Since its debut last year, URBN’s lifestyle complex, Devon Yard has been a runaway hit, and it’s not just Main Liners who are taking notice. Amis Trattoria’s chef, Kristina Wisneski, recently was featured and won the Feb. 12 episode of Food Network’s Chopped. Wisneski’s been a mainstay in the culinary community, previously working at Savona Restaurant and Zavino Hospitality Group. We caught up with her to discuss her experience on the show and what inspires her culinary style.
MLT: When did you know you wanted to explore the culinary arts professionally?
KW: When I was a teenager. Since a young age, I always cooked with my great grandmother, mom and dad. We always sat down and enjoyed dinner together and made sure that this was a regular nightly thing.
MLT: Who inspired you along the way?
KW: For sure the strong women in my family, as well as my father, who always taught me to follow my heart. While in college, chef Mike Ditchfield (a professor at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, where Wisneski earned her degree) was a very important mentor to me. He really took me under his wing and taught me all he could. To this day we stay in touch and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
MLT: How important is seasonality in your Amis menu?
KW: This is one of the most important aspects of making a menu. Researching and doing different development of menu items is the best part of making a new menu. Sometimes I get to try things I haven’t ever tried and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised how much customers love the new menu.
MLT: At Amis, do you make your pasta on-site?
KW: Yes—we have two types of pasta. [We] offer vegan pasta, and then we have our egg pastas, which are fazzoletti and ravioli at the moment. The egg in the dough enables us to mold and shape the pasta. Our pastas are innovative and very different than your standard spaghetti and meatballs.
MLT: How important is plating?
KW: I’m not necessarily a tongs and tweezers type of chef. Our food at Amis is very rustic Italian. We want our food to look amazing, but it looks like you’ve sat down at a table in Rome and you’re about to enjoy a delicious family-style menu.
MLT: What’s the biggest challenge you face as a chef?
KW: I constantly want to make sure that we are doing the right thing for our customers. I want them to come in and enjoy their experience, from sitting down and listening to specials to getting their food and loving what they are eating. I want them to have healthy and tasty options, as well as certain dishes that may surprise them.
MLT: What do you find most rewarding about the culinary world?
KW: The biggest reward [at Amis] is having an open kitchen to see the reactions that guests have to our food.
MLT: What’s your avorite dish to make?
KW: On the menu, my favorite dish right now is our black sea bass with crispy potato, baby carrot and saffron tomato broth. My favorite pasta is the fazzoletti with lamb ragu. My favorite food to cook in general is seafood—I love scallops.
MLT: Top three takeaways from Chopped?
KW: Getting to meet the chef judges—they were so awesome and had some really great feedback; knowing that I can work well under pressure; proving to the guys that women in this industry kick butt.