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Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. MATTHEW 11:28
I stood inside my home office with my back against the heavy wooden door. I closed my eyes and sighed.
What am I going to do now, God?
I was so tired; the stress of the past few months was definitely catching up with me. Yet in spite of the exhaustion and physical pain, there was still a part of me that felt like I should be doing something—anything. I just wasn't sure what.
Right now, my staff at Osteria di Tramonto were wiping down the grill for the final time, boxing up the glassware and the china, and taking down the black-and-white photographs from the walls. One of the managers had called me earlier as I sat in traffic to ask me what I wanted to do with those photos—shots that I had taken on my many trips to Italy over the years. Beautiful Italian grandmothers rolling out pasta, smiling boys devouring slices of crusty bread, Italian families carrying bags of fresh produce home from the market—culture and food seen through the lens of my own experience. We had hung hundreds of them all over the restaurant, and they looked so striking against the exposed brick on the walls.
What use would I have for them now?
"Auction them off, give them away. I don't care what you do with them," I had said. "Just get rid of them."
Those photos represented everything I had loved about Osteria di Tramonto. I had been a partner in several other restaurants, but none reflected my heritage, my roots, and my passion for cooking as much as this one. Some of my earliest and best memories center around my grandmother's kitchen, where I watched my mom and grandmother transform fresh meats, seasonal produce, and aromatic spices into hearty and comforting fare. Whenever one of them invited me to help, I eagerly set about rolling out dough or stirring tomatoes into a sauce. Sunday dinners, which sometimes lasted all afternoon, drew our large extended family together for simple but satisfying food, laughter, and spirited conversation. Osteria di Tramonto featured homey family-style Italian cooking reminiscent of those dinners. In fact, some of the items on our menu had been inspired by the recipe cards passed down to me.
For years, I had made frequent trips to Europe, gaining the "continuing education" that is essential for any chef. Yet while building the Osteria, I had been drawn back to Italy again and again. Whether waiting at dawn for returning fishermen down on the waterfront, eating bread and cheese from small bakeries, or examining the produce at market stalls, I delighted in rediscovering my Italian heritage. And everywhere I went, I snapped photos. Each one captured some aspect of the country I had come to love. Now those photos, which I had so carefully framed and arranged on the walls, simply reminded me of the grief I felt over the Osteria's closing.
Osteria di Tramonto had felt like home to me. In fact, I had spent more time there than in my own home during the past three years. My culinary partner, Gale Gand, and I had created the Osteria from the ground up. We selected the china and designed the interior. We developed the menu, hired and trained the staff, and searched high and low until we found the perfect wood-burning pizza oven for our exhibition kitchen.
I had spent every waking minute getting ready for our opening. But that was only the first step. When the doors opened at 5:00 p.m., October 12, 2006, the hardest work was still ahead. Once Osteria went live, we quickly moved from planning mode to action mode. Our steps quickened, and our worry increased. We talked about food costs, labor costs, overhead costs, marketing costs. We dealt with the restaurant critics as we tweaked the menu, pouring everything we had—and more—into getting this new baby to stand on its own two feet. All in the hope that after more than a year of seven-day workweeks, we might eventually get a night off just to breathe.
And then we had to do it all again—in fact, we had to do it three times. Osteria had been part of a much larger project that included three other concept restaurants. As we worked with a large hotel conglomerate on Chicago's North Shore, our vision had been to create a Las Vegas–style hotel, where guests could enjoy a wide variety of offerings all in one location.
Opening four restaurants simultaneously had been a daunting task, even for partners who had been part of more than twenty openings in our careers. But I had hoped it would be the start of a new phase in my career, bringing me on par with other celebrity chefs in my industry who had built their own brands through multilocation restaurants, television programs, and national publications.
I knew the odds. The research says one in four restaurants never make it past the first year. Over three years, that number rises to three in five. Osteria di Tramonto's demise was nothing new in the restaurant world, especially in light of all the big businesses we had seen fail during the economic crash of 2008. But knowing that didn't make it any less painful.
I had been in the culinary industry for over twenty-five years, so I was used to the physical demands of standing on my feet from dawn until well after dusk. Years of standing on hard tile floors, lifting, and using my hands had resulted in double knee and numerous back surgeries, as well as a rotator cuff surgery. Treating minor burns and cuts was just a normal and expected hazard of the job. I didn't mind that I often had no time to eat—ironic, of course, when you're working with food all day—or that I smelled like fish or the grill, no matter how often I showered. Even on the days when I felt mentally drained and totally exhausted, I couldn't imagine ever wanting to do anything else. Until now.
I was spent, both emotionally and physically. This project had been like a marathon for me, one I wasn't sure my body was going to recover from. Fifteen-, sixteen-hour days, seven days a week, I had been at the restaurant, carrying boxes, stocking shelves, moving equipment—whatever it took, I did it. I had lived and breathed that place, often fueled only by adrenaline, double espressos, and ibuprofen.
Now as I sat down at my desk, last week's special menu caught my eye. I read over the list of entrées we had so carefully created: the Tramonto pizza topped with olives, arugula, and a fontina-mozzarella mix; a carpaccio of sea bass sprinkled with a tart, red grapefruit vinaigrette; and the bistecca alla fiorentina, a Tuscan-style porterhouse grilled over a wood-burning fire with aged balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
Doesn't get much better than that.
Why, God? Was all that work for nothing? Was all that time spent away from my family for nothing? Missing my kids' school events, my wife's birthday, my wedding anniversary—was it all for nothing?
The reality of Osteria's closing began to sink in as I slid to the floor and began to cry. What happened? Where did I go wrong? And how was I going to fill my time now?
Cooking was the only thing I knew. I'd been in the restaurant business since I was sixteen years old. I didn't know how to do anything else. I never even had a paper route.
I supposed I could spend more time focusing on Tru, the fine-dining restaurant Gale and I had opened in downtown Chicago nearly a decade ago. Or maybe I could write another cookbook. I looked around my office at the thousands of books that lined the walls, six of them with my own name on the front. Six hundred magazines were organized by category and issue date—every Gourmet, Bon Appétit, and Food & Wine printed in the past ten years. Culinary awards and recognitions filled in the empty spaces, a record of my accomplishments and successes.
It had been a good run. I had really made something of myself. I had worked with the best of the best; I had cooked for royalty, dignitaries, celebrities, and three U.S. presidents. I had been on more television programs than I could count and in more food magazines than I could stack on my shelf. I had written books and earned the highest culinary accolades. I had done it all—and done it well.
But now I wondered, What if I've reached the end?
BRUSCHETTA WITH OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES AND GORGONZOLA SPREAD
One element of the Osteria that I loved was the wood-burning oven. It cooled down slowly overnight, so I'd slide trays of sliced tomatoes into the oven soon after closing time. The next morning, I'd pull out perfectly dried tomatoes—the inspiration for this tasty bruschetta.
Garlic oil is one of the cooking staples I keep in my refrigerator at home, and it can be prepared the day before you make the bruschetta.—SERVES 4
Loaf of sourdough or baguette, cut into eight ½-inch slices 1 c. olive oil 1 clove of garlic, smashed Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle 1 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
For the oven-dried tomatoes 12 ripe medium Roma plum tomatoes ½ c. extra-virgin olive oil 1 Tbs. fresh thyme, minced
½ tsp. red chili flakes, crushed 6 garlic cloves, crushed ½ tsp. sugar ½ tsp. kosher salt ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
For the Gorgonzola spread 6 oz. Gorgonzola cheese or Gorgonzola dolce 2 to 4 Tbs. heavy cream 2 Tbs. basil, chopped 2 Tbs. large green onion, minced Kosher salt, to taste Ground black pepper, to taste
Combine and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
TO PREPARE GARLIC OIL
Combine 1 c. olive oil and 1 smashed clove of garlic. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
TO PREPARE OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES (can be made one day in advance)
1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
2. In a pot of boiling water, blanch tomatoes. Drain, refresh in ice water, and drain again. Peel and core the tomatoes; cut them into quarters and remove seeds.
3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and arrange the tomato quarters on the tray, cut side down. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme, chili flakes, and garlic. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the tomatoes.
4. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel, about 1 hour. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, transfer them to a container. Drizzle with more olive oil and cover. Refrigerate until needed.
TO MAKE GORGONZOLA SPREAD
1. In a small bowl, use a fork to mash Gorgonzola cheese with enough cream to make a spreadable consistency. Add basil, green onion, salt, and pepper to taste.
2. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
1. Slice bread.
2. Lay on sheet tray. Brush liberally with garlic oil on both sides.
3. Grill both sides of bruschetta on pan grill or outdoor grill until crusty.
4. Top bruschetta with 1 Tbs. of Gorgonzola spread. Add 2 to 3 pieces of tomato and drizzle with oil from tomato marinade. Garnish with parsley.
Excerpted from SCARS OF A CHEF by RICK TRAMONTO LISA JACKSON Copyright © 2011 by Rick Tramonto. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 25, 2011
Usually I don't buy books written by chefs but this one caught my eye with the above back cover description. At first the reader may wonder what this has to do with Christianity, as you read on the story comes to light.
I found this to be a very good read, Rick Tramonto's story of how he found God amid the interesting life he led and how he backslid then got right with the Lord again is inspiring!
His dedication to his work is admirable, I love the part of the book that tells of the radio message he listened to one night while driving home. It's amazing how God works!
Scars of a Chef is a great story of rags to riches. I give it 5 stars
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Posted June 23, 2011
Not having been a part of the culinary world and not having a working knowledge of all that goes on behind the scenes I had no idea of the struggles and the chaos that a would-be-chef would endure to reach his dream. Scars of a Chef by Rick Tramonto was a good book to introduce me to that world. It also was a honest confession so to speak of a would-be-chef and his struggles and triumphs in reaching his dream. We all of scars in our lives as we struggle through hard times. But to be victorious one must learn from these times and keep going. And to find true fulfillment in life one must surrender to God and allow Him to use you for His glory.
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Posted May 2, 2014
This was so interesting. I enjoyed reading about a person who overcame personal problems to become a great success! I encourage those with their own problems to read and learn how to cope.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 25, 2014
Posted August 12, 2011
Scars of A Chef is an amazing book. Rick Tramonto wrote the book about himself. He wrote it about all the scars he has on him. The book contains the story of how he acquired each scar. A great book that is packed with story!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 4, 2011
Growing up, I think everyone thinks how they were raised is normal and just like how everyone else was raised, until they find out differently. Growing up, I thought every married couple had a water bed and that every family ate the same things we did, until I started seeing how other people lived. Rick Tramonto thought that everyone's parents fought like his did. He thought that every family was like his big Italian extended family always eating together, until he saw differently.
Scars of a Chef is the memoirs of Chef Rick Tramonto. Growing up in an Italian family, experiencing the death of his grandfather at a young age, getting into drugs, seeing his father jailed for several offenses, being kicked out of schools and eventually dropping out of school all lead Tramonto down the unlikely path of becoming a chef. Having gained his culinary knowledge from experience, not from the classroom, but from the kitchen. He started working at Wendy's in Rochester, NY and moved up from there, gaining more experience first in Rochester, then in NYC, Chicago, and England.
THis memoir is an easy read that is real, honest, and refreshing. Any food lover will enjoy reading about Tramonto's experiences in the various kitchens as well as learn a few things themselves. As a bonus, the end of each chapter contains a mouth-watering recipe. The culinary world is a high stress and high energy environment, but just because you are a Christian, that does not mean your troubles stop. You do, however, have a different resource to handle them.
Posted June 5, 2011
I just finished Scars of a Chef by Rick Tramonto and was impressed. It was one of those books that wasn't great, it was just interesting. I had never heart of Rick and he is a well known chef, especially in the Midwest. The synopsis of the book sounded like a good read, which it was. It was one of those books that held your interest throughout. The story starts out with Rick's childhood struggles of being an only child with a strange blend of parents. He did drugs, alcohol, skipped school and was ejected from three schools because of fighting. He started at Wendy's as a high school dropout who later was diagnosed with dyslexia. He found his niche-loved the food industry and all it entailed. He had to support his mother when his father went to prison after being involved in the mob. The book details all his different jobs as a chef and the different places he worked and finally opening a four-start restaurant. The hours-he was a workaholic-were intense and the drugs kept up but he was so empty. He knew there was more to life (he was raised in the Catholic Church) and God kept trying to get his attention. He lost his marriage, business and had to start all over again. This time he let God direct him instead of the other way around. Fun to see where he started and how "sold out" for Jesus he got finally. It was an amazing story and not just a story for one who likes cooking. There are recipes throughout the book from his restaurants. Showed me a whole new account into the restaurant world. Thank you Tyndale for sending me this book for free just for my honest opinion.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2011
People always ask about the tattoos.
I don't blame them for being curious. I've got twenty-four different tattoos now, running up and down both sides of my body, on my arms, my legs, my chest, my back; they're pretty hard to miss.
Not that I haven't already been marked by the profession. Take a look at my hands and arms and you'll see the cuts, calluses, burn marks - the scars - all symbols of a life that includes working with razor-sharp knives, red-hot cookware, and vats of boiling oil.
But my tattoos are more than just battle scars. Each one is an intentional representation of my commitment and devotion, both to my Creator and my career. They reflect a thirty-year life journey, a great picture of where I've been and what God has taught me along the way.
Much like my physical scars, each one of my tattoos tells a story. This book is my attempt to flesh out those stories a bit more. Though my stories - like my scars and tattoos - are unique to me, you just might recognize something from your own life here. And I hope you'll come away with the conviction that the same loving God who has filled my life with peace, promise, and purpose can do the same for you. (pg 15)
I received the book Scars of A Chef by Rick Tramonto and Lisa Jackson, compliments of Tyndale House Publishers for my honest review. I loved this book considering all the cooking shows you see on TV, and they all make it look so easy. This biography shows just how hard Rick Tramonto's life was from childhood to where he worked as an apprentice at various restaurants. Being born into an Italian family with food always a part of your life, you would have thought he was naturally drawn into it but only when he failed at school did he sense a growing desire to do something he had always been exposed to and make a living at it.
The best part of the book was showing the reader that the journey to greatness was long and not always an easy one. He had problems being exposed to the criminal element and introduced to drugs and alcohol which made moving ahead more difficult. Yet with faith in God, he overcame those challenges and became the chef, he is today. This book easily rates a 5 out of 5 stars and a great gift for anyone looking to move into the culinary world.
This book is available in hardcover and eBook formats.
Posted March 26, 2011
The Food Network is my favorite vice. While cooking shows are the only reality-type TV shows that I enjoy, I have always wanted to know more about the chefs themselves and how they got to where they are today. Scars of a Chef offers a very intimate look into the growth of chef Rick Tramonto---from drugged up high school dropout to world-class celebrity chef---and reveals how a dangerous cocktail of selfish tenacity, a strong temper, and decades of health-defying hard work can be diluted only by the intervention of the saving grace of God through the work of Christ.
Tramonto takes his readers on a journey, the same journey he himself once took across the country and the world to learn the artistry of the culinary world. His text is captivating and his experiences, at times intimidating and at others inspiring, beautifully attest to the reality that one cannot find "true success" apart from God. Throughout Scars of a Chef, Tramonto shares how his faith in Christ's death and resurrection proved faithful, time and again, to fill the voids that selfishness and vain pursuits unerringly left behind.
Beyond the captivating biography and Christ-centered structure of the book, Tramonto also seasons the end of each chapter with a timely recipe that, while often more work that I am ever willing to put into my own paltry dishes, evidence the man's passion and talent for fine cuisine. I did attempt portions of his Pizza Dei Tramonto at the end of "Chapter 14: Chicago."
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys good food, a good biography and hearing of the great work of an even greater Lord.
[Disclaimer: I received this book free for review from Tyndale House Publishers]
Posted March 5, 2011
I enjoyed reading Rick's life story and glad that he has more to go. Even when he wasn't a believer early in his life I can see God's hand in there! He had a rough time as a child, his parents home was very dysfunctional. Am glad that he did have the support of loving Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins.
He is an over achiever, the amount of time he put into honing his craft, and the success he achieved. He is a very inspiring man, and willing to do all that he could to learn to be the very best!
I loved that the book included pictures, putting faces to the people that are talked about in the book. Also included are some yummy recipes though out!
A must read of any young aspiring chefs!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Posted March 2, 2011
Beautiful hardback book with photos in the middle of the book showing Rick and his family as he was growing up. This book contains come receipts
This book is about the life of Rick Tramonto and how he overcame the way he grew up and the influence of his dad to become the great chef that he is today. He started out with his dropping out of school and went to work at Wendy's in 1977 to help support his family.
He has been cooking since he was sixteen when he would help his grandmother in the kitchen. since then he has become one of the 10 best new chefs and he see where God had led him and taken care of him throughout his life. His body is covered with tattoos and he said there are scars of his life, he even has cuts and scares on his hands.
A Great book for anyone that likes to cook or has seen Rick on TV as he had been on a lot of talk shows. He came from a hard life but overcame all by his hard life and the way he has put his trust in Jesus Christ.
This book was sent to me by Tyndale House Publishing for my review.
Posted February 28, 2011
Scars Of A Chef by Rick Tramonto is not only an autobiography of a top chef, but also the story of redemption. Rick Tramonto was born into a dysfunctional family in Rochester, New York. Being from an Italian family, he was introduced to food and its preparation at an early age. He developed a love of food, and as he grew, he also developed a love for cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and sex. His mother had problems with rage, his father spent time in prison because of his relationship with the mob, and while a young adult, it was discovered that he was dyslexic. In this book, he shares his rocky marriage with pastry chef Gale Gant, birth, and divorce. Reading this book is painful at times because the author is so open in the details of his life, as it gradually sloped downward, as he chose his own path and rejected God. His life is a miracle and testimony of God's grace for us all. My favorite part was the last few chapters as he leads his father to Christ two weeks before he dies.
Not only will you learn of his personal life, but also the hectic life of a chef. It is not easy and I have a new appreciation for all in the restaurant business. The author share many stories of chefs, household names, who now have their own television shows. He also gives us insight to those chefs who are also following Christ. From working at Wendy's to charity work for Katrina victims and Teen Challenge, the miracle of this man's life will bless you.
Each chapter of this book begins with verse from Scripture and concludes with personal recipes that are easy enough for the home cook to prepare.
Posted February 27, 2011
Rick Tramanto's life was not always as prestigious and fulfilling as it now. In his autobiography, Scars of a Chef, Tramanto tells the story of hardships he suffered, and the decisions that almost cost him his life. Having an Italian background, passion was not something he lacked. He was passionate about the things that caught his interest, and those things were women, drugs, and cooking. Rick Tramanto takes us back to his childhood where cooking was a big part of his life, as well as his parents dysfunctional abuse of one another. He then takes us on a journey of discovery into the culinary world, his addiction to "partying" and ultimately a discovery of true love. Against all odds, Tramanto worked his way from a Wendy's Chef to opening the four-star establishment Tru. Scars of a Chef says it all, in this honest, down to earth autobiography you will find the wounds of Rick Tramanto and the healing God brought to create those scars.
Tramanto takes us from the beginning to the end in this simple yet insightful autobiography. He takes us into the kitchens of the most esteemed restaurants in the West Coast and reveals to us the struggles he faced, as well as the hardships he endured to get to where he wanted to go. For a long time Tramanto was doing things his way until one fateful day, when life was falling down all around him. I loved at the beginning of each chapter he quoted a scripture that went along with what he was sharing, and wrapped each chapter up with a recipe. This book is just plain outright REAL.
I received a complimentary copy of Scars of a Chef by Rick Tramanto Tyndale House Publishers as part of their blog review program. The views and opinions are my own.
Posted February 26, 2011
I picked up Scars of a Chef by Rick Tramonto with Lisa Jackson with the thought of looking for a story that would be encouraging. The cover makes the Rick Tramonto look like a very rough and tumble guy. But, that is what publicity and marketing does--its goal is to make you curious about the book and make you want to read it. Unfortunately, it can backfire if the book doesn't match the cover--which is true in this case. This is the story of a man. It is not a story primarily about God and what He has done in this man's life or about the people in Rick's life. Thoughout the book, you hear Rick's voice. I felt as if I could be talking to him. But, the book is all about what He, Rick Tramonto, did and how He, Rick Tramonto, succeeded.
I am thankful that Rick and his wife have come to know the Lord. I am glad for them. I am glad that Rick's father came to know the Lord two weeks before his death.
But, this book contains the details of Rick's life and achievements. Very detailed details. If you love food and you are curious about the world which chefs live in, then you may find the bulk of this book interesting. It began to feel very repetitious to me after the first third of the book.
This isn't a book I would recommend. It isn't a book with bad grammar or sentence structure or bad writing, per se. But, the story did become very repetitious. I didn't find what I expected when I chose to read this book. I was looking for a book that would give me insight into how someone who grew up in a very rough family found his way out (which is what the marketing led me to believe it was about). I was hoping that there would be an awareness on the a part of the author of how God helped him do that. I wasn't expecting the story of a man who indulged in drugs and alcohol for years. The inside pictures of Rick Tramonto paint a very different picture than the cover does. I don't think he's the rough guy that the front cover portrays him to be. Albeit he admits to having quite a temper, but I couldn't figure some things out about the story. Like once he realized as an adult that he has dyslexia, why didn't he get help? ...Why didn't he ever realize that the reason the marriage counselor was talking to him about the things he did wrong was that he probably did have issues he needed to work out? ...Why didn't he want to change? In this story, rather than finding encouragement and answers, I was just left with a lot of questions.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing.
Posted March 19, 2011
No text was provided for this review.