Whether you’ve stopped in for a meal at The Hawkeye, enjoyed dinner at the Glimmerglass during one of your stays at the Otesaga, or attended one of the many dinner events, you’ve been introduced to Chef Jim Perillo. Perhaps you’ve not met Chef Perillo personally, but you’ve certainly enjoyed one of the many delicious dishes he prepares every day at the Otesaga.
As it turns out, there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to the creation of the food at the Otesaga. In order to get a peek into the magic Chef Perillo creates every day in his restaurants, we wanted to take you into the kitchen and let you get to know him a little better…
How long have you been a chef?
I’ve been working in the food business since I began in a pizzeria at 13 and continued in that line of work during my time in the Navy. From there, this profession has taken me all over the country. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with talented chefs at places such as The Biltmore, Caesars Palace LV, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and many other places. All of those locations lead me to The Otesaga Resort Hotel, where I’ve been for the last two and a half years.
What did those experiences teach you?
As a chef, you can either stay in one location and master all of the local offerings…or you can venture out to different parts of the country and see things done differently. For instance, when I began working in Arizona, it was the first time I saw prickly pear sauce made. Learning new recipes and pairings has helped me find what I wanted to be as a chef. I was able to pick bits and pieces and see what I wanted to showcase for myself.
What is one perk of being Chef here in Cooperstown?
The amount of good local produce. For instance – cheese. We have very good local cheese at our disposal. We utilize Spurbecks cheddar a lot. We have Three Sisters and Painted Goat Farms who supply us with goat cheese. We teamed up with a couple of farms for this year as well. One is sending us heirloom tomatoes and another specializes in lettuce.
It’s always hard to find things in season. So, when apples are in season we make sure to take advantage of the local apples - apple cider, etc. - and we focus on those menu items during those seasons.
What is the biggest change you have seen in your time here at The Otesaga?
The passion for food that we have on the team cooking here. We teamed up with SUNY Delhi and SUNY Cobleskill and have 26 students that work and intern here who have really helped us. Getting people who are going to culinary school and giving them the reality of working in a real kitchen…when everyone in the kitchen is passionate about what they do it shows in the food you serve.
How do you create your menu?
Our next menu change will be 4th of July to kick-off summer. We’re looking for what local produce we have available to us. Then, we try to create new menu items based on those products – I’m not going to make Tomato Gazpacho in December because the tomatoes aren’t in season. We make sure we’re only serving the best quality items.
From there, we start having tastings. We make each meal option and have the staff try them all. We will grade the dishes and make notes on what is good, what needs tweaking, and what needs to go back to the drawing board. Once the meals are set, we do a presentation to the front of the house so they can taste it and offer relevant opinions and information to our customers.
How much do allergies and gluten free affect your creations?
It hasn’t really affected us with the menu, but when you cook from scratch, you eliminate a lot of what people can’t eat – as far as gluten free. So that is a big reason why.
We get more requests for vegan meals now, so we incorporate a few of those options in the menu. It’s exciting to create something that’s new or different for people that are looking for those menu items.
What is the difference between a meal at The Otesaga and a meal at one of the many fine restaurants in Cooperstown?
Our drive here is we make everything from scratch. For example, almost anywhere you go in town serves hamburgers. However, we grind our burgers in-house, we have our own blend meats, and we hand form them. We make the brioche bun the hamburger goes on. This year we’re adding pretzel rolls to the menu, so we sent our baker to Las Vegas to learn how to bake the pretzel rolls.
Where a lot of places might outsource, we incorporate it. We have a butcher, baker, pastry chef…all in-house. It’s a lot harder to make everything in house, but the difference is worth the effort.
That’s where the talent comes back in. Are you passionate enough to go the extra mile? That’s what we pride ourselves on here at The Otesaga Resort and we think our offerings show that.