Ever wonder who’s responsible for making the food at Mory’s? Jeff Caputo, executive chef at one of New Haven’s most iconic restaurants, sat down with the News to talk about his style. Caputo previously served as Executive Chef for Scoozzi, a restaurant that abruptly closed October 2011, before he took his skills to Mory’s.
Q: Why do you love cooking?
A: Well, cooking to me is different than being a professional chef, because it’s total freedom. I get to experiment and do what I want, but I wouldn’t put the term cooking into being a professional chef.
Q: Well, then why do you love being a professional chef?
A: Because it encompasses so many different kinds of expertise, from cost management, which involves labor, food, equipment, and budgets, to being able to put in my passion. My passion is creativity with food. You get to see your results on a day-to-day basis, so it’s always changing, it’s always interesting, and it’s sort of timeless.
Q: How did you come to Mory’s?
A: Originally Ken Adams [General Manager] asked me to come on as consultant and work with the chef that was here. But I guess there was some sort of falling out at some point with the chef who was here, so I came on to help on an interim basis. One thing led to another, and they offered me a position.
Q: Mory’s has quite a bit of tradition, what does that mean to you?
A: Right now, I’m trying to integrate what I do into the tradition here. I feel an obligation to that tradition, in some way to carry it on, and in some way to put my own footprint in it with the food. Every chef will inevitably leave some sort of footprint with what they do. At Scoozzi, I went into a very good restaurant that at the time was sort of floundering and I put my footprint on it and went on to be there for 12 years. With the tradition here, it’s somewhat of an honor to be the chef at Mory’s, so I’m doing my best to get the food back on the map here.
Q: So what are you looking to change?
A: I’d like to ground the menu a bit. I think the menu I walked into was a little bit scattered and unidentifiable to me as a chef professionally. I’m trying to ground the menu in some traditional preparations and modernize them a bit. Grounded just means we’re getting everyone down to basics and putting out very good quality food without over-the-top preparations. It’s traditional yet contemporary.
Q: You think there will be a new favorite dish on your menu?
A: You know what? I would hope so, but that’s totally something a chef can’t choose — it finds its own way.
Q: Well what’s your favorite thing you guys make?
A: Oh my, honestly I don’t have a favorite dish. I honestly don’t. We’ve been making this bolognese because one thing that’s been requested was that we could put some of the Scoozzi favorites on the menu. People really loved our risotto and our bolognese, so I put both of them on the menu, and we’ve been getting a lot of compliments from members. But I’m proud of everything on the menu. I’ve never had a favorite — I get more hyped about doing the specials because I can be more creative on a day-to-day basis.
Q: Fun fact?
A:I’m a rabid surf caster. Crawl out onto the rocks, put on a wetsuit, and fish for striped bass. No bait. It’s really a niche sport, when you’re going out through four- or six-feet waves to get to an offshore rock it gets a little crazy. But that’s my relaxation.