SOMERS, N.Y. - Holding a squeeze bottle, Joey Fecci delivers pinpoint droplets of sauce on a butternut squash fritter with Parmesan fonduta, while two other chefs at Unwined Wine Bar and Kitchen fuss over plates about to go out to hungry diners.
It was a Saturday night when the Somers High School grad took over the Unwined kitchen to cook for a crowd of his family and neighbors. It was a celebratory event for Fecci, who recently began working at Per Se, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan, which is among only 15 restaurants nationwide that have earned three stars.
“To have that much appreciation and support showing up for me was great,” Fecci said.
Fecci was excited to see people gather together and taste the courses he designed for the special night on Oct. 5. The five-course seasonal menu included scallop crudo, sunchoke agnolotti, steelhead trout, steak and apple compote.
Stephanie Small, co-owner of Unwined Wine Bar and Kitchen at Baldwin Place, was impressed by Fecci’s accomplishments and wanted to feature the local “up-and-coming talent” in her community-based restaurant.
“We’re very inclined to be supportive of the community through providing him the opportunity to showcase himself here at home,” Small said.
Fecci’s passion for food began at a young age when he spent hours in the kitchen alongside his father cooking Italian food, which motivated him to pursue a career in the industry.
His first job was at a local Italian restaurant working as a busboy, pizza chef and salad maker. After graduating from Somers High School in 2015, Fecci earned an associate’s degree from the Culinary Institute of America, whose alumni own one-fifth of Michelin-starred restaurants countrywide, according to the university’s website.
Fecci said he also benefited from high school programs which provided opportunities for him to tour restaurants and create menus.
Along the way, he was able to learn from mentors, including “Best Chef in America” award-winner Charlie Palmer and Michelin-starred restaurant top chef Joe Flamm, when he lived in Manhattan and Chicago.
“If you want to be successful in this industry, you have to seriously put in the time and effort to learn,” Fecci said. “It’s exciting to see how far I’ve come since I was in high school, cooking dinner for my family. I’ve developed a lot since then, but I know I’m not even half way there to what I can be.”
His cooking style is also influenced by reading, tasting and travel. He incorporates influences from cities across the U.S. and Europe. Whenever he travels to a new place, he eats at local restaurants and chats with chefs to learn about different cuisines and their craft.
Fecci said he likes to cook locally and seasonally. He’s pulled from the cultures and history of everywhere from the Midwest farms to the Hudson Valley and Atlantic Ocean region.
“There are so many different cuisines out there and the industry is always evolving with different techniques coming up. I’m trying to get a little piece of as much as I can, and to figure out what works for me,” Fecci said. “It’s more inspiring than challenging to work with different foods.”
While Per Se will keep him busy, his future plans are to travel and hone his craft and ultimately start a restaurant of his own.
“I want to see how much further I can push myself,” Fecci said. “The way to do that is to get in a big kitchen, test and challenge myself.”