Robert Nam Cirillo
“The Chef” of Blaze East Side
Over on Hope Street there now burns a culinary passion hell-bent on heating up Blaze East Side. Robert Nam Cirillo, self-titled simply as “The Chef,” recently joined the restaurant “just before Thanksgiving” of last year, previously working for such spots as The Capital Grille, Hemenway’s and Siena. And although he has been cooking professionally for “12 years, easily,” his culinary roots go back to when he first came to America, in ‘84. “I’ve been cooking pretty much since I was five,” he says.
Originally from Korea, Robert was adopted as a child into an Italian family, and he believes this cultural blending – both within his family and on the grander scale of the nation as a whole – is what makes American dishes so iconic: “America as a country brought different cultures together, and cul- tures brought their cuisine.” This blending, he says, is what he wants to replicate at Blaze. 776 Hope Street. 277-2529.
Executive Chef of Hemenway’s
Sometime during Lee Sonsky’s academic journey he switched from pre-med to culinary – a decision much to the benefit of Providence’s restaurant scene. After his start in a small Italian restaurant on Long Island, Lee moved to Florida for 12 years, working in the prestigious Breakers. And in August of last year, he joined the Newport Restaurant Group, becoming executive chef of Hemenway’s.
There, at the upscale restaurant on South Main Street, Lee focuses on his “natural love of food for inspiration, creating dishes that ignite the feelings evoked when enjoying wholesome and comforting food.” Moreover, he wants to form lasting relationships with local vendors to both support Rhode Island’s economy and provide customers with the freshest ingredients. 121 South Main Street. 351-8570.
Head Chef of Kartabar Restaurant and Lounge
Focused on educating and modernizing, Alberto Lopez is on a mission to transform Kartabar: “[Philippe, the owner,] hired me to bring something different and more modern to the [restaurant’s] cuisine, while using authentic ingredients.” Having worked for such establishments as Chapel Grille, Costantino’s and Bella Vista, Alberto brings a wealth of fine dining experience to the kitchen, which pairs well with his knowledge gained from time in Italy.
￼Alberto is currently writing a new menu for Kartabar, and he claims that it will bring “more modern dishes, modern flavors and Italian dishes” to the forefront. And although he aims to transform Kartabar with his fine dining background, he also wants to “accommodate the dishes for students” or “kids that come in on their lunch break.” He calls it a learning experience, and “a lot of fun.” 284 Thayer Street. 331-8111.
Executive Chef of Waterman Grille
Tim McGrath and Waterman Grille go way, way back – so far, in fact, that as a student at Johnson & Wales he worked at the restaurant when it was still called the Gatehouse. He eventually earned the position of sous chef, before moving to Florida to work for various locations. (In Florida he held the position of director of food and beverage for Mangrove Bay and its sister location in Largo, Florida.)
When the sun and sand grew too familiar, Tim returned to Providence, where he once again took a positionat Waterman Grille, working beneath then-Executive Chef Kevin DiLibero. Tim’s talents blossomed and his efforts were noticed, and in May of last year he earned the title of executive chef. Now, he seeks to build upon the culinary foundation of his predecessors while also enhancing his own cooking techniques. When possible, he focuses on local ingredients and flavors. 4 Richmond Square. 521-9229.