Dan’s Taste 2021 Chefs: Jose 'Cheo' Avila, KonTiki
KonTiki in Greenport is widely considered one of the most intriguing restaurants on the North Fork, and that’s largely due to the unique culinary direction of Chef Jose “Cheo” Avila. Taste his one-of-a-kind cuisine at Dan’s Chefs of the North Fork on Saturday, July 10.
First word (or words) that comes to mind when you hear “Taste of Summer?”
The fragrance of a freshly shucked oyster on the shore of the Peconic Bay.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From where I came from and where I will be.
You can invite three people, living or dead, to your dinner party. Who are they, and what would that meal be?
A past, present and future version of me will be doing the cooking and sharing wisdom. You know, experience is the most important commodity, but once you have it, it can sometimes be too late.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare, and do you enjoy eating it as much as preparing it?
Soup for the soul.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Carolyn, my benefactor, said to me, “Work hard, set the example and, most importantly, go the extra mile.”
Who do you most admire in the food/wine world and why?
Danny Mayers, ground-breaking dude. Google him.
What is going to be the “next big thing” on the East End food scene?
What are your hobbies/passions/interests outside the world of food, wine and work?
Rescuing and restoring designs from the ’60s. Just to give you an idea, my girlfriend, Amanda, and I drove several times to the Midwest to bring gems from that decade, bring them to back to life and have them here on the North Fork.
What’s your comfort food and why?
Pastitsio, it’s like a lasagna. My mother makes a really good one. When I feel homesick, I search around for a good, proper Long Island Italian place.
If you were not in the food or wine business, what would you be doing?
I would be an architect; I studied it back in Venezuela, but I shifted towards Culinary Arts.
What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever tasted?
Peruvian food from the source, you must visit Peru when possible. Just plain amazing!
What recent travels have you taken that have inspired you?
The outskirts of Chicago—there is a Mexican restaurant called Carnitas Uruapan (@carnitas_uruapanchi on Instagram). Best tacos that I ever had, and I’ve been to Mexico.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
After traveling the nation, working throughout all kinds of restaurants, I finally found home at KonTiki on the North Fork, which is such a unique and great environment for the good food lover. I have had the pleasure of running that restaurant for the past four years. One more summer to come and one more location, too…
What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?
Order and cleanliness. It’s my father’s motto applied to all of his entrepreneurial activities; he taught me about the importance of this practice. That’s the only way for us to run our establishment, therefore routine becomes ritual. The feeling of working in an organized, clean and well-oiled restaurant is transcendent, so much so that it becomes spiritual.
What has surprised you the most about working in the East End culinary scene?
The amazing amount and variety of fresh produce, wine and seafood.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Any song from The Beatles or Oasis.
It’s your last weekend on earth—what’s the menu?
We just handed you a glass of bubbly. Now please make a toast to summer on the East End.
After having such a difficult past year, let’s remember ones who have passed away and thank the heroes who work so hard to make this summer possible. Cheers to them!