When you meet Chef Daniel Lanzilotta, the first thing he’s likely to tell you is that he’s from the Bronx. “I like to tell people I grew up on a farm,” says Chef Daniel with an unmistakable Bronx accent. “Because way back when, the Bronx was farmland.” His Italian and Hungarian pedigree has blessed him with a gregarious nature and a culinary edge. “My mother used to cook for a convent. My grandmother was always growing stuff, canning stuff. Food and a love of food was just part of my experience growing up. I didn't know it then, but it was very special.”
The ambitious boy from the Bronx set his sights beyond his Richardson Avenue beginnings. Out of high school, he was accepted to Carnegie Mellon’s Theater program. “I was the first one in my family to go to college,” says Chef Lanzilotta. “It was a very big deal."
Multi-talented and with interests running from the theatrical to the practical, Chef Daniel found himself pulled in many directions. While studying at Carnegie Mellon, he began taking classes in The New School’s culinary arts department and found a true love for the art of cooking.
“From there, I went out west and started working in Santa Monica with Michael McCarty,” he says. Michael McCarty, of course, is one of the most acclaimed restaurateurs in the country, having founded his original restaurant, Michael’s in 1979 in Santa Monica at the age of 25. From there, Chef Daniel then found his way to Europe, where he cooked and lived for many years.
“I love Paris,” he says. “But I have a special appreciation for the Basque country. They just do things completely differently there. They’re in touch with the land, a quality so many of us have lost. Eating there is an experience. There’s no place else like it.”
He made the jump back across the pond and settled in Stamford, where he currently resides. But he brought the philosophy he discovered in the hills of the Basque region back with him.
“Cooking doesn’t start in the kitchen,” he says. “It starts in your mind. That’s one of the reasons I call myself The Mindful Chef. There is energy and love and thought that goes—or should go—into the preparation of any meal.”
Chef Daniel’s Mindful Chef business is a really a hybrid model. “It’s a private chef service,” he says. “I make everything from scratch on location. I don’t prep stuff in advance. It’s experiential and clients can see the whole process unfold.” Chef Daniel offers his services for custom private dinners, parties, private classes and even personal food education. “I can give people crash courses in how to cook and eat well.” He’s almost like a personal trainer in your kitchen. “Some people tell me I’m like the male version of Martha Stewart because I cook, I build things—I can even teach you how to install your own kitchen if you want me to.”
To find out more about Chef Daniel and his culinary services, you can call him at (203) 216-4446. Tell him you heard about The Mindful Chef from the Bronx. You’re sure to get at least one great meal and one good story out of him.
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