Chef Highlight: Joseph Realmuto, Honest Man Restaurant Group
Joseph Realmuto began his culinary career at the Culinary Institute of America. While attending CIA in 1991, he interned and then worked under John Laughran at the River Café in Brooklyn. Upon graduation in 1993, he spent his first summer in the Hamptons at Nick & Toni’s. Realmuto returned to Manhattan for the off-season and landed at Park Avalon in Manhattan. At Park Avalon, Realmuto worked all kitchen stations for owner Steve Hansen, under chef Jim Botsokis.
In early 1994, Realmuto returned to his summer job and began what was to be a long relationship at one of Long Island’s critically acclaimed restaurants, Nick & Toni’s. Joe was initially hired as a line cook and for the next two years he honed his skills as sous chef under executive chef Paul Del Favero, before becoming the chef de cuisine in 1996. During his stint as sous chef under Del Favero, Nick & Toni’s received two stars from the New York Times’ Ruth Reichl, was awarded the Golden Dish Award from GQ and received high praise from Food & Wine when they claimed that, “Nick & Toni’s is the best Italian restaurant on the East End.” Late in 1996, Realmuto was named Nick & Toni’s executive chef. In 2001, Nick & Toni’s received a three-star review or an “excellent” from The New York Times and was awarded a “very good” in 2015 from The New York Times following their 25th anniversary. Realmuto has created and overseen the opening of four additional restaurant concepts with Honest Man Restuarant Group—Rowdy Hall, an English-style French bistro pub; La Fondita, an authentic Mexican takeout spot; Townline BBQ, a Texas-style BBQ joint; and Coche Comedor, a regional Mexican restaurant inspired by local products.
Realmuto has appeared alongside several celebrity chefs on the Food Network. He appeared on five episodes of Ina Garten’s show Barefoot Contessa, cooking signature dishes from Nick & Toni’s, La Fondita and Townline BBQ. He was selected as a judge alongside Bobby Flay on The Next Food Network Star. Giada de Laurentis featured Nick & Toni’s and Realmuto on a 2007 episode of Giada’s Weekend Getaways. He was also commissioned to participate in The Q, a BBQ festival hosted by Paula Deen and her sons in Miami Beach as part of the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. Realmuto has appeared several times on George Hirsch Lifestyle on PBS. He was featured on ABC’s The Chew in the fall of 2014 and appeared on FOX NY’s Good Day New York cooking up some Townline BBQ out of the company’s mobile smoker.
Realmuto has a devotion to local and organic produce on his menus. He helps maintain the one-acre organic garden behind Nick & Toni’s, where he harvests items in season that go right to the plate. He is also involved with the Hayground School’s Young Chef’s Program, a chef-lead workshop for young children. He maintains relationships with many local farmers and produce suppliers supporting East End farms, such as EECO farms, Satur Farms and Quail Hill Farms. Realmuto is currently the executive chef for all Honest Man Retaurant Group establishments: Nick & Toni’s, Coche Comedor, Rowdy Hall, La Fondita, Honest Catering and Townline BBQ.