Chatting With Ardesia Chef Amorette Casaus: The Trials of Small Kitchens, Joys of Sherry and Pancetta

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Left: Ardesia chef Amorette Casaus, Right: Ardesia owner Mandy Oser
Chef Amorette Casaus helmed the kitchen at Spanish favorite El Quinto Pino until three months ago, when she became executive chef at Ardesia (510 West 52nd Street), the new wine bar in Hell's Kitchen, where she's curing her own charcuterie and doing monthly roasts.

We caught up with Casaus about her cooking at Ardesia, the biggest mistake she ever made in the kitchen, and the contents of her home refrigerator.

How are things going at Ardesia?

It's going well. I think now that we have been open for a few months, everyone has gotten to know their role, and we are all doing a good job at producing good products and doing what we love.

What's the reaction been like from the neighborhood?

People really love it. And it's intended to be a neighborhood place. The show of support has been really positive.

Are there certain ideas or cooking methods you've brought with you from El Quinto Pino?

Well, the concepts are similar because they're both wine bars, but Ardesia is completely different in many ways. El Quinto Pino is Spanish, and Ardesia is very American, very New York, so in terms of cooking styles, not much.

But what I did bring with me is how to cook in small areas, to make good menus in tiny spaces.

How do you do it?

Organization. Truly, without organization small kitchens won't work. Organization, tidiness, and after that everything is just having your ducks in a row.

What's your favorite dish on the menu right now and why?

My favorite is the duck banh mi--it's so good. It has sharpness to cut the richness, sourness to the cut sharpness. It's just a really full-flavored sandwich. I'm partial to sandwiches.

Did you have a hand in inventing the sea urchin panini at El Quinto Pino?

No that was Alex Raij. It's super simple: bread, butter, and sea urchin. Yet it really took off.

What's in your duck banh mi?

It's just truly a banh mi: duck pate, duck pancetta, Sriracha aioli, pickled diakon and carrot and cilantro leaves. It's a fresh sandwich, but also rich and salty with the pancetta. It's well balanced.


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