, rustling up his signature award winning dishes for Manhattan Grill at the Grand Hyatt. "I have long been intrigued by this fascinating place. Dubai is such an incredibly international city, but for me it is challenging, because I don't know what to expect from the Dubai dining public. I definitely look forward to the experience".

From The Master's Table

Crab-Crusted Sea Bass with Braised Endive and Pinenut Polenta

INGREDIENTS

• 4 6-oz Chilean sea bass, cut from filet

• 2 each Belgium endives, braised (recipe follows)

• 2 cups crab meat crust (recipe follows)

• 1 cup red w fumet (recipe follows)

• 1 Cup Basic Buerre Blanc

• 1 cup pinenut polenta (recipe follows)

• 12 each steamed asparagus spears

For the Crab-Crusted Bass

• 9 oz fresh picked lump crabmeat

• 2 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

• 2 oz Panko* bread crumbs

• 2 tbps chopped parsley

• 2 tbsp red bell pepper, brunoise

• 2 tbsp yellow bell pepper, brunoise

• 1⁄2 tsp ground white pepper

• 1 tsp kosher salt

• 1⁄2 tsp cayenne

• 1 tsp lemon juice

METHOD

Whip butter in an electric mixer at high speed, with whip attachment, until white and fluffy. Switch to paddle attachment, add crab meat, parsley, peppers, salt, pepper, cayenne, and lemon juice. Mix to incorporate on lower speed.

Reduce speed to low and add bread crumbs and mix well. Place mixture between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out with a rolling pin to 1/8" thickness. Place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate.

Dry fish with a clean towel, season with salt and pepper. When crust has hardened in the refrigerator, remove top parchment from crust, lay out on flat surface, place fish on top of crust, and using a sharp knife, cut around each piece of fish so that crust is the same size.

Flip over, leaving remaining parchment on fish. Place fish on a non-stick baking pan, and place under broiler until crust is golden brown About 1 1⁄2 minutes. Set aside at room temperature.

For the Endive

• 1⁄4 cup orange juice

• 2 tbsp butter

• 1⁄2 oz white w

Salt and pepper

Cut the endives in half, lengthwise. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sweat the endive in butter and orange juice until softened a bit. Add white w, salt, and pepper and braise in oven until tender, about 8-10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the Polenta

• 1 cup instant polenta

• 3 cups corn stock

• 1 tbsp marscapone cheese

• 1 tbsp unsalted butter

• 1⁄4 cup toasted pinenuts


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