Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, Winter-Spring 2019

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202 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 9 B ert Cutino is a man of action…and acronyms. He's accom- plished so much in his career as a chef and restaurateur that what follows his name is a veritable alphabet soup—CEC, AAC, HOF, WCMC, HBOT. This Certified Executive Chef and World Certified Master Chef is a life- time member of the American Academy of Chefs, past president of the American Culinary Federation and a member of the ACF Hall of Fame. Just call him chef, though, because that's what he hears each night still working the line at one of the world's most renowned restaurants— Monterey's The Sardine Factory. In 1968 with his partner Ted Balestreri, Cutino opened the restaurant on Cannery Row, then a largely vacant, tourist-free zone. With Balestreri in his tuxedo and Cutino in his chef 's coat, together they turned an old cannery workers' canteen into a palace of fine food, stellar wine and world-class service. Now at age 79, Cutino shrugs off his string of accolades, pointing instead to his mentorship of young hospitality workers and his tireless fundraising for Meals on Wheels and The Drummond Culinary Academy for at-risk youth. To Cutino, retirement is a "death sentence." "I don't believe in it," he says. "I need a reason to get up in the morning. The restaurant is my passion. And I'm very involved with some culinary schools and fundraising. Those activities keep me going." Q: What makes The Sardine Factory such an enduring restaurant spanning generations? A: We've been utilizing the best local products since we opened 50 years ago. We were offering farm-to-table before anyone even knew what that was. Also, some of our specialty dishes reflect the heritage that Ted and I share. But the most important aspect is our personal attention to our customers. Q: What is your proudest moment as a chef? A: My induction into the Academy of Chefs Honor Society. In 1981, there were only about 1,000 chefs worldwide awarded that recognition. You'd think celebrity chefs would be represented, but many have not par- ticipated in competitions or mentored young culinarians. I ended up as the chairman and developed some innovations that led to even greater suc- cess for the organization. Q: What's your favorite childhood food memory? A: Helping my mom cook when we had our entire family together for the holidays. My grandparents were alive at that time. We'd enjoy a feast of seafood, especially on Christmas Eve. Q: How close were you to following in your father's footsteps as a commercial fisherman? A: It was normal for a young Sicilian boy to end up on the boat. That opportunity came when I was 13. I really enjoyed it. My father gave me and my brother Pete the choice. He said, 'If you want the boat, it's there. If not, go to school and do what you want. Be happy.' Q: Who most influenced your decision to become a chef? A: I was very impressed with my mother's cooking. She inspired me because she put a lot of flavor in her dishes; and we were cooking for 25 to 30 people at a time. When I was washing dishes at Holman's Guest Ranch as a young teenager, the chef there gave me a chance to cook. He saw my talent. Q: Do you find time to cook at home for family and friends, and what is your go-to meal? A: I spend a lot of time at the restaurant, so I tr y to get the family together a couple times a month. My go-to meal is pasta with some kind of sauce—maybe my mother's meatballs that we ser ve at the Sardine Factor y. Bert Cutino's Passion for Mentorship Sardine Factor y Chef Shares Success with Youth B Y M I K E H A L E

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