Interview: Chef Anthony Bucco of Latour, New Jersey’s Most Upscale Restaurant
Crystal Springs Resort, in northwest New Jersey, serves as one of the premier culinary destinations in the state. Overseen by food and beverage director Anthony Bucco, who also holds the title of Executive Chef, the resort’s menus - there are several cafes and restaurants - utilize flavors that reflect the tradition of haute cuisine. Restaurant Latour has attained numerous culinary awards and is complemented by one of the most extensive wine cellars in the country. Home to 75,000 bottles, some of which are priced at $25,000 and up, the wine cellar's collection is valued at $15 million.
Chef Bucco knows his way around both the kitchen and chef’s garden, which grows behind the lodge. The garden features a wide variety of produce that is both indigenous to New Jersey, including the state’s famed tomatoes, and food not normally grown locally, such as artichokes. According to Bucco, the garden’s main function – while also providing food for the menu – is to educate guests about the importance of sustainable food and its impact on one’s body.
The Daily Meal: Can you briefly describe your culinary philosophy?
Chef Anthony Bucco: I am an ingredient-focused chef, who is hyper sensitive to the complexities of products that I work with. Seasonality is paramount when determining what I will be utilizing, but the goal is to modify the ingredients in a way that gives that the proper platform for true flavor expression. I enjoy incorporating texture and acid into the dishes to really push the palate in a flavorful direction.
What makes Restaurant Latour so special?
Attention to detail. We really do think about everything with the goal of creating an elevated experience for each of our guests. It doesn’t hurt having an amazing wine cellar, great team, and stellar sunsets.
What is grown in the Chef's Garden?
The Chef’s Garden is lush with a variety of edibles and beautiful flowers. We have the luxury of growing so many different items within the Garden’s modest footprint. Each plant tells a story, each guest gets to experience it.
What are some of your favorite meals to prepare?
I feel all chefs are defined by their flavor profiles which result from the personnel and professional experiences they have had in their careers. I love to eat, so for me I love to cook! While I find enjoyment in front of the stove, some of my favorite meals to prepare generally involve cooking for those that I love.
How often does your menu change?
The menu at Latour changes weekly; while season has an impact, ultimately the menu is determined by what is “special” at the moment. While local is preferred we are realistic that we are delivering a luxury experience. If amazing langoustines show up, they are on the menu.
How important is it to have a world class wine cellar at your disposal each day?
Our award winning wine cellar lends credibility to our food programming. Guest expectation is certainly different when someone makes the trek to experience the virtues of the Restaurant Latour Wine Cellar. Therefore we are sensitive to the development of flavor and its relationship with wine.
What is your personal interpretation of haute cuisine?
It comes back to sensory experience. Taking nature’s bounty; handling it with care, preserving its integrity while reinventing the way it’s understood on the palate, presenting it beautifully, and then charging for it.