This week’s Womply Merchant Spotlight is on Chef Tony’s Restaurant. Located in Bethesda, Chef Tony’s is a wonderful place to visit, especially for seafood lovers. Chef Tony’s mission is to deliver the freshest produce brought in by local farmers, fish mongers, and people who take pride in high-quality food. The food menu is changed daily to accommodate the flavorful foods of the season and unique catches of the day.
With dishes such as grilled freshwater trout, parmesan crusted sole, and grilled twin filet mignon satay, there’s no doubt that you will drool a bit (or a lot!) while reading the menu. Along with the delicious dishes offered for dinner, Chef Tony’s Restaurant also offers a lunch menu and a Sunday Bottomless Mimosa Brunch.
The Womply team was able to get an exclusive interview with Chef Tony himself. In addition to running a wonderful restaurant, he was also once the Executive Chef for McCormick & Schmick’s and has been featured on media outlets such as CNN. His energy and dedication for working hard and running a successful business with continuously satisfied customers doesn’t go unnoticed. We hope you enjoy reading our interview with Chef Tony!
Womply’s Interview with Chef Tony
What is your name and title?
Tony Marciante, Chef/Owner of Chef Tony’s Restaurant
When did you know that this was your dream and passion?
I literally had a vision during high school of myself at a white/red checked tablecloth with friends, it was “post shift” at an Italian restaurant, and we were sitting down for a meal. It had a very homey and comforting feeling, and soon after that “vision” I started in the restaurant business.
So you’re an award-winning Chef, Restaurateur and business owner, and that is amazing. Can you tell us more about your success and how you got to where you are now? Any advice for individuals starting out in this industry?
There is so much to be said here, but one of the great results of the explosion of food on tv and media in general would be people’s interest in food. Those young chefs getting into the business though unfortunately are many times looking at this like, “Hey, I’d love to be Michael Jordan, so let me play basketball and hit a few 3′s, I should be on TV soon!” Anyone who gets in the restaurant business especially better be ready for REALLY hard work, long hours, and a thick skin. It’s tough, but very rewarding when it works…hearing from my guests that they love my food is really wonderful. At the same time, I also realize that you can’t please everyone, and along with the creative side, I have to constantly think business and make sure all the facets work.
What is your favorite dish to make and what characteristics of the dish make it your favorite?
Probably our Seared Scallops. It’s so simple, but it really features and shines the freshness of what we buy…I just like to surprise people with how good the bounty of the sea can be. I’m not focusing to be uber creative, but just provide an amazing meal that people go “wow” about…
What is the most creative dish you’ve ever made?
Hard question to answer, I really try to stay simple and true to my “rustic gourmet” mentality. I believe if you buy truly amazing and fresh product, you don’t have to do much to it. It’s not as glamorous, but it keeps my guests coming back over and over.
I do remember a pumpkin risotto that I made many years ago just from an idea I had, the next month a popular food magazine featured the same idea on their front cover, so I guess I was thinking along the right lines… End of the day, I feel happy when my guests just slap the table and say how good the food was. I like that it makes tummies happy.
What is your favorite night of the week at Chef Tony’s and why?
Saturday…it’s got a great energy. We’re generally very busy, and I love knowing that I can please so many people, and actually still have some time to interact as well. Sundays are pretty awesome too at brunch..it’s a laid back shift that leads into Monday (my day off). :)
Care to share a tip on how to run a successful restaurant/business with us?
Be a “hustler”. And let me define that word very importantly…as a business owner, you have to be ready at any time to adjust your “play”, to take criticism, and to capture sales opportunities. Stock your mind with the latest tools and strategies, and never get complacent…someone is always out there that can get better than you…it’s not necessarily whose food is better, or who gets more press, but running your business and making a profit keeps you able to practice your craft.
What was one of the most enjoyable experiences you’ve had with a customer?
Planning a very large post wedding event with a family from Texas was a recent one…there were so many emails, and moving parts..but we made the night amazing for the parents. Sitting down with them afterward made me really happy that it all came out.
Where did you learn to cook and who taught you?
As much as I had a great “food culture” growing up with both my parents home cooking nightly, I also gleaned many great cooking tips by eating at my friends houses who were all from around the world. Eating truly authentic Chinese, Indian, Spanish and other cuisines taught me a wide variety of food profiles early. It definitely helped me to be international in my appreciation of food.
I was scheduled to attend the prestigious cooking school the Culinary Institute of America, but a few months ahead of leaving, I got an offer from my best friend to open a restaurant in North Carolina, and I took the path less chosen and went down there for a couple years. I’m essentially self taught, but certainly appreciate the idea of a formal education. I think both aspects have great merits.
Your restaurant focuses largely on fresh and local seafood. Can you tell us a little about how that affects your typical day-to-day routine?
I am always getting more and more involved (as time permits) in learning from my suppliers what is freshest and most available. It’s a reality in our business that we are always trying to hit a moving target that covers our guests tastes, costs of our business, what our restaurant can comfortably produce, scheduling of deliveries, volume of guests, etc…so we are always taking our most educated guesses on how much and what to buy. Keeping our menu printed daily makes it easier. I can go to a market, pick up certain fish or produce, and just come up with something special for that night’s menu. It is both challenging and interesting for us to do every day. I have a big truck that stays busy with fresh produce, fish and other products to stock my restaurant.
We also see that you really enjoy marketing and technology. What do you love the most about it and how do you incorporate it with your business plan?
I love technology and business, ever since I was a kid. As business owners we have to be marketers constantly, and keeping our business fresh with technology is just smart. The restaurant industry is super competitive, and while I believe we each have our own little slice, I want mine to be as big as I can. Being sharp marketers and using smart technology just helps me spread my message to more and more people. I believe once people dine in my restaurant, they’ll be back. I involve myself in social media to help build my tribe (community) and help grow my business internally by having my guests spread the word with me.
Be sure to visit Chef Tony’s when you get a chance. As you can see, you don’t want to miss this wonderful experience!
Here are a couple more pictures from Chef Tony’s Restaurant to entice your taste buds:
Chef Tony’s Restaurant is located at 4926 St Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814
A special thank you to Chef Tony from Chef Tony’s Restaurant for taking the time to chat with us!