Behind Closed Doors: Secret Tips and Tricks from One of the Hottest Chefs at NYC’s Most Exclusive Restaurant

As part of our Behind the Burner food series, I had the unbelievable opportunity to chat with John DeLucie, Executive Chef and Partner of one of New York City’s top celebrity hang outs, The Waverly Inn, a spot so exclusive, the dining is by invitation only.

Needless to say, this gastronomic gem has catered to the highest of high profile crowds, making it a venue to see and be seen while serving up some of the most extraordinary cuisine this side of Eden.  But thanks to the passion of Divya Gugnani, chef, foodie and founder of Behind The Burner, a website that brings the most coveted tips and trends in the culinary scene to the masses, dining like a star is as close as this blog post.

So, read on as we literally go Behind the Burner of the Waverly Inn and inside the creative mastermind that has turned dining into a red carpet event.  

DeLucie, one of today’s hottest chefs, is as personable as he is talented, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to quality, well prepared traditional fare with a twist (like his Mediterranean Octopus appetizer), and known for creating an experience that’s as enjoyable as the food itself.

Favorite indulgent food: Lombardi’s Pizza-classic margherita

Favorite healthy food: Basmati Rice (that counts right?)

One kitchen tool you can’t live without: My micro-plane. It does exactly what it promises consistently, and without complaint.

One ingredient you can’t live without: Garlic; it can be harsh, it can be sweet and somehow there is always some around when you need it most.

Most prized recipe: My grandmother’s “Pasta Fazool”

What inspires your cooking?

Movies, books, music, NYC… I recently saw a documentary about the artist Chuck Close and I swear I was able to make my Amish chicken juicier and crispier.

Do you have a signature dish?

The restaurant has several signature dishes. Chicken pot pie, mac and cheese with truffles, trout cooked on a cedar plank. My own personal signature dish would probably have mortadella in it.

How does it feel to own a celebrity “hot spot?”

Hmmm… all tingly and warm.

I understand that you have chicken pot pie on the menu. How do you innovate such a traditional meal?

Just by simplifying it and using the best, most natural ingredients possible.

Do you change the menu with the seasons?  Or do the seasons affect your cooking style?

As a rule I find that that customers don’t really want the menu to change very much. The offerings become reliable and comfortable. If suddenly the dish isn’t there one day, anarchy can ensue! So we incorporate the seasonal offerings as additions to the menu.

Do you think it’s important to experiment as a chef?

Yes, experiment, eat out, travel, have sex. These can all have an invaluable benefit to cooking.

Are there green elements to your cooking style?

Sure, we use lots of green market stuff, local produce and Hudson Valley purveyors.

Tell us more about your upcoming book, The Hunger.

It’s an inside look at the restaurant business from a very personal perspective. How a guy (me) changed careers in young middle life, took a cooking course in a basement brownstone and ended up the Chef at a truly spectacular restaurant. It’s aspirational, a little dirty and a lot of fun.

Is it difficult to balance the business and creative sides of your business as chef and partner?

No, not really. I have an amazing set of partners who are each good at a different thing. The menu and the management of the kitchen is my main responsibility.

How do you feel about sharing your tips and trade secrets at BehindtheBurner.com?

If anyone can learn anything at all from me I am all for it. There is nothing new under the sun as a very wise French Chef once told me.

What excites you most about food?

Mostly what it’s capable of — bringing people together.

You seemed very comfortable on camera preparing octopus for the Behind the Burner viewers. Is a TV show or food podcast in your future?

I am fairly comfortable doing in front of a camera what I normally do for 12 hours a day. TV is fun. If there is ever a show that needs a rapidly aging chef as its host, please call me.

With your vast and eclectic background, what do you envision your next endeavor to be?

Another restaurant or book I suppose. As long as The Hunger isn’t piled to the ceiling in the .99 cent bin at the Strand once its released! 

5-star dining at home is only a click away when you join Behind the Burner for access to trade secrets from other culinary masters like John plus exclusive membership savings on the tools and ingredients that will have you cooking like a top chef by the new year!  Enter code ‘polipetti’ for a special 15% discount on seafood and other fine foods at MYLOgourmet, where John purchases many of his key ingredients. 

And be sure to check back each week as we feature another renowned chef who will share unique culinary insights and advice with you. Next week, meet Gavin Kaysen of Cafe Boulud, known for his inventive vegetarian dishes, and the following week, enjoy a VIP pass to the one and only, Harold Dieterle, winner of Season 1 of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, and owner of the booming new downtown NYC restaurant, Perilla

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About the Author

Gennefer Gross is a digital media executive turned television comedy writer. She is currently co-founder of Gross Factor Productions, an independent film and television production company she runs with her husband and writing partner, David Gross. She is also a Los Angeles food and fashion blogger for Tasty Beautiful. Gennefer's unique ability to make luxury living accessible for the modern woman has made her one of the most sought-after tastemakers in NYC and LA, and she was recently named one of Behind The Burner's food experts. When Gennefer isn't writing or juggling one of her many projects, she can be found on a quest for the world's best burger.
  • A beautiful interview with some wide-reaching insights from John DeLucie. It’s no wonder he’s the head chef at the exclusive The Waverly Inn. Much of his advice may on the surface seem very food centered, but when you step back it can be applied to much bigger things, such as personal and business life. Keeping it simple, giving people what they want with seasonal additions and having a team of multitalented members is something we ALL can benefit from.

    Re-read this interview and see how you can apply his advice to your situations.

  • Damien – Thanks so much for your insightful comment. I’ve always believed that there is wisdom in food and that the art of cooking and dining mirror all of life’s experiences. Food is, after all, at the heart of the home, and everything from food preparation to enjoying flavorful cuisine is a reminder of the importance of savoring the little things and the inherent values and pleasures that connect us all.