Chef Anthony Bombaci
Nana | Dallas
Anthony Bombaci was raised in Wisconsin and credits his grandfather
for his interest in cooking with memories of him coming over to
create pizzas from scratch using simple seasoning and fresh ingredients.
Determined to make his mark in the culinary world, Bombaci enrolled
in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where
he mastered the techniques of professional cooking and graduated
in 1986. After graduation, Bombaci moved to Memphis working as Sous
Chef at Restaurant Chez Philippe under Chef Jose Gutierrez. He later
went to New York where he became Demi-Chef de Partie, Garde Manager
and Entremetier at Restaurant La Adrienne in Hotel Maxim’s
de Paris. Bombaci’s creativity and style flourished while
consulting with two Michelin star Jacques Chiboise. Through extensive
training and experimentation, Bombaci discovered his passion for
classic French cuisine and went to work with Chef Jean Banchet at
Restaurant le Français. Yearning to work with distinctive
flavors from around the world, Bombaci became Chef de Cuisine at
the Lasalle Grill where he specialized in flavors of the
Mediterranean using wood-burning ovens, grills and rotisseries.
After three years, Bombaci left to work under Chef
Gary Danko as Sous Chef of The Dining Room in The Ritz-Carlton
San Francisco. He left in 1995 for Barcelona to pursue his dream
of developing an approach that would truly embody his personal cooking
style. As Chef de Cuisine of Enoteca in The Hotel Arts,
Bombaci specialized in creative Mediterranean cuisine, emphasizing
the flavors of the Iberian Peninsula with high-concept technique.
At Nana, perched on the 27th floor of a hotel
overlooking the Dallas cityscape, Bombaci is clearly a global player
in the food world. His stunning, artistic presentations at Nana
promise a lot and deliver even more with their balanced flavors
and textures. While his dishes may sound alternative (sweet tomato
marmalade paired with yogurt sorbet and jellied olive oil) one never
feels like a guinea pig at the hands of an experimental chef. His
dishes, which draw from a global market of ingredients and spices,
are polished and precise. Bombaci’s dishes are high-level
in every sense, reflecting his nine years spent cooking in Barcelona
with some of Spain’s most innovative chefs, including Ferran
Adrià and Joan Roca. This eclectic style is reflected in
the Nana menu in dishes that draw from both the sweet and
savory world, like his use of caramelized bananas to garnish venison.
AB: Where have you worked professionally
as a chef?
TB: After I graduated from
CIA in 1988 I worked all over the country. I worked at Maxine’s
in New York and Le Français in Chicago. I worked
under Gary Danko for one and a half years at the Ritz-Carlton in
San Francisco and from there moved to Barcelona to work at the Hotel
Arts. The restaurant named me Executive Chef to open Enoteca
Bombaci so I stayed in Barcelona for nine years working
pretty insane hours.
AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you
hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
TB: I went to the CIA so I
think culinary school is definitely a good thing, but as long as
you have a good attitude and a strong drive and desire to succeed,
you aren’t limited by the lack of a formal culinary education.
AB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re
interviewing them for a position in your kitchen? What sort of answer
are you looking for?
TB: I always do behavior based interviews. I ask people about the
books they read, their icons, and their inspirations. Finding out
about a person’s personality tells me a lot about how they
behave in a kitchen. I also ask them to recall a time when they
were struggling and how they dealt with it, as well as how they
handle criticism. And I ask what the first thing they remember eating
AB: Who are some of your mentors?
TB: Jose Gutierrez, who taught
me to put all of my heart in to what I do in order to do my best
and Gary Danko, because he really helped me get my start in the
industry. Also Joel Antunes of Joel in Atlanta, Joan Roca
of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, Ferran Adria
of El Bulli, and Jordi Butron of Espai Sucre in
AB: Which chefs do you consider to be your peers?
TB: The people on my culinary
team that I work with everyday.
AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under
appreciated or under utilized?
TB: Sardines for their texture,
bacalao for its texture, resistance and rich mouth feel, and blood
sausage for its depth of flavor.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
TB: Sweet and salty is a classic favorite combination. I also like
fruit to balance out savory ingredients, like bananas and cilantro.
Green apples, yogurt, and granola are great too.
AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
TB: A microplane and a thermocirculator.
AB: Describe a culinary technique
that you have either created of borrowed and use in an unusual way.
TB: I make this unique wild rice popcorn. I start with a smoking
hot pan, add just enough oil to coat, and drop in raw rice. I also
combine green apples, light syrup, and citric acid, pour it in a
vacuum packed bag and let them sit for a few days. The apples stay
raw but appear to be cooked.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
TB: The Asfalto Culinario by
Xabier Gutierrez because it’s not standard. It’s very
complex and thought provoking.
AB: Where do you like to go
for culinary travel? Why?
TB: San Sebastian because I
feel right at home there, and I'd like to go to Italy and Thailand
to do some exploring.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry
TB: The new cuisine out there is being geared toward a limited,
more elevated audience.
AB: What languages do you speak?
TB: Spanish because I spent nine years in Barcelona.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
TB: A menu should not be too pretentious. The challenge is to keep
your food interesting but to offer a little something for everyone.
And, of course, the bottom line is that the food has to taste good.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be
TB: Woodworking and sculpture. I wanted to be in graphic design
before I wanted to be a chef.
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for
TB: I want to open a business that is really simple but really good.
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