Worldly chef has asimple approach By Jennifer Jiggetts The Virginian-Pilot A New Orleans native, he came here because of his wife, who is attending a biology doctoral program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. Cooking is what LaMonte grew up doing, and the Crescent City is where his culinary career started. "That was the foundation as a cook," he said of the citys strong culinary reputation. "It was an instinct for me to gravitate for food because it made me happy." LaMonte said his mother, who is Cajun French, is an excellent cook. She and his Sicilian father would fight over serving pasta or rice with their meals. They always ended up serving both, he said. The French and Italian dishes his parents made became the inspiration for many of his own creations at Foggy Point. Instead of glitz and glam on the new menu, LaMonte went for what he calls comfort and accessible food with a twist. For example, placing a slice of brie on a club sandwich instead of American cheese makes the flavor pop, he said. His Cobb salad features an entire head of bibb lettuce and Danish bleu cheese.Posted to: Foo "My approach to food is almost childlike," he said. "Children think in Executive chef Vincent LaMonte, right, shown with executive a linear way, and I like that simple approach." sous chef John Lenio, credits the dishes his parents made for Some of his dishes, like one where fish is cooked on hickory or cedar planks, brings back memories of the time he spent cooking his creations today. with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans. "It brings me back to my Emeril days when wed crank out so many," said LaMonte, who was a line cook there for seven years. The kitchen (Steve Earley / The Virginian-Pilot) routinely turned out 80 or so of the planked fish dishes daily. I t was the first day of the new lunch menu at Foggy Point Bar & "I credit him with creating in me the chef I wanted to be," he said of Lagasse. Grill at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center and busy executive chef Vincent LaMonte Through his travels, LaMonte has learned plenty about food and didnt flinch. He churned out meal after meal. the way people consume it. For example, European cuisine is known for its fresh ingredients, he said, adding that the food in LaMonte, 38, sprinted back and forth from stove to counter: cutting Paris is "old world," the food in Dubai is rustic and American food is tomatoes for a chicken salad, slicing ham for a club sandwich and rushed. boiling rigatoni for a pasta dish. His own favorite dish is cassoulet, a French concoction that "I need a pick-up on table 62," he said loudly, restaurant code for a contains white beans, duck and sausage. "Its a good hearty meal," server to claim a salad. He then grabbed a handful of uncooked he said. shrimp and threw it into a pan. A large flash of fire erupted from the stove, but LaMonte, sweat beads forming on his face from the In Hampton Roads, he said hes found that diners like his fried heat, kept his cool. green tomatoes, barbecue shrimp, veal chops and that planked fish. This is what he lives for. Locals arent into spicy foods as much as they are in his LaMontes culinary talents have had him cooking all over the world hometown, he said. "I get fussed at for putting too much New - Italy, France, China, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the United Arab Orleans flavor in. Theres not that much spice. Theres good food, Emirates. but on the heat scale were a two," he said of Hampton Roads cuisine. Now theyve landed him in Hampton Roads, where hes been at Foggy Point since March. And, yes, he does do the cooking at home. His wife likes his barbecue shrimp and his three children like his pasta and crepes. "My wife will not cook," he added, and laughed. "She married a cook because she doesnt cook." Jennifer Jiggetts, (757) 222-5104, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bam! Emeril protégéjoins dining center staff By DAVID SEEBER Wesleyan has been expanding its cast of faculty and staff over the last few years, and one of the newest additions has found his way to the dining hall. New Executive Chef Vincent LaMonte brings world class culinary experience and a taste of New Orleans to the school. LaMonte has held positions under famous television chef Emeril Lagasse at his New Orleans restaurant as well as the NOLA and Delmonico branches. LaMonte described his work there as hard and demanding, and said that Lagasse ran his kitchen like a drill sergeant. Chefs who worked with him addressed him with, "sir, yes sir," according to LaMonte. It was partly this unrelenting intensity that led LaMonte to Wesleyan. LaMontes culinary career began in New Orleans, working under French and Italian chefs. He then traveled to Italy to hone his craft at the 2 Michelin Star Grand Hotel Londres in San Remo, Italy. Soon after this, LaMonte headed northwest, taking cooking and culinary classes at the Ecole des Arts Culinaires et de LHotellerie de Lyon, in France. He worked asExecutive chef a chef on a 30-meter pleasure yacht in the Mediterranean, and opened New Orleans-Vincent LaMonte style restaurants in the Peoples Republic of China and the United Arab Emirates. Hebrings worldly worked as sous chef in a five star hotel in the Virgin Islands. With most of his time spent traveling, LaMonte was left with little time to watch his first two daughters grow up.culinary With a third daughter, now 2, LaMonte began looking for something more stable andexperience to settled, two criteria that the job at Wesleyan met.Virginia Wesleyan. LaMonte described his decision to come here as being influenced by the employee-friendly policies of Wood Dining Service, the Sodexho subsidiary that runs the Wesleyan Dining Hall. LaMonte said that the company offered him good benefits and policies, and that he liked the operating procedures. While he enjoys the way the dining services are run, LaMonte also brings several fresh ideas and a willingness to take some chances to the table. "I want to "Im the kind of guy that takes the path less traveled,” said LaMonte. “Im a risk taker." As such, hes moved from the faster- paced world he was in in Newget to Orleans to what he termed institutional cooking here. Its a totally new experience for him, but he has some ideas to add flavor to the Wesleyan dining experience.know the He has already begun to look at a plan to address what he feels is a hole in thepeople food service. "Im looking toward building a smoothie and health food bar in the side of the Marlin Grille," which is now, he said, under-utilized. The bar hehere," envisions would have fruit smoothies along with other health foods, near the gym and the pool, an attraction not only for students, but a revenue earner for theLaMonte college, serving those who come to use the facilities. LaMonte also has some leeway on his menu, and hes going to take full advantagesaid. "Im of it. "The new soups [this week, Spanish Beef and Rice and Chicken Fajita] wereone of the just the beginning," LaMonte said. Up to twenty percent of the items he prepares can be new and made from scratch. Hes looking to take the dining Hall in a moregood homemade direction, making more things from scratch. "Im here for the students, Ive got an open door, open office policy," explained LaMonte.guys." He encourages the students to come to him with new ideas, suggestions or comments. He welcomes personal visits and intends to check the comments board regularly. "I want to get to know the people here," LaMonte said. "Im one of the good guys."