Chef Freddie Gentile graduated from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) A.C.E class in New York and has been cooking professionally now for over 15 years. He has worked at some of America’s most beloved restaurants including Gramercy Tavern (under chef Michael Anthony) and Betony (under Chef Bryce Shuman).
1. How/when did you develop a passion for gardening?
I have always been interested in gardening. When I started at Rococo, they had a small garden that I was able to “take over” and it slowly became a passion project of mine.
From a chef’s standpoint, I have found that it is sometimes easier to grow better quality produce that we can typically buy.”
2. Can you tell us more about the garden at Rococo? How do you make best use of your space?
Our dedicated garden area at Rococo is relatively small so I tend to get very creative with the space. I have found that using a shelving rotation system with two sets of shelves works best. The new seedlings are on the bottom shelf while the ready to use plants are on top. Once the bottom seedlings begin to sprout, we have usually already used up most of the product on the top shelf.
3. What are you growing in Rococo’s garden? Which is your favorite plant to grow?
Mainly microgreens, different herbs and a lot of edible flowers. My personal favorite is a Nasturtium – they’re easy to grow, beautiful and the entire plant is edible.
4. How are the plants from the garden incorporated into Rococo’s dishes?
We use flowers and microgreens to garnish and finish most plates. The herbs are also incorporated into a lot our recipes and seasoning. For example, we use whole basil leaves in the cracker for our Beef Tartare appetizer.
5. Will the change in weather as we head into Spring impact the garden?
With springtime around the corner we expect our garden to become self-sufficient. We are almost there now.
6. Can you share one gardening secret that people can use for their garden at home?
No secrets – a lot of attention, love and care. I typically spend at least thirty minutes a day in the garden: watering, looking and tasting. I start to think about how I can use some of the herbs in new dishes for the upcoming menu.