VS: What inspired you to keep cooking throughout your childhood into your adulthood?
A.D: The congregation of people. I like how we gather around for the holidays, and anything we do to socialize revolves around eating. I love the way it can bring people together.
VS: How did your family’s restaurant inspire you to get into this business?
A.D: The hustle and bustle of it. I used to come in when I was little, odds and ends, work here and there, and I got into it more and more. I kind of fell in love with how everything works.
VS: What are some things about running a restaurant that many don’t think about?
A.D: Well that’s an infinite question. It’s all the little things that matter the most, making sure everything is clean, and visually making sure everything is nice and clean. The last thing you want to do is get a pregnant woman or a child sick. You also have to make sure your products are great. When it comes in, you have to check it to make sure its the best product. We go all the way to Stonington to get our fish a couple of times a week to make sure it’s fresh. We try to buy our meats all locally. Having the freshest ingredients is super important, and people can tell so having those fresh ingredients really helps.
VS: How could it take away from your personal life, being so time demanding?
A.D: Sometimes I dislike all the time it takes out of you, but everything else I love. I love all the good stuff and the bad stuff, it’s what makes it what it is. It takes away a from your personal life sometimes. You really have to sacrifice to be here and put in the time that’s needed to make it what it is.
VS: What do you do to consistently improve the restaurant?
A.D: A lot of that depends on your own ambition, you always have to compete. Somebody down the street is doing something. Somebody 1000 miles away is doing something. You have to take that and make your own vision of it and keep advancing forward. We’ve changed a lot of things since I was little, even the menus have been twisted around. Everything is a lot fresher now, there are just more twists on things to make them more unique. Even our dessert pantry has done a complete 180 since I took over. Now, we make our own cakes and pastries. We make our own sausage. Everything is done in house and we feel that makes it unique and more personal.
VS: What’s the day to day like when running multiple restaurants?
A.D: A lot of it is trying to balance everyone. First thing I do is check in here and make sure everyone’s okay and that everything is running smoothly, and take care of what’s not. Then go over there (Tony D’s Craft Creamery) see what they need and check-in, and usually I make ice cream in the morning. It’s balancing people.
VS: Would you recommend going to a culinary school?
A.D: It depends on your position. I was lucky I had a place I could learn from and I had the time and a lot of people I could use for that information. A lot of people don’t have that. It won’t necessarily affect your job opportunities. The way I see it is if you are talented, you’re talented, and that’ll get you through.
VS: How have you made this restaurant take on your unique vision?
A.D: Creating everything in house, a lot of our things were outsourced. Now we make our own desserts and we’ve just stepped up the quality we also make a lot of our own pasta here and just taking things we used to not have control of and taking control of the actual product, so we can improve it. Customer feedback every year seems to get better when you make good products and make sure everything is fresh there’s an improvement because it’ll taste better.
VS: Would you recommend owning a business or going into a culinary path?
A.D: If it’s something you love. If it’s not and you just don’t have anything better to do and you think you’re going to like it, you’re not. If it’s something you actually love and have a passion for then you’ll belong to it.
VS: Who did you look up to or let influence you in your cooking experience?
A.D: I don’t think I really idolized anyone in that sense. My mom’s house parties were an influence seeing people come together over food was interesting.
VS: What’s your favorite thing to cook?
A.D: Probably seafood. I eat a lot of it and when you enjoy eating it, it’ll be more enjoyable to make.