Tony Mendicino is the executive chef at Slocum Hollow Bar & Restaurant at Montage Mountain Resorts, Scranton. He earned a bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts and business from Keystone College and recently received recognition as Electric City’s “Best Chef 2018.” He lives in Scranton.
Meet Tony Mendicino…
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I’m from Scranton, born and raised. I grew up in the restaurant industry. I originally went to school to be a teacher and found out after the first year that it wasn’t for me, so I decided to go to culinary school. I went to Keystone for that; I also got my bachelor’s in business from Keystone.
Q: What led to you becoming the chef at Montage Mountain Resorts?
A: I started my career at Scranton Country Club. I went from there to Glenmaura; I was their sous-chef. Last year I started here (at Montage Mountain) as the executive chef. I was also around golf courses growing up. This is my first resort; it’s a great experience. It’s a different atmosphere from the country clubs and the golf courses. I worked at a couple cafes. I was at Northern Light in downtown Scranton for a very long time. Then I was at Pine Hills, Scranton Country Club and worked my way here.
Q: What does your job as executive chef entail?
A: My day-to-day is coming in, doing orders, running all my numbers and cooking — it’s my passion. I’m always back in the kitchen making sure everything is going alright, and I’m back there with my guys supporting them. It’s awesome to be able to be at this level in my career. Being only 27, it’s a really good experience. I grew up on this mountain; being from the area, I’m a skier. I actually used to work here when I was younger in high school, so things came full circle to where I’m back here working as the executive chef.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to make the move from teaching to cooking?
A: I’ve always been in the restaurant industry, all through high school. My mom was always cooking dinner, and as a child I was always there helping. It was always in me that I wanted to be a cook. I went to Marywood (University) for secondary education to be a history teacher. I did my first year of observations, and I realized that I wanted to proceed with culinary school. The interest was there all along. I had wanted to go to culinary school straight out of high school, but a lot of times, the job is very demanding. I thought maybe being a teacher would be a better choice, but for me it was more about the passion behind it. I wanted to be in the kitchen.
Q: What makes you so passionate about cooking?
A: A lot of it is based on tradition. With Italian, Asian, it’s all about the cultures. When you’re learning a new style of cooking, you’re not only learning about the food, you’re learning about the culture behind it also. It’s a really cool way to interact with the food and get a background and where it came from.
Q: Who are your favorite chefs?
A: I do a lot of Asian and Italian style. Everyone can get together over food. One of my role models has always been Anthony Bourdain. The way he cooked, the way he presented himself, was always awesome. Even seeing him in TV shows, it was really cool to watch everything he was doing. Reading his book “Kitchen Confidential” was huge for me in culinary school. It was like my Bible. Another one is David Chang in New York City with Momofuku food chains. He’s a great chef to model after. He does noodles, and he’s centered around his culture, which is awesome.
Q: What is something different you hope you can bring to the food scene in Scranton?
A: I always try to incorporate something new and sort of get people to go out of their comfort zones. It’s things that people don’t normally see, and I’m trying to bring that to the resort and the restaurant. I’m trying to get people to open themselves up and try new things. The Scranton food scene has definitely been working its way up. Everyone that I know who is opening new restaurants — such as AV, Peculiar Slurp Shop, Bar Pazzo and all of them — it’s really up and coming. The area is definitely growing. I try to stay with fresh products. Our beef is all local. The mountain has been here for years, so I’m trying to keep everything local if I can. For a ski resort, it’s hard because it’s quick service. So I’m trying to do awesome food really fast.
Q: Whether cooked by you, or not, what is your favorite food to eat?
A: Ramen. I’ll make ramen at my house, I’ll go to Peculiar Slurp Shop, anytime I can I’ll go to New York City to eat at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Ramen is huge for me. I love it. It’s a comfort food. Fresh ramen, not the packs, are great.
Q: What are three kitchen essentials you can’t live without?
A: Tongs and my knife. They’re like extensions of my hands. Those two I definitely can’t live without. And probably pizza, in all honesty. My two top things are definitely my tongs and knife.
Q: What is your favorite thing to cook?
A: I enjoy cooking ramen; that’s one of my favorites. As far as traditional Italian things, that’s what I grew up with, making pasta. Nothing beats sitting there, putting everything into making the dough, stretching it and rolling it out. It’s the fruits of labor, so when you’re done making it, you get to eat it and enjoy everything that you just put into it. My favorite thing is to be able to make pasta and be able to enjoy it after.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: In the winter, I enjoy skiing. I take trips to Vermont if I can get away. In summer, I like going to baseball games, including Yankees games, and the RailRiders being down the road is awesome. I like to be outside.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: I think a lot of my shaping comes from my family. They’ve always supported me and backed me, even when I didn’t want to be a teacher and wanted to go into this profession. Another time was my second year in culinary school. I had awesome teachers, and they really molded who I was and brought out the chef in me. Them pushing me harder and harder to get better really molded me.
Q: Final word?
A: With us being up in the mountain, it’s hard to come up here and eat, but definitely try to make a venture up here. It’s a cool facility. I’d like to see more people come to the mountain and eat on top of just skiers.