Chef David WhiteRecently, I had the pleasure of speaking with David White, Executive Chef at Vespa restaurant in Westport, Connecticut. He was selected as one of the 2015 Innovative Chefs for the Greenwich WINE+FOOD Festival where he will participate by bringing his unique style to create ah-mazing tastings of his cuisine during the festival. I can’t wait to see and taste his food at the festival this weekend and was excited to have an opportunity to chat with him before the festival kicks off (click here for tickets and info). David’s background includes culinary school (he graduated second in his class), Chef de Cuisine under the award-winning Andrew Masciangelo and Chef de Cuisine for Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the highly touted Inn at Pound Ridge.

Connecticut in Style: How did you get the Executive Chef position at Vespa?

Chef David White: “I have a friend who works here who told me that the owners were looking for a new chef, so I asked for an interview.”

CTIS: How do you interview for a position like this?

DW: “You prepare a tasting menu. I arranged a date with the owner, Bobby Werhane, and I came in that morning with everything I needed to prepare the meal. I used the Vespa kitchen and when I was ready, I let them know. I brought out one course at a time, explained to them what it was and how I prepared it. I didn’t sit with them, I wanted them to eat the food and be able to talk about it without me being there.”

CTIS: Who tasted your food and do you remember what you prepared for them?

DW: “The tasting was for Bobby (Werhane), Lindsay Rosetta, the General Manager and Susanne Berne, our Pastry Chef. I did a meat and cheese board, chicken liver toast, slow roasted halibut, and a NY strip steak with charred asparagus and a rosemary anjou.”

CTIS: What did they think of your food?

DW: “I blew them away.” (chuckles)

CTIS: What part of being a chef do you love the most?

DW: “Being creative and taking a few ingredients to make them into something really special.”

CTIS: What you do absolutely insist upon from your kitchen staff?

DW: “Cleanliness first and foremost. I want them to have a good time, but I insist upon them doing things correctly. For example, I will work with them on their knife skills and show them how to properly cut herbs to make sure that they don’t get bruised.”

CTIS: Who is your culinary hero?

DW: “Gordon Ramsay.”

CTIS: Describe your perfect dinner.

DW: “Tuna or salmon crudo, a pasta course, NY strip steak and potatoes, and our pastry chef Susanne’s Almond Blueberry Tart, it melts in your mouth!”

CTIS: There are a lot of celebs in Fairfield County, who is the most famous person you have cooked for?

DW: “I’ve cooked for a few. Harrison Ford, Meg Ryan and Melissa Joan Hart.”

CTIS: What is the greatest compliment that someone has given you?

DW: “Best meal I’ve ever eaten.”

CTIS: Do you get that a lot?

DW: “All the time.” (smiles)

CTIS: Last question. What is your favorite road trip snack?

DW: “Doritos!”

The restaurant is located in the historic National Hall on the shores of the Saugatuck River. Their rustic Italian menu is nicely balanced with something for everyone, and I especially appreciate that they offer half and full sizes of the pasta dishes so I have the option of getting a “secondi.” They serve lunch and dinner and brunch on Saturdays & Sundays, here is a link to the menus. And after reading the menus, I’m sure you’ll need this number to call for reservations (203) 557-9057 or you can use their online reservation system. Scroll down to see interior photos of this hip restaurant, I’m loving their abstract art work, it gives the place a modern vibe.

Vespa outside view

Vespa Plumb Bobs

Vespa Banquet Seats

Vespa window tables

Vespa chair detail

Vespa Art

Vespa Art 2

Sarah OBrien and Chef David White

{Me and Chef David White at Vespa in Westport, Connecticut}

Vespa Feature Image

More about David: David’s history is a bit different from most in that it began in his birthplace of Ochsenfurt, Germany and wrapped around the U.S. and Europe to his current position at Vespa in Westport, CT. Born in Germany, his family moved to Pennsylvania where he was raised. With family ties still in Europe, he went back during the summer months during school break. It was there where he developed his appreciation for European cuisine and later started working in many kitchens throughout Europe. During his training, he began to experiment with his own style of cooking and eventually developed a technique that he feels passionate about. He takes a minimalist approach to preparing and cooking food, preferring that each item is handled properly and respectfully to allow their natural flavor profiles to emerge. After being with Vespa for only a few months (he took the helm in May), his talents have been quickly recognized earning him press.

Photo credit: All photos by Sarah O’Brien, Founder & Creative Director of Connecticut in Style, a lifestyle blog. All rights reserved.