As much as I love to cook, my family loves going out to dinner. A long-time favorite has been Amis Trattoria in Westport, CT. My girls aren’t picky eaters, but they definitely love Italian food and it is hard to say no to chef Brad Spence’s fresh, homemade pasta. We caught up with Brad earlier this fall and picked his brain a little on how he got his start, his favorite dishes and a few words of wisdom for aspiring chefs (trust your instincts!)
The Kelli Chronicles (TKC): Where did you get your start? Was being a chef always a dream?
Brad Spence: I asked for pots and pans for Christmas when I was 5 years old. I wanted to be a chef ever since. I got my start washing dishes on the jersey shore when I was 17.
The Kelli Chronicles (TKC): Which restaurants have been your favorite to work in?
Brad Spence: I’ve been lucky. I have always worked for great chefs. I can’t pick a favorite. They have all been amazing. Amis is home though.
TKC: Any great mentors? What was their best piece of advice?
Brad Spence: A lot of great mentors. My dad for teaching me to never give up. Lou Imbesi taught me to have respect for everyone in the Kitchen. Andy Nusser and Mario Batali taught me simplicity and how to create an exciting vibe in the restaurant. Aktar Newab and Tom Colicchio taught me how to be a good (most of the time) young cook. Marc vetri taught me how to cook and not to accept above average food….it must be outstanding. Dave Ziel and Urban has taught me business and how to expand Amis Brand.
TKC: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with? (aside from the basic necessities)
Brad Spence: My favorite ingredient to cook with are summer fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, corn, zucchini, peaches, plums, cherries, etc. When you have great ingredients you can’t go wrong.
TKC: As a mom, I’m always looking for great new dinner ideas – any easy recommendations?
Brad Spence: Cacio e Pepe is a favorite of my kids. Made from all high quality pantry ingredients. Good imported dry pasta, extra virgin olive oil, Percorino cheese and black pepper. A dish I learned to make in Rome and is always a crowd pleaser.
TKC: What’s your go-to meal for yourself or your family?
Brad Spence: Go to meal for family. 1st salami, bread and cheese, followed by Spaghetti and clams, followed by a grilled meat or fish with a salad, followed by ice cream and cookies or cake. All washed down with wine. I have a big family. It’s usually at least 20 people on Sunday’s.
TKC: What is your favorite restaurant in CT?
Brad Spence: My favorite restaurant in Westport is Kawa Ni. Food is amazing. Literally everything I had was awesome. Very rare when that happens.
TKC: The Greenwich Food and Wine festival is a great opportunity to meet with fellow foodies, what’s the craziest thing a fan has ever said to you?
Brad Spence: Craziest thing a fan has said to me was….I ate so much of your good food my ass got bigger…then she asked me to feel her butt…..
TKC: What are you looking forward to most at the Greenwich Food and Wine Festival?
Brad Spence: To meet people in the community.
TKC: Any up and coming food trends we should be looking out for? Anything you hope to see more of?
Brad Spence: As far as food trends I don’t really know them. I am always striving to simplify the food at Amis and find the best ingredients we can.
TKC: What are some of your goals for the future, personally and for your career?
Brad Spence: Be a good father and husband, give back to communities, try to help cooks advance their careers, work on my second love..boxing. Get outside of my comfort zone. Have fun and enjoy life.
TKC: Any advice to young chefs?
Brad Spence: There are no limits in your career as a chef. Choose your own path to pursue your dream. Push yourself away from ALL negative people and environments. Don’t listen to the people who say it can’t be done. Treat everyone with respect and allow your co workers to be influential in the process so they take ownership of the vision. Above all trust your instincts.