Q&A With Kristin Sollenne, the Young Chef Taking Charge of Bocca Di Bacco

With only 26 years under her belt, chef Kristin Sollenne has undertaken a big job. As executive chef, she oversees all three locations of Bocca Di Bacco, including their just-opened location in Chelsea. Sollenne brings her love of healthy Italian fare to the table, as well as a bright approach to using season ingredients to whip up dishes of braised quail and polenta, port wine-poached pears, and her signature pasta dish, Cavatelli di Grano Arso. I got a hold of Sollenne to find out what she is cooking with, where she hopes to take the restaurant, and her future, which, she said, hopefully involves being on the Food Network. 

What do you hope to do at the new Bocca Di Bacco?
I hope to create a warm and intimate atmosphere where people come to experience delicious food and exclusive wines any night of the week. This is why so many customers at our Hell’s Kitchen and Theater District locations love about us, and what we are excited to bring to Chelsea.

What seasonal ingredients are you working with right now?
This is my favorite time of year! Seasonal ingredients that I’m using right now are chestnuts, artichokes, beets, winter squash, pomegranates, and Brussels sprouts.

I heard you helped your parents lose weight, any tips for keeping off the pounds during the holidays?
The holidays are definitely a time when it’s easy to indulge because we’re surrounded by friends and family and enjoying this time of year. I recommend moderating your portion sizes. Don’t deprive yourself, because that can sometimes lead to over indulgence later on. Satisfy your craving with a small taste.

How did you get on the professional cooking path?
I’ve always had a passion for healthy cooking. After helping my parents achieve their goals and set them on a healthy sustainable lifestyle, I set my eyes on the Big Apple to launch my culinary career. After working on the Upper West Side, and re-developing menus by introducing my farm-to-table philosophy, it was quickly noticed that customers were drawn towards my fresh and light Italian fare.

Did you ever think you would be an executive chef at 26-years-old?
I’m the first to say that hard work and determination go a long way. I don’t think age has anything to do with it, I just let the food speak for itself.

What chefs and/or restaurants influence you the most? 
I love Giada De Laurentis because she has such passion and personality with her cooking. I hope one day to be on the Food Network and introduce my cooking to the world. Mario Batali and his empire is another great inspiration and influence for me since dining at a restaurant should be an experience. 

What is your favorite place to eat after you are done working?
I love sushi, NOBU, Haru and Blue Ribbon are my favorites. I also enjoy Arte Café on the Upper West Side, which also happens to be the first restaurant I worked at in the city.

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