Accolades abound for Chef Cynthia Sestito--'the Hampton's number one chef,' according to the New York Post, and the 'hottest chef to put on a pair of mitts in the kitchen,' according to Hal Rubenstein, fashion editor of InStyle Magazine. Chef Sestito has acted as a consultant for or has opened a number of top-notch restaurants in the Hamptons--Webb City, One Ocean Road, The Independent, The Farmhouse, and The Blue Top Restaurant. Sheâ€™s also helped launch a nightclub, the Club Star Room, awarded three stars in The New York Times. She was even instrumental in getting Jay-Z's 40-40 Club, an all-American NYC sports bar and lounge, up and running.
Chef Sestito has also done some culinary rockin' with the stars, catering large-scale projects like the occasional movie premiere and several high profile clothing line launches. TV-land also calls on her expertise--giving her airtime on Access Hollywood and MTV Europe. A frequent guest chef on network news shows, she also debuted in season one of Bravo's Top Chef reality show.
In the Beginning
Born into a family that loves to cook, Chef Sestito kept her hand in the culinary game during her fashion designer days in Paris by taking culinary classes at Le Cordon Bleu and the Sorbonne. In 1986, she closed her design business to focus on another love--food--and brought her design talent stateside to the Hamptons' culinary world, where she opened a succession of acclaimed restaurants.
As You Like It
As might be expected with her design background, Chef Sestito loves the design element of opening a restaurant--coming up with the concept, designing menus, inventing recipes, training staff--and then she loses interest.
"When you open a new restaurant," she said, "you have to work crazy hard, with killer hours and lots of unexpected headaches, but once it's up and running, I'm ready to move on to the next project." Even though she moves quickly from one project to another, she gives each project her full attention.
By far, the most favorite aspect of her busy chef life is the small private parties that she caters for some of her regular clients. She decides the theme and the menu and everyone, even the chef, gets a chance to relax and have fun.
When I asked about her appearance on Bravo TV's Top Chef reality show, she told me, "Bravo's production company was extremely professional and a pleasure to work with. I felt the first season was the most 'real' of the Top Chef shows because it was the first. Unfortunately, the nature of 'reality TV' is that you don't see the whole picture; the action is edited and contestants often play larger than life caricatures of themselves."
Truth Be Told
According to Chef Sestito, a culinary education is a great asset for an aspiring chef. Before she hires someone, however, she wants to see how they interact with food--how they touch it and behave around it. Her philosophy is that food theory is great--in theory--but a good chef also needs to be able to get in there and just do it.
"The restaurant business is a miserable business with long grueling hours. You really have to love it or have to be seriously crazyâ€¦or both," she added. Nevertheless, she's pleased to see more women graduating from culinary school and making names for themselves in what is still primarily a male-dominated business.
According to her bio on the Bravo TV Web site, Chef Sestito "has no inhibitions and a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to her customers, not afraid to tell anyone exactly what she thinks." Definitely her own woman, Chef Sestito is also smart, creative, successful, and colorful. Brava!