Angelo Sosa, a hot chef on the American culinary scene, has written a beautifully organized and illustrated cookbook for home cooks. Flavor Exposed is filled with cooking ideas and 100 Asian-inspired recipes that draw upon Sosa's unique heritage, experiences and talents, and also tells some of his backstory.
Sosa confesses to being "obsessed" with the wonderful herbs, spices and ingredients he experienced while traveling through Asia. He uses those influences to reinterpret dishes in a simple, straightforward way that is accessible to home cooks. His goal is to provide cooking ideas and recipes for his readers based on the nine flavor profiles he describes in the book.
If the name or face of this hot chef seems familiar, it may be that you have seen him compete on the seventh season of the Bravo TV show, Top Chef. Sosa grew up in Connecticut, born to a Dominican father and Italian mother, and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America.
Sosa worked his way up the culinary ladder. He's worked in the kitchen of Christian Bertrand (formerly of Lutece) and as executive sous chef for the iconic Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He also spent some time in Paris working with legendary chef Alain Ducasse.
In 2009, Sosa launched his own casual restaurant, Xie Xie, in Hell's Kitchen in New York City, which earned him StarChef's New York's Rising Star award for "best new restaurant concept."
He is currently Executive Chef and owner of Social Eatz in midtown Manhattan, whose menu infuses the flavors of Asia into New York City staples. He also owns and oversees Anejo Tequileria in Hell's Kitchen, which reflects his innovative take on traditional Mexican cuisine.
Culinary star Gail Simmons has remarked, "Angelo Sosa has a true talent for presenting both old and new flavors together like few other young chefs can…his book will serve as both inspiration and guide to many meals in my home for years to come.
Life Goes Strong spoke to Angelo about his background and the inspirations for his cooking ideas:
How has your not-so-simple ethnic background influenced your cooking?
Well, I served as my father's sous chef growing up. He did most of the cooking in my house. He had this gorgeous garden and would grow whatever he could for meals. My mother's Italian traditions would come out more around Easter. I definitely learned the art of balance from having the two: the yin and yang of each cuisine's flavors and styles. I find that continually coming through in my cooking today.
How have your travels influenced your cooking?
I take the ingredients of a place with me. I love finding those fresh, local specialties that people take so much pride in. I was seduced by the flavors of Asia. They're such an example of the vibrancy we see in life; they are new, fresh and eccentric.
What are some of the greatest challenges for a chef-owner in operating a restaurant?
I am extremely hands-on in all of my restaurants and in every facet of them. My biggest challenge is that I can't be everywhere at once… yet.
Which chefs do you most admire and why?
Christian Bertrand, who taught me all about humility and graciousness in the kitchen. From him, I learned that harmony in your kitchen contributes to the harmony in your food.
And of course, Jean Georges. He is such an amazing chef to work with, and inspired me to go to Asia and travel, kindling my love of Asian cuisine and flavors.
When you aren't working, what is your favorite vacation destination?
I love Thailand, Bangkok specifically. And Marrakech. I'm inspired by the true, authentic character of a place, and I find that to be best represented in the street food of the city. I'm more apt to eat at a street stall than a restaurant. They just have a realness to them that you don't get in fine dining establishments.
What do you always bring along when you travel?
A nice jacket and some tight pants. Ha ha!
What are a few of your favorite restaurants in New York? What makes them stand out?
For Mexican, I hit up Toloache. For Ramen, Totto Ramen. For Sushi, Sushi Suki. They just serve delicious food that I find myself consistently craving.
What is your pet peeve when dining out?
I can't handle a dirty kitchen.
What was it like to appear on Top Chef? What impact did it have on your career?
It certainly impacted the amount of grey hairs with each episode. But it was a very humbling experience. It brought a lot of clarity to who I am as a chef now and who I'd like to be in the future.
If you hadn't become a chef, what might you have become?
Oh, I dreamed of being a professional baseball player when I was a kid.
If you had a month off, where would you go?
Oaxaca. It's the spice Mecca of the world. And I'd love to go to Brazil.
Flavor Exposed: 100 Recipes from Sweet to Salty, Earthy to Spicy by Angelo Sosa with Suzanne Lenzer (Kyle Books, 2012) is available in books stores and on Amazon.