About Chef Vito
The Full Story
About the Chef ~ Larry Vito's BBQ Smokehouse Bistro & Catering
When Larry Vito caters an event he brings to the table the same passion that garnered him the position of executive chef of San Francisco’s Mobile Five Star-rated Stanford Court Hotel. He is the only chef-owner of a catering company to have this honor.
Larry learned the basics at both grandmothers’ knees. One ran a farm kitchen. The other cooked for guests of the family resort; at 18, Vito was managing the resort kitchen.
A brief flirtation with college English preceded an inspired summer spent cooking in Europe. A summer with his "childhood sweetheart" made Vito realize the world needed romantic chefs more than romantic poets. He enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.
Next, stop: New York City! It was a heady and exciting time to be in the hub of America’s awakening to fine food.
Highlights of Vito’s New York career include:
Sous chef to the legendary Masa Kobayashi at the celebrated restaurant Le Plasier
Executive Chef of The Greene Street Cafe
Executive Chef of The Morgan Hotel
A summer spent touring the country as guest chef (at such restaurants as Commanders Palace with Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme´s K-Paul´s, Wolfgang Puck´s Spago and Alice Waters´ Chez Panisse) sealed Vito’s reputation as an up-and-coming chef.
The BBQ Odyssey: Austin via New York... Memphis via San Francisco...
Even as the New York food world buzzed, Larry found the love of his life. On a paper plate. In a strip mall. Somewhere in East Texas. After weeks of cooking (and eating!) in one temple of fine cuisine after another, Larry realized that out of those hundreds of meals, the most memorable was right there in his hand: a heapin’ helping of tender, flavorful beef brisket, served with a dab of sauce and beans on the side.
Vito was already hooked when he received the invitation to serve as Executive Chef of the world-famous Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco. Larry wistfully set aside barbeque and jumped at the chance.
At the time Stanford Court was rated as No. 1 in the Americas, 15th in the world and one of only six hotels in America awarded Mobile Five Star status. Under Vito’s direction, the cafe at Stanford Court received three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle (the highest rating at the time) and a stellar three-page review from Gourmet magazine.
“Vito is among that select group of American Chefs with a style of their own…! His food is natural and honest, the work of a Chef that knows who he is and exactly what he wants to do." — Carolyn Bates, Food Editor, Gourmet
An association with M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard and other luminaries of the culinary arts "scene" profoundly influenced Vito’s cooking style. And the food world loved what he did with it.
Larry's reputation grew as the accolades and awards poured in, from Gourmet Magazine, the L.A. Times, Sunset Magazine, Food Arts, Redbook, San Francisco Chronicle, Wine and Food, The Wine Spectator and more local and international publications.
Vito's work frequently took him to the Sonoma and Napa valleys, where the wine is superb and the rich fermentation of people, soil and the elements had matured into a vibrant food and wine culture. Larry began catering elegant dinners and major wine and food events for Sonoma and Napa Wineries, and for prestigious wine and food societies.
“The food, impeccably prepared, was the most imaginative since the Thirteenth Annual California Vintners Barrel Tasting started thirteen years ago. It was one brilliant course after another.” — Gerald Asher, Wine Editor for Gourmet Magazine
Larry never forgot his secret sin — that barbeque sandwich in Texas. His quest to discover the secrets of slow-smoked Southern barbeque resumed. Vito split his time between Stanford Court, extensive travel (as a guest chef, speaker and teacher) — and BBQ.
Vito took his pilgrimage seriously. He visited the legendary barbeque capitals of Austin, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri. He talked with pit masters and learned hands-on from the best, collecting techniques on the road and experimenting in his kitchen at home.
Sonoma County, California — A Taste of Chef Heaven
Ultimately, the lure of the wine country proved irresistible. Vito moved to Sonoma County to establish the Larry Vito Catering Company in 1996. Drawing from the wine country’s agricultural bounty and decades of wine-pairing experience, Vito’s extraordinary sensitivity toward wine and food pairing and his fresh, fabulous menus have since satisfied many a bride.
Meanwhile: the secret to slow-smoked Southern barbeque beckoned... Just for fun, Vito imported his first wood-fired barbeque pit from Texas.
He added a few barbeque classics to his catering menu. Wineries began asking Vito to cater their wine club events. Before long, wedding parties were ordering barbeque for black tie wine country weddings. Where else could they find a classically trained French chef wearing the pit master's apron?
“The perfection of Larry’s cooking always shines forth in his extraordinary sensitivity towards pairing food to our wine.” — Jewell and Fred Fisher, Fisher Vineyards
BBQ Smokehouse Bistro & Catering
The quirky combination of down-home family cooking, classical French training and passion for authentic barbeque is more than the sum of its parts — Vito’s cuisine melds traditional Southern-style barbeque with bistro-style comfort food from both sides of the Atlantic.
Vito’s BBQ Smokehouse Bistro & Catering has garnered dozens of local awards from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, rave reviews from clientele and attention from the press. Vito is a member of the National BBQ Association and a certified Kansas City BBQ Society judge.
"That’s why, even though there are no real walls...there are also fancy accents like a dainty appetizer of silky smoked salmon striped with tarragon tartar sauce and a side of cucumber salad, moist chocolate layer cake in butter cream frosting kissed with red wine, and super-sweet homemade lemonade gussied with fresh pureed strawberries." ~ Carey Sweet, Inside Sonoma Wine Country Unfiltered
Sailing into Retirement...
An avid sailor and outdoorsman, Larry plans to spend his retirement split between living aboard his 37 ft custom Wiley sailboat on the west coast of Mexico and inside his camper van traveling throughout the Americas with his sweetheart, Kait.
Rest assured, both the sailboat and the camper van have fully equipt galleys.
The best is yet to come...