Frank Pellegrino, Jr.
We’ve already spoken with culinary director Bradford Thompson and pastry chef François Payard about their participation in the upcoming Food University in Las Vegas, in which world-renowned chefs and culinary experts will be teaching hands-on classes to participants, and there are still plenty more interviews to come before the event takes over Caesars Palace from March 27 to 29. Today, we spoke with Frank Pellegrino Jr., who runs the famed (and infamously exclusive) Rao’s restaurant in Manhattan’s East Harlem and on The Strip in Las Vegas. He’ll be teaching a class in which even the most inexperienced chef can learn to cook some down-home Italian specialties.
"My family’s cuisine came from home kitchens in southern Italy, dishes that we cooked on a daily basis," he told The Daily Meal. "Little did they know that it would become such well-appreciated, gourmet fare!"
Pellegrino’s cooking, as well as what’s served at his family’s restaurants, is rooted in the cuisine that he watched his aunt cooking at home as well as in the Rao’s kitchen at a very early age. "I was in the restaurant from the age of 10 or 11, and I saw how what happened at home happened in the restaurant, but with a more expedited pace," he said. "It’s even easier to do this in reverse nowadays, because all the ingredients needed to cook a restaurant-quality meal at home are available at supermarkets. My goal is to help these participants achieve success, and to inspire them to cook more, experiment more, and make great things for their family. Because a meal is like someone making a gift for you. It’s a celebration!"
As for what his "students" can look forward to? "It’ll be a fun, exciting time," Pellegrino promised. "I’ll teach them how to make a basic southern Italian meal at home — an appetizer, a pasta, and an entrée. Not only will they learn techniques that they can use in their own cooking, but I’ll show them how to achieve great results in a fun, manageable way. As of right now, he plans to help participants prepare a seafood salad with a versatile citronette sauce, a simple marinara sauce, and either lemon chicken, steak pizzaiola, or veal chops with cherry peppers.
"My main goal is to share my passion and my love of cooking," he added.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.