Cooking Up His Dreams – Chef Dellanno


By Zachary Berger, Staff Writer

We all grow up thinking we want to be one thing and our path takes us a totally different one. Some of us have our sights on a specific goal and continue forward until we reach that goal. Chef Dellanno is a determined person who growing up wanted to become a chef. “That’s all I ever wanted to do. My goal of becoming a chef expanded when I went into the Culinary Arts Program in high school. The Culinary Academy opened my eyes to the world beyond just being a chef. I realized that working in the culinary and hospitality field could offer me jobs in hotels, stadiums, airlines, restaurants, etc., performing roles not only in the kitchen but in the greater customer service realm.”

Chef Dellanno’s thirst to be a chef started early for him, “When I was younger, I was always in the kitchen begging my mom to help turn meatballs or assisting my dad with any prep work that needed to be done. They are the ones that helped fuel my passion for food.” Chef Dellanno gives credit where credit is due – his parents and his teachers, “I must give some kudos to my teachers for expanding my horizons into the culinary and hospitality fields because without them I would not have been able to travel on my career path.”

So where did Chef Dellanno learn the ‘tools of the trade’? He attended Johnson and Whales where he learned a lot about the culinary and hospitality industry. This mainly focused on bookwork and improving skills. However, it was his real-life experiences on the job that gave him the bulk of his practical training. Chef Dellanno added, “By holding numerous management positions, I learned that good leadership and training comes from decisions that you make. Some decisions work out for the best while others don’t, but you always learn and improve from those decisions.  I have great mentors like my teachers, bosses, and industry professionals that I learned from as well by observing their leadership qualities. As I progressed throughout my career in the various stages I picked up and learned my management style and know what works for me and what doesn’t.”

In order to get that real-life experience, we all wind up in the workforce. Whether it was in roles pre-COVID or now those roles can shape who we are as a person and our future in what jobs we look to do after school. Chef Dellanno is no different. His first job was during his sophomore year of high school when he worked at Rita’s Italian Ice. By the time he was graduating high school, he was the manager of the store. However, not to just ride one path Chef also worked as a supervisor at MetLife Stadium and the Prudential Center training the employees on Rita’s Products at their concessions stand. He also said, “During the off-season of sports and winter months, I was a line cook and did off-site catering for a few local establishments. After college, following my internship, I landed the role of Food and Beverage Manager at Twin River Casino in Rhode Island. While I was there, I oversaw the day-to-day operations of two bars and three restaurant concepts. I also completed the ordering and scheduling for over 80+ employees.”  With the different roles and jobs, Chef Dellanno has had including the Food and Beverage Manager with Legends Hospitality at the Staten Island Yankees Baseball Stadium, his favorite job until now was working at the casino due to the overall feel of the place was positive and welcoming so that makes it my favorite previous job. 

In retrospect, if Chef Dellanno could tell his younger self something when first starting out in culinary it would be to keep all options open and go into everything with an open mind. “When I first got into culinary, I wanted to be a chef. My career took me down a totally different but fulfilling path which had brought me great satisfaction. I have met amazing people and had once-in-a-lifetime opportunities along the way. I’m happy that I can continue to meet new people and learn from them every day.” He would also make sure to stress that one should not be afraid to take risks when it comes to career choices. You should give yourself the chance to succeed and continue to make connections with everyone you can so that you don’t hesitate to ask questions.  

Asking questions can prove even more difficult now with COVID causing havoc in the kitchens and schools. Culinary is no different. Chef Dellanno feels the hardships, “Culinary is meant to be hands-on learning. Teaching knife cuts, cooking techniques, safety measures, serving, dining, customer service, and taste are just some of the characteristics that describe what this program is all about. Not being able to physically show students in person or have them taste in person is a big disadvantage.” Even at a disadvantage Chef shared his fondness for his students during this time of altered schooling, “However, I could not be prouder of the students. The students in the Culinary Program are what make my job a teacher great! Whether we are full virtual or in the hybrid model, the students come to class excited to learn and participate during the labs! Seeing photos of students making what we learned in class for their families at home gives me the gratification that even during this very difficult time, the students are grasping the concepts and thriving.”

The students are not the only ones impacted by COVID. The teachers have been affected just the same. While we all are wearing pajama pants or sweatpants COVID has greatly impacted Chef Dellanno both professionally and personally. “Teaching culinary virtually is not ideal. But like everything, you must adapt to it. I feel myself still adapting and changing things around compared to what they used to be.  I really miss having the students run the restaurant and having organized “chaos” in the kitchen. But I am learning every day how to be a more effective teacher in this environment and adapting to the times. As for my personal life? I am a huge sports fan, so I miss going to sporting events! I also miss going to movies and concerts and being able to see large groups of friends. I’m sure we are all missing these social things. There is one positive that came out of COVID for me: I was able to pick back up one of my old hobbies! I love sports memorabilia, so I have been able to focus on that a little bit more.” 

Students would be surprised to find out that one of Chef’s hobbies is collecting and trading sports cards and sports memorabilia. “It is something that I collected as a kid, but since the pandemic hit, it is a hobby I picked back up which I really enjoy. My collection includes autographed jerseys, helmets, bats, balls, and sports cards. I’ve always been a big sports fan as a kid but collecting as an adult brings it to a whole other level. I especially enjoy collecting the rookies and watch them progress in hopes that they do well.” So when he is not collecting sports cards and memorabilia Chef Dellanno spends his summer breaks with the family and seeing friends. Prior to COVID, he explained that he would take a trip with his immediate family once a year, usually in August. Also, just because school is out it does not mean Chef Dellanno isn’t involved in culinary. He further explained, “Currently, I am the Front of House Restaurant Manager at the Parker House located in Sea Girt. During the summer months, I am there six days a week, so most of my family and friends can find me there!”

Just in case his culinary career doesn’t work, he wins the lottery, and decides to give up teaching altogether, Chef said he would invest his money into owning a franchise(s) of some sorts trying to keep it within the food world but opening 3-4 franchise locations. On the flip side, if he did not win the lottery but did not go into the culinary profession he figured he would choose the aviation industry. “If I did not end up doing something in the culinary realm, I would want my profession to be a pilot. I have always had a huge interest in planes and how they operate. Believe it or not, being a pilot still falls under the hospitality category.”

When we go through our high school years searching for our career path, for our ultimate goal we can take a deep sigh of relief knowing that there are teachers such as Chef Dellanno to guide us. Like he has said, “It’s important to understand how food plays a role within cultures and how it brings people together; the best way to understand this is to be immersed in it.”