Meet Jose “Cheo” Avila, Chef and Manager of Kon-Tiki at the Gallery Hotel

Chef Jose "Cheo" Avila, Photo: Courtesy Courtesy Agency 21
Chef Jose "Cheo" Avila, Photo: Courtesy Agency 21

Jose “Cheo” Avila of Kon-Tiki at the Gallery Hotel in Greenport graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. Avila brought absolutely delicious chicken lollipops to Dan’s Taste of Two Forks on Saturday, July 20 at Fairview Farm at Mecox in Bridgehampton. The Venezuela-born chef talks his favorite foods, his heritage and his shocking dislike of a certain deep-fried favorite.

First word (or words) that comes to mind when you hear “Taste of Summer.”
Citrus, seafood, charcoal fire, breeze, watermelon.

You can invite three people, living or dead, to your dinner party. Who are they, and what would that meal be?
Jose Andres, Steve Jobs and Thomas Jefferson are visionary people who created unique contributions to better society in ways no one could have imagined. For the meal, probably, some grilled seafood—grilled veggies included for Steve—and good Scotch in a beach shack in Venezuela.

What’s your favorite dish to prepare, and do you enjoy eating it as much as preparing it?
Stews: Slow cooking develops such a different result on raw ingredients that makes me think and imagine how the molecular structure changes and merges with others to create complex flavors.

Share your funniest/most unforgettable/oddest kitchen incident.
Electricity went off the busiest night of the summer. Chaos!

Who do you most admire in the food/wine world and why?
Jose Andres—he is an innovator in terms of food and hospitality out of all the cooks and chefs out there working hard to have his culinary voice be heard.

What is going to be the “next big thing” on the East End food scene?
Authentic, international regional cuisine.

What are your hobbies/passions/interests outside the world of food, wine and work?
Music, I’m a drummer, architecture and design.

Tell us a secret…
I don’t like doughnuts.

What’s the oddest request you’ve ever received from a diner?
Eggless omelet.

What’s the ultimate cocktail?
I very much appreciate few ingredients put together to create perfect balance; therefore an Old Fashioned is the ultimate cocktail for me.

What’s your comfort food and why?
Stews—their smell and taste bring me back to good memories right away.

What recent travels have you taken that have inspired you?
Last winter I did a tour through five countries of South America, but Peru was indeed my favorite food destination. It’s a country that lives and breathes for their cuisine.

What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever tasted?
Huitlacoche (truffled corn) at the heel of an Aztec pyramid.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being able to help and support others.

What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?
Not unique, but I like to high-five the crew members. Also, praise the fryer.

If you were not in the food or wine business, what would you be doing?
Architect or musician.

What has surprised you the most about working in the East End culinary scene?
The variety of organic fresh produce.

What is your go-to karaoke song?
“Wonderwall” by Oasis, easy to follow by everyone

It’s your last weekend on earth—what’s the menu?
Ceviche at Maido in Lima, Peru.

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