This spring, Executive Chef Eddie Montalvo moved from New York City to Newport to join the team at Fluke Newport. Since May, he’s been bringing his clean and simple style and 20 years of culinary expertise to Fluke’s kitchen. We had a chance to ask the Johnson and Wales graduate a few questions about his career, culinary style and what drew him back to Rhode Island. Check out our interview with him below!
WUN: Tell us about your background as a chef and what brought you to Newport?
Montalvo: After graduating from Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelors in Culinary, I headed immediately for New York City, where I spent the last 20 years working for various Michelin starred chefs and restaurateurs such as David Bouley, Jean Georges Vongerichten, Jean-Yves Shillinger, Laurent Gras, Daniel Boulud and Danny Meyer. I came to Newport to provide a better life for my family as well as myself. After so many years, New York City finally wore me out. I noticed my love of all things food had been dwindling to point that I was considering a career change. Fearing change, I reluctantly agreed to make the move. Best decision we ever made as a family!
WUN: When did you start and how did you end up at Fluke?
Montalvo: I started at Fluke back in May. How I ended up at Fluke is simple; I answered an ad that read: “Do you want to get out of New York?”. Hilarious! Ownership and I had something important to offer each other. I knew the relationship would be symbiotic, so I took the position.
WUN: You worked in New York for some time. In terms of food, what can Newport offer that New York can not?
Montalvo: Ease of access to product. We have farmers showing up at the door as well as any number of farms that I can simply visit to pick up the fresh product. And then there’s the fisherman. Jeff, one of our owners, has developed several relationships over the years with the local fisherman. Whenever the boats go out, they’ll text him to see if we want anything. Later that day, Jeff’s at the dock picking up fish so fresh, we have to wait a few hours to work with it to allow it to go through rigor mortise.
WUN: In a word or two, how would you describe your culinary style?
Montalvo: Clean and simple.
WUN: What are your strongest culinary influences and how do you intend to express them at Fluke?
Montalvo: My strongest culinary influences are my family and renowned chef, Laurent Gras. My mom, aunt, and grandmother were all phenomenal cooks. Each could take something inexpensive and simple and turn into something sublime. Just about every day was a “Ratatouille” moment. As I went further along in my career, my aunt, who went by the nickname of Tia Chachi, became an even greater inspiration. A tough as nails woman, she not only gave me the gift of her passion for creativity, she instilled in me discipline, cleanliness, and organization. All important qualities for an aspiring chef. To this day, as a term of endearment, I will call any of my kitchen employees that I feel possesses these qualities, Chachi.
On the professional side, Laurent Gras is my single greatest influence. In his early thirties, he ran, as the Chef de Cuisine, Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo. It was under his watch when the restaurant received it’s 3rd Michelin star. Laurent was very inspired by the light and clean flavors of the Mediterranean. This was something that spoke to me as well. To this day, I approach food in a manner that allows flavors to come across as clean, simple and identifiable with influences from throughout the Mediterranean. After all, cooking is a conversation and the recipient of your food needs to not only understand what you are saying but appreciate as well.
WUN: What/who has influenced you most during your career?
Montalvo: My wife, hands down. This is an incredibly tough business. At times you find yourself in a very dark corner and I am grateful that she has always been at my side to help me find my way back to the light.
WUN: What items currently on the menu most excite you?
Montalvo: There are several dishes at the moment that have me quite excited. One is the Striped Bass Crudo with a Piquillo Pepper and Preserved Meyer Lemon Relish, Shaved Fennel and Opal Basil. Preserving Meyer lemons is something I do every year in the late spring. They take about a month to preserve. It was one of the first things I did when I arrived at Fluke. Another dish is the Scallops with Creamy Potato, Sweet Yellow Corn, Corn Puree, Chanterelle Mushroom, Bacon Jam and Basil Olive Oil. This dish embodies everything that is summer. And lastly, there are Wild Bay oysters out of Jamestown, RI. I was introduced to Bo, the farmer/owner, just yesterday and they are absolutely phenomenal! We start serving them this coming Monday along with a pickled ramp mignonette.
WUN: Anything else that you would like to add?
Montalvo: Thank you, Newport, for such a warm welcome. I feel incredibly blessed to have rediscovered this town some twenty years after I left Rhode Island.
Fluke Newport is located at 41 Bowen’s Wharf. For more information, visit www.flukenewport.com.