CLARK, NJ – While in high school, Clark native David Viana earned extra cash by working at nearby T&L Catering and Clark Lanes.
From an early age he loved cooking, however, having been discouraged by his pastry chef father from entering the trade, Viana graduated from Arthur L. Johnson High School in 1998 and studied criminal justice at Seton Hall instead.
Upon graduation, Viana worked for three months as a probation officer, then suddenly resigned and enrolled himself at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. It turned out his first love was his calling.
His unique style of cooking and farm-to-table cuisine has allowed Viana to make a name for himself in the restaurant. He is the owner and chef de cuisine of Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
On January 6, Viana found himself back in Clark doing a cooking demonstration for parents and students from ALJ to benefit the ALJ Parent Teacher Association.
Kim Baglieri, president of the ALJ PTA, organized the event which was attended by over 40 participants. Viana began by telling his story, including his being “discovered” on Bravo Television’s “Top Chef.” “It’s kind of been a whirlwind since then,” quipped Viana, “Clearly none of you would have any idea who I was if it weren’t for Top Chef.”
Assisted by Chef Rob Santiello and ALJ student Olivia Furci, Viana conducted a demonstration of a three-course meal made with only fresh locally attainable products.
The first course was a simple broccoli salad. “The key is to blanch the broccoli for ten seconds before serving,” demonstrated Viana. The salad also included aged gouda, fermented apples and roasted hazelnuts.
The second course was a squash ravioli. Viana concentrated mainly on showing the pasta making technique. While demonstrating this, Viana continued sharing his personal story. He explained that although he did not win on Top Chef, it has propelled him to culinary fame.
In 2018, the Institute of Culinary Education inducted Viana into their Hall of Fame. In 2019, Viana competed in the prestigious Prince Edward Island International Seafood Competition in Canada. “I was one of two finalists, and it was really intimidating because my rival was a local,” said Viana, “I wasn’t sure it was possible to actually win.”
Viana said after he “pulled out all the stops” and presenting three different courses that had to include a variety of seafood, he won the competition.
For his final course during his local cooking demonstration, Viana presented a Sous Vide, glazed chicken with mashed potatoes. “Sous vide is terrific for keeping the juices in and not drying out the meat,” said Viana.
Viana volunteered his time and supplies for the event. “We had agreed that the PTA would pay for the supplies,” said Baglieri, “but when I went to pay him, he refused. He’s a really nice man, and Clark should be proud of his accomplishments.”
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