Culinary style is methodical yet adventurous
Benjamin Gamble has been a leading culinary influence in Middletown, Connecticut for the past three years as the executive chef at Tuscany Grill. Despite his young age of 26, he is methodical and focused when it comes to managing his team and executing flawless meals at the 200-seat restaurant, according to owners Brenda and Lynne Reilly.
“When Ben was hired as our sous chef I saw the qualities we look for in our executive chef,” Brenda Reilly said. “When the position became available I knew he could handle the pressure of being in charge of the creative direction of the restaurant.”
Gamble said he enjoys the thrill of a challenge both in and out of the restaurant. He loves to ski, fish and go four-wheeling, and his adventurous side shows in his cooking as well.
“I love experimenting with different flavor combinations. Sometimes you have to break tradition and challenge people’s palates” he said. “I know that the name Tuscany Grill suggests that we are strictly an Italian restaurant but we really consider ourselves a modern Italian place with lots of global influences.”
Gamble attended culinary school with Erin Reilly, Lynne’s daughter. He got to know the Reilly family during that time and learned about their restaurants, which include Baci Grill in Cromwell, Connecticut.
“I admired the Reillys’ passion for their family business and their appreciation of great food,” he said. “I knew that I could continue learning my craft with them and that I could bring something to the table as well.”
One of the changes made during Gamble’s tenure at Tuscany Grill is that the menu now offers two categories of entrees: classic and contemporary.
The Reilly family believes that it is important to give back to the community that has been supportive of their restaurant since its opening 19 years ago, and many fundraisers are held there each year. Gamble concurs with this philosophy and he participates in local charity competitions, including an annual citywide chili cook-off.
“Of course I always want to win”, Gamble laughs, “but really, the competition is a thrill in itself. There is a lot of culinary talent in Middletown and we push each other to constantly improve ourselves.”
Tuscany Grill is located at 120 College St., Middletown, Connecticut in the historic Middlesex Opera House building. For more information, visit www.tuscany-grill.com.
Here is the recipe for one of Gamble’s creations:
- 20 Large Sea Scallops
- 2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 2 oz. Salted Butter
- ½ Cup Asiago Cheese
- 2 oz. Fresh Basil
- ¼ Cup Chopped Red Onion
- 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in small sauce pan.
- Add onion and stir until translucent.
- Add Arborio rice and continue to stir until the outside of the rice is translucent.
- Add vegetable stock.
- Bring heat to low and continue to stir until the rice has absorbed the vegetable stock.
- Add Butter, cheese, and basil.
- Pat Dry then coat with salt and pepper.
- Heat large skillet to high and get the pan HOT.
- Very carefully add 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Carefully place the scallops in the pan and allow to brown for approx. 1-2 minutes on each side, brown on the outside and opaque in the center.
Blood Orange Gastrique Ingredients:
- 1 Cup Fresh orange juice – from approx. 6 oranges
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar
- ½ Cup vegetable stock
Blood Orange Gastrique Directions:
- Place sugar in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar melts.
- Cook until deep golden, approx. 4 minutes. Add vinegar (mixture will harden).
- Stir until the caramel melts.
- Add orange juice and boil until the mixture thickens (about 4 minutes).
- Add stock and boil until gastrique coats spoon and is reduced to approx. ½ cup, about 15 minutes.
Tuscany Grill’s bar staff is also adventurous and the restaurant is known for its signature cocktails. Here is the recipe for a drink featuring Tanduay Asian Rum, which launched in Connecticut last year.
Tanduay Asian Golden Apple
- 2 oz. Tanduay Gold Asian Rum
- ¾ oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
- 1 oz. lemon agave sour mix
- Sparkling Apple Cider
- Combine, rum, ginger liqueur, and lemon agave sour mix over ice and shake well.
- Strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice and top with sparkling apple cider.
- Garnish with slices of apple.