Chef Spotlight: Masood Masoodi

Chef Masood Masoodi has been a member of the Da Mimmo restaurant family for 26 years. His culinary training took place in Italy on the Amalfi Coast in the town of Positano at Le Sirenuse. Chef Masoodi prides himself on carrying on the tradition of Da Mimmo by preparing such signature dishes as the two-and-a-half-inch thick Veal Chop alla Fiorentina, as well as the Lobster Tetrazzini and Swordfish Mediterraneo. He also brings to the kitchen of Da Mimmo his own unique talent for cooking seafood, meats, pasta and risotto. A few of Chef Masoodi’s signature dishes include grilled asparagus with a reduction of balsamic vinegar and shaved Grana Padano cheese, pan-seared sea scallop risotto and a frutta di mare with paccheri pasta and grilled Chilean sea bass with pasta puttanesca. Be sure to save room for dessert because he makes an excellent Zabaglione and a to-die-for Bananas Foster.

In 2006, Chef Masood was invited by the Chinese Restaurant Association to Beijing to help them prepare for the 2008 Olympics. He did numerous cooking demonstrations and gave seminars on sanitation certification. Chef Masood was awarded Chef of the Year in 2007 by the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

Get to Know Masood Masoodi

Culinary contributor Amy Langrehr sat down with Chef Masood to chat about food, family and what’s great about Baltimore.

Was food a big part of your upbringing? How did you get into cooking?
MM: No, not really, I was just a kid! And I really didn’t start out wanting to be a chef. I came to the U.S. in 1974 and was an engineering student in Florida. It turned out I didn’t really like engineering very much. I later landed in Baltimore in 1982 and worked in computer information systems and it turned out, I didn’t like that too much either! I started working at Da Mimmo in 1989 as a server, moved up to management and eventually, chef. I’ve been going to Italy to learn more every summer since 2005. Hands-on learning is the best.

Lots of kids get to choose the meal on their birthday…anything they want (to a point, I suppose…). What would be your ‘birthday meal’ now? What did you ask for when you were a kid?
MM: Well, no, we didn’t really do that when I was a kid. Every meal was special, really. Now? I am always on a private yacht on the Amalfi Coast - not bad, huh? Early September is when we do that tour. We’re usually around Capri on my actual birthday. Birthday cake, the whole thing. It’s the best.

Do you have a mentor? Any chefs who really helped you find your way?
MM: Yes, indeed, I do. Chef Pascale Amendola. He’s at a hotel in Positano, Le Sirenuse. He taught me many, many things about Italian cooking that I really needed to learn and master. For example, there was a pasta festival there and it showcased 72 kinds of pasta. He made all of them. I admire him so much. He taught me so many important things.

How do you balance home and work?
MM: My life is Da Mimmo. Whatever it needs, I am here. I live 11 steps from the restaurant. We have a wonderful staff here, many of whom have been here anywhere from nine years to 30 years. They are like family. We’re all very close.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in the city? Where would you take a chef visiting Baltimore?
MM: When we have visitors from Italy, we sometimes take them to The Prime Rib or Ruth’s Chris. I can’t do just Italian food. I love Japanese, Mexican, Indian and more. I love making chili, also steamed crabs at home in the backyard with perfectly ripe summer tomatoes. I really do love down-to-earth food.

What are some of your favorite dishes to make at your restaurant?
MM: First, I will say porcini mushroom risotto - each one is different and you have to babysit it. When it’s perfect, it’s amazing. Everyone loves our grilled sea bass and the pasta puttanesca, so good. (As he describes these dishes, Chef Masood is so passionate, and happy!)

What do you like about Baltimore?
MM: I’ve been here a long time now. We have so much potential here, we have not nearly reached it. Like any city, we have our share of problems, but when people visit Baltimore, they can see how beautiful it is. We love our life here and it will only get better. I think that the next ten years will be very telling.

What do you want people to know about Baltimore?
MM: It’s a wonderful place. For tourists, too, there is much to do. Going to a baseball game, shopping, walking around the harbor, Fell’s Point, Little Italy - and there is so much history here! You can visit Fort McHenry and so many other historic sites. To me, Baltimore is better than Philadelphia in that way, but then, this is home for me.

What do you love about food?
MM: It makes people happy. It brings people together. You know, like a seven course meal on a Sunday with lots of people around the table - that’s so much fun! Time together is important. Sit, relax, talk. We need that.

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