Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Arizona is pleased to announce Todd Sicolo as Executive Chef. A veteran food and beverage executive with extensive luxury hotel experience, Chef Sicolo graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hype Park, New York, and boasts nearly 25 years of widespread culinary experience. Most recently, he served as Executive Chef of the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa over the past five years.
Raised in upstate New York by food-focused parents who had a garden, canned their own tomato sauce and turned apples into apple butter, applesauce, apple everything, he grew up appreciating honest food made with fresh ingredients. By the time he was 10, he was cooking with his grandmothers and by 15, he was peeling potatoes for the restaurant his dad and uncle had recently founded.
Sicolo will oversee all culinary operations at Royal Palms, including the resort’s highly acclaimed T. Cook’s restaurant. He intends to maintain T. Cook’s signature Mediterranean inspired cuisine as the ingredients and style resonate most closely with his seasonal, approachable culinary style, however he is already working on plans to breathe new life into the menu with more playful dishes and sexier presentations. The refreshed menu- which is now available for viewing – will promise to meet the preferences of the modern diner, while upholding the casual and comforting feel that is T. Cook’s, increasing its farm to fork presence.
Prior to his role at the Biltmore Resort, he honed his culinary skills as Executive Sous Chef at Boca Raton Resort & Spa in Boca Raton, Florida. Chef Sicolo has also served as Executive Chef at other notable luxury properties including Little Dix Bar, A Rosewood Resort in the British Virgin Islands and La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California.
five words to describe you: creative, passionate, prideful, perfectionist, integrity.
five words to describe t. cook’s: romantic, fun, comforting, dynamic, legendary.
favorite cookbook and why: i still love alinea! the restaurant is amazing and so is the cookbook. chef grant achatz presents some groundbreaking molecular gastronomy techniques. he’s ambitious. i’m still having fun experimenting with the recipes.
favorite food smell and why: i love the aroma of garlic toasted in olive oil with fresh oregano and chili flakes. reminds me of home, family gatherings and comfort.
ingredient you love to cook with and why: i’m sicilian…. so garlic! i guess it’s in my genes. i always have some on hand to whip up a dish from something so simple.
what’s your guilty pleasure?: i can crush an entire bowl of popcorn all by myself. i love salty savory crackly snacks. i keep it simple. the guilty part is the actual amount i eat in one sitting.
most over-rated ingredient: field greens! argh! when i eat them it reminds me of the days of playing soccer, sliding in the grass and getting a mouth full of grass clippings.
most under-rated ingredient: i’m gonna actually say two — fennel bulbs and root vegetables (like rutabagas or turnips.) all are very versatile, and can easily be made into a wonderful salad, sides, or simply cooked with butter, sea salt and pepper.
restaurant trend you like: farm to fork, local partnerships with local farms.
restaurant trend you hate: grass-fed beef; you really have to do your homework on this item. there are 100 % grass-feed cattle ranches, but there are also cattle ranches that feed the cattle corn the bulk of their lives, then in the last 3 to 4 months they move them to grass feed. do your homework. don’t take this for granted. read up on the ranch. it’s a good rule of thumb to do with all specialized products.
best food memory: this is actually a question i ask when interviewing chefs for a position. mine is growing, picking, washing and cooking tomatoes for tomato sauce, made from scratch with my grandmother gertrude and my mom sylvia. also, we used to do this applesauce and pear butter in the summer and fall to eat for the entire winter.
name one favorite local restaurant and the dish you love there: wright’s at the biltmore, beef tartare. sorry, it’s where i came from and i will always have a special place in my heart for the biltmore. the tartare itself is my recipe, but it’s a dish that’s a classic.
chef you’d like to meet and why: josé andrés. love his style, attitude and food!
kitchen in which you’ve had the most fun and why: in thomas keller’s kitchen doing a stage. great experience working with a master!
what do you know now that you didn’t 10 years ago?: to be patient, listen to people and take feedback not as an insult but as constructive criticism to make you better. just listen!
pet peeve when dining in a restaurant: slow unengaged service and lack of basic kitchen fundamentals. hot food should be on hot plates, cold food should be on cold plates.
local or national chef you admire and why: local chef eddie matney, because he’s not a quitter and always contributes 100%. he has done some great things for his team and for the city. just overall, a top notch chef and human being.
pet peeve in the kitchen: chef/cook rebuttals. think before you speak.
favorite thing to eat growing up: okay, i have a problem with these little pies, so they’re not even allowed in our house: hostess apple pies. i can easily crush 5 of these in a sitting.
favorite thing to eat now: great fruit — crisp apples, sweet cherries, all types of pears — ice cold.
i know your goal is to make t. cook’s menu more playful and fun. how do you plan to achieve that?: first, by separating the bar from the restaurant. next, more focus on seasonal menus and local partnerships with farms, which will elevate the quality of food product. we don’t want to be a restaurant you only visit for a special occasion. you can come multiple times throughout the week to see the new and exciting changes. we are blessed to have been able to hire christian giles as the gm for t. cook’s. he’s worked for charlie trotter for 16 years and his expertise in service and making guests feel welcome are a great addition to t. cook’s moving forward.
last meal on earth — what would it be?: sad to say, but there would be three items: mom’s meat balls and spaghetti, a whopper from bk and hands down, a whole new york pizza — greasy cheesy and crispy thin crust!