Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza recently made our list of the Top 100 restaurants Using Twitter. Since we already knew how they were using social media to build relationships with their client, we figured we should ask their Chef: Thomas Marr about the more important thing; food. You should know that this is no ordinary pizza place. Chef Marr is CIA trained and has worked at some fabulous places including National Gallery of Art – Washington DC; Flying Fish Cafe – Orlando, FL; Spiaggia – Chicago, Il and the Kenton House Hotel – London, England. Curious…read on.
FriendsEAT: Chef Marr, can you tell us a little more about the restaurant?
Chef Thomas Marr: We’re an Italian pizzeria and we use all-natural ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible. Our pizzas are large and fresh, made in the New Haven style (crust that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, with a balance of black and tan, spread out by hand – not roller – to preserve tiny air pockets, which become those wonderful black bubbles ringing the top of the crust). Desserts are developed and made in-house by a CIA-trained pastry chef, and in May we will begin making our own gelato in the store.
FE: Did you cook growing up?
CTM: Definitely! At about ten years old, I began helping with family dinners, starting some of the cooking even before my parents got home from work. It was a big part of my growing up.
FE: Who in your life has influenced your cooking the most?
CTM: I don’t think there is any single greatest influence for me. No doubt, I’ve been influenced by some great chefs: by working for them, and with them, and of course eating at their restaurants. I also developed much of my sensibility as a chef from visiting some of the simplest places: small chef-driven restaurants that put an emphasis on making the best use of what is immediately available.
I have also absorbed a great deal from my culinary travels in England, France and Italy, where I make it a point to find the small, family-owned places whose menus are filled with wholesome, locally developed items, and aren’t plated for style over substance.
CTM: I entered college expecting to study the law and eventually become a lawyer. But like a lot of young people starting out in college, two things were going on: One, I began to realize that my chosen field was not right for me. And two, I worked in restaurants to support myself, as I had done while in high
school. Fortunately for me, the chef I was working for at the time saw some potential and encouraged me to go to cooking school. I looked into several schools, eventually deciding on The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which set me on the course of my career as a chef.
FE: What misconceptions do people have coming into the field?
CTM: Here’s a Washington DC answer to your question: It’s like the recent college graduate who gets an internship at the State Department and expects that they will some day be Secretary of State. Entering the field of professional cooking, many people believe that they’re going to become a celebrity
chef, establishing a nationally known restaurant, making appearances on television and writing books. Now, I don’t have anything against celebrity chefs; they’ve done a great deal to bring attention to the field and raise hopes and standards in kitchens across the country, from one-chef restaurants to large
institutional kitchens like the one that I ran at the National Gallery. But the reality on the ground is much more sobering. Most highly talented people who get into this business will never see the front end of a television camera. Celebrity chefs are the public face for an industry that includes many millions of very talented, hard-working men and women. Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and the other celebrity chefs spent many years cooking in the trenches before even becoming a leader in a kitchen, and many more still before achieving fame on television. New chefs should aspire to win the acclaim of their customers and the support of their community. Fame beyond that is gravy.
FE: Best cooking tip for a novice?
CTM: Use good pans and sharp knives. How simple is that!?
FE: Which three cooking tools or gadgets are your favorites?
CTM: Mandoline, silpats and my 10″ Wusthof Culinar.
FE: Funniest kitchen incident?
CTM: We’re entirely humorless in our kitchen. Just kidding.
FE: I’m sure you got plenty of funny stories…we’ll keep those to ourselves. And your favorite food to cook with?
CTM: Scallops. While we don’t use them at Pete’s, as a chef I’ve always loved developing menu items using scallops because they’re by far the most versatile food item you can build a dish around. You can use them in an appetizer or an entree, prepare them cold or hot, and with a multitude of different ingredients to create widely differing dishes (citrus on the lighter side, or heavier ingredients like mushroom, truffle). When I’m looking to develop a great app or even an entree, it’s my go-to.
FE: Mmmm, scallops, and when at home, what do you like to eat?
CTM: Admittedly, since we opened the restaurant, I’ve spent much less time in my kitchen at home than I would like. But we do love to grill out in the warmer weather. Bonus: my kids love to help with grilling! We grill pretty much everything, so I couldn’t pick one item. But I know my 6-year-old son Xander would say STEAK.
FE: Your favorite cookbook?
FE: Is there a specific etiquette in your kitchen that you pride yourself in?
CTM: I just find it important to use products that I know are good for people.
FE: Can you share a recipe with our community?
CTM: Here is a pasta dish that has been quite popular for us at Pete’s:
Chef Thomas Marr’s Penne pasta with eggplant and tomatoes
FRESH PENNE 3 OZ
PLUM TOMATOES, DICED 3 OZ
ITALIAN EGGPLANT 3 OZ
FRESH MOZZARELLA 1.5 OZ
GARLIC, CHOPPED 1 CLOVE
OLIVE OIL 0.125 OZ
CHILI PEPPER .5 TSP
BASIL, CUT INTO STRIPS 4 LEAVES
Cut the eggplant into cubes, fry in canola oil on high heat until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Over medium high heat, cook garlic and chile pepper in oil for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Meanwhile cook the fresh penne in boiling salted water until al dente, about 3 minutes. In the pan with the tomatoes add the eggplant, mozzarella, pasta and toss together until cheese just starts to melt. Season to taste, at this point I usually add a little of the pasta water as well (a couple tablespoons). Arrange in a bowl and garnish with basil.
Note: I really love fresh pasta but I know it is not always available so feel free to use dry pasta.
Feeling hungry? Why not give Chef Marr a visit? Maybe you’ll get lucky and get a pizza discount coupon.
1400 Irving Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20010