Raised at an Italian-American table in upstate New York, 2005 New York Rising Star Chef Shea Gallante emerges as one of the most visionary young chefs today, exhibiting a refined approach to cooking that rivals his contemporaries. Determined to present a culinary style that is both personal and enlightened, Gallante explores the classic and the modern masters to produce truly original culinary experiences. “My goal is to blend what I’ve learned from each and create flavorful dishes that are highly innovative- that offer an element of surprise,” Gallante explains.
It comes as no surprise, then, that at the tender age of 14, Gallante donned his first apron in a local Poughkeepsie pizzeria. He possessed just the right touch and, soon after, was manning the stoves at a nearby family-owned trattoria. By 19, Gallante had completed his AOS degree in accounting, secured investors and opened his own pizzeria. But, still determined to expand his culinary knowledge and skill, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Gallante remembers being “as green as they come,” yet the skill all came instinctively to him, from ‘Gastronomy 101’ to ‘Wine Pairing with Food.’ But it was during his final eight weeks at the CIA, interning in restaurant kitchens, that Gallante envisioned his next dream: he would do anything to work in a New York City restaurant. The ultimate prize—his own restaurant—was not yet on the horizon.
Determined to succeed, Gallante, commuted four hours each day to New York City’s Coco Opera. During the externship, which ultimately became a 2-year full time position with Pino Luongo, Gallante learned the inner workings of a $5 million restaurant. From ordering product and maintaining food costs to managing the staff, the bakery and his own daily cooking duties, Gallante fulfilled far more than the externship expected. Having ultimately trained to operate a large, profitable kitchen, he rose to the position of sous-chef in one short year.
Gallante’s curiosity now returned to his family’s native cuisine, and he was soon searching for the best Italian kitchen in New York. After meeting the godmother of Italian-American cooking, Lidia Bastianich, Gallante anxiously announced the “he could do anything she wanted him to.” Gallante found the diversity of specialty ingredients and preparations involved in each of the dishes at Felidia nothing short of “mesmerizing.” He began researching the culinary icons of the past and the top toques of the day, experimenting with new techniques in his spare time. Promoted quickly to sous chef at the three-star Felidia, within two years Gallante was restless again and seeking new hurtles.
Gallante desired to challenge his technique and conceptual vision for every ingredient, dish and experience. After visiting the best kitchens in New York, Gallante turned to David Bouley for this inspiration in 2000.
His first day at Bouley, Gallante saw yellowtail poached in olive oil, herb-oils created, foie gras cleaned, and aromatic sauces come alive. He’d spent years surrounded by food, but had never experienced flavor combinations like these, nor tasted such explosions on the palate. It wasn’t traditional, but it was rooted in the classics—it was adventurous. David Bouley dared Gallante to be a visionary, to imagine the end result of the dish before ever lifting his knife. For six months, he studied the complex Chef’s Tasting Menus, recreating each dish, in preparation for his promotion to sous-chef under Galen Zamarra. Four months later, in 2001, Gallante was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Bouley. While managing Bouley’s kitchen, Gallante explored the avant garde techniques of the Spanish masters, and his personal style simultaneously began to emerge. A desire for innovation and new challenges motivated Chef Gallante to dream of his own restaurant, where he could showcase his cuisine to New York diners.
In June 2009 Gallante left Cru and in October 2011 he opened his own restaurant, Ciano.