Dish Fest Q&A: Chef Tommy D’Ambrosio of Aioli Gourmet Burgers

Madison RutherfordFebruary 22, 2022
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In the days leading up to Dish Fest, we’re presenting our readers with exclusive chef interviews so they can learn the stories behind the Best Dishes being served at the inaugural festival.

What makes an elite burger? For chef Tommy D’Ambrosio of Aioli Gourmet Burgers, it’s all about taste, texture and presentation. The Italiano burger is a riff on the classic caprese salad, with a bold balance of flavors including tomatoes, mozzarella, bacon and, of course, a creamy basil garlic aioli. D’Ambrosio will be serving the Italian-inflected burger at Dish Fest. We sat down with the chef to learn more about his love for presenting gourmet flavor combinations in approachable ways.

What is the origin story of your Best Dish?
When I sat down to write the menu for Aioli Burger, I wanted to showcase flavors and combinations that you would find at a nice steakhouse because my background is in fine dining. I very much wanted to create a gourmet experience but still make it approachable to all eaters. The Italiano was inspired by a dish that I have always truly enjoyed, caprese salad. Simple, fresh and elegant but packed with flavor. Topping sliced garden tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese over one of our juicy all beef patties with bacon, drizzled with our basil garlic aioli encased in a brioche bun brings this classic salad to a whole new level.

What are the most important elements of a Best Dish?
For me, it is the balance of salty and sweet in every dish that I create that makes it special. Texture and presentation are also very important. When I am home cooking for family, I plate a dish like I would at my restaurant. It makes you appreciate the meal more when it is presented well.

What is your favorite food memory?
This is going to sound super cheesy but cooking meatballs with my grandmother is my all-time favorite food memory. The smell of her sauce as you pulled into the neighborhood, the love that she put into it and the love that she shared for her family is what has always inspired me. If we can remember that food is the way into people’s hearts, then everything else will follow.

Who is a fellow chef or restaurateur that you admire?
I have been lucky to work with some of the most incredible chefs that this country has to offer but my mentor, chef Richard Rosendale, has always been a guiding light to me. I was his apprentice during the Certified Master Chef Certification and after doing that he offered me a spot in his apprentice program at The Greenbrier, American Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. During that three-year program, I was able to get a crash course in how to always deliver your best in every dish you make and to understand the true definition of hard work.

What are you most looking forward to about Dish Fest?
I am looking forward to seeing everyone! Since the pandemic started, we have not been able to attend any festivals. This will be the first festival we have attended since 2020! Along with all chefs, I am also looking forward to sharing my dish with everyone.