Page 21 - The Valley Table - Summer 2020
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                                 Incredible as the experience was, it was also stressful beyond belief. Every day for more than three years, Margiotta dreaded when it came time for a pre-service tasting. Although he was confident in his culinary ability, he couldn’t prevent doubt from dampening his self-assurance.
And then he had a realization.
“I think as a chef you lose it when you lose your mind. You have to learn to take a step back, breathe, and accept that [there are] some things you just can’t control. It was like a switch that flipped in my head,” he says. “I think the mindset I learned at [Eleven Madison Park was one] of being limitless and not putting limitations on yourself. Anything is possible with that mindset.”
That mentality was a saving grace when he left Eleven Madison Park in 2018 to be nearer to his family in the Hudson Valley. While volunteering with Dutchess Outreach as he figured out his next move, he heard from a friend who recommended that he apply for the job she was turning down. It wasn’t the right fit for her, but she thought it would be perfect for him.
The gig? Director of food and beverage at The Dutchess, a secret hotel in northern Dutchess County with a hush-hush aura and romantic isolation that might lure think tank retreats or under-the-radar celebrities on any given week. (Largely
a word-of-mouth establishment, The Dutchess does offer a limited number of programmed stays to the public; use the contact form on its website to sign up for notifications.)
Although Margiotta was convinced he didn’t want to work for anyone, he went to the interview anyway. Ten minutes into a conversation with Rameet Chawla, The Dutchess’s owner, and Zach Wolf, a one-time farmer at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, he was sold.
That was two years ago. Today, he still loves every moment inside The Dutchess’s kitchen — and out of it. Because the hotel sits on 252 rolling acres, Margiotta has the freedom to cook wherever his creativity takes him.
As long as he remains true to the venue’s emphasis on healthy, gluten-free, and mostly vegan meals, he can serve his cuisine in the moody glow of the dining room or bring guests into the forest for open-fire, culinary entertainment. While setting the scene in ever-changing environments, he also considers the interplay between flavor and presentation to craft dishes that are just as striking to behold as they are to sample.
“I’m a very visual person,” he explains. “I’m constantly thinking about how [ingredients] are going to look on a dish, how we’re going to deliver an experience.”
After all, experiences are his specialty. From his helm in the kitchen, he builds plates that leave guests in awe. For one, which he dubs “the vegetable garden,” he arranges rainbow-hued baby produce atop a pavilion table that overlooks the exact field from which the spread was sourced. For another, he hollows out beets and fills them with soup before salt-casting and cooking them on a wood- fired grill. During the presentation, he instructs guests
to crack the beets on the table to uncover the ambrosia hidden inside.
“It was like a switch flipped in my head...I learned of being limitless and not putting limitations on yourself. Anything is possible with that mindset.”
 aug – sept 2020 19

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