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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chris DiMercurio of Vino Nadoz Wants You to Trust Him

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 6:00 AM

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A view of DiMercurio from the kitchen's "Walken" fridge | Beth Clauss
  • A view of DiMercurio from the kitchen's "Walken" fridge | Beth Clauss

Like many young chefs, DiMercurio was lured by the big dollar signs of a job at a large corporate hotel.

"I worked a short stint at The Sheraton which was just horrible," he explains. "I hated it. But I had to do it to know how bad it was. The money was great but I was there from five in the morning to one in the morning. When I first started there, I worked 27 days in a row without a day off. It was horrible. I started losing my hair from stress. I'm not even kidding. I was making incredible money but it wasn't worth it. So I left, and that's when Vino Nadoz was looking for someone."

DiMercurio "wasted no time" upon taking the reigns at Vino Nadoz: "The first thing I did was cut everything boxed and pre-made out of the kitchen and re-wrote the entire menu in a month. I utilized local purveyors like Andy Ayers, and we had everything on the menu pretty much coming from local farms. It was great, but it was so, so expensive. So it took a little bit of time, but we figured out a great balance."

Although some purveyors changed, DiMercurio continued to make almost every item in the kitchen from scratch. "We make pretty much everything here -- I mean, we make our own ketchup, for God's sake. I also change the entire menu once a season and then within each season I make two or three changes and there are always different specials depending on whats in season."

You might assume that with a consistently changing menu, running a full-service restaurant and cooking on the two-man line every night would be enough to keep DeMercurio busy, but he couldn't pass on a recent opportunity to cook in a competition featuring his favorite ingredient, pork: the 'Taste of Excellence' pork competition sponsored by the Missouri Pork Association.

"It was the first competition I had ever done," says DiMercurio, "and the people who were there were all very established chefs -- all American Culinary Federation country-club types with toques and neckerchiefs, and I walked in wearing a black chef jacket, skinny jeans and red Chuck Taylor's. I looked like an asshole. And I won third place with a dish called 'Aporkalypse Now.' It was pork nine different ways on one plate. A lot of old dudes were giving me a 'Fuck You' stare."

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