Chef's choice / Bruce Wieszala
Shown eating pho at Fast food 99
Current restaurant: Carmelo’s (also owns COPPA Artisan Cured Meat)
Years in current job: Eight months
Current title: Sous chef
Years in the business: Thirteen
Formal education: “The school of hard knocks!”
Style of cooking: Seasonally driven modern authentic Italia
Bruce Wieszala is one of Western New York’s most innovative and interesting chefs. His most recent venture, as owner of COPPA Artisan Cured Meats, is greatly anticipated by foodies around the region. COPPA will feature preparations of artisan cured, locally raised meat products, and a retail location is expected in 2012. Wieszala is also sous chef at one of the area’s most vaunted modern Italian restaurants, Carmelo’s of Lewiston.
COPPA products include such treasures as sopressata, prosciutto, jamon, and coppa di testa. Is your favorite formal dish meat-oriented?
Bruce Wieszala: People assume that, but what I really enjoy is well prepared, high quality seafood when I dine somewhere nice. Unfortunately, Buffalo is not the best city to get high quality fresh seafood just because of our location geographically, so you really have to know where to go. If I want to go someplace a little more high-end, it would definitely be Seabar (top notch seafood on Ellicott Street). I recently had the opportunity to dine at Le Bernardin [a Michelin three-star seafood restaurant in New York City, run by executive chef Eric Ripert], and I was in heaven. Best seafood meal ever.
What’s your comfort food?
Raw beef with beef tendon phò from the Vietnamese restaurant Pho 99 Fast Food [Bailey Avenue]. Or anything on the menu at Bistro Europa on Elmwood Avenue, which also has impeccable seafood. There was one time I actually ate two servings of Ellen’s [Gedra, co-owner and pastry chef] Sticky Toffee Pudding in one sitting.
What junk food do you like?
Pizza Bites, Snyder’s Hot Buffalo Wing Pretzels, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Ben and Jerry’s “Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream,” and Honey Nut Cheerios.
What do you like to cook at home?
Simple things with a few really good ingredients. Risotto is a favorite. It’s a good canvas for just about anything. I don’t get too elaborate at home.
You’re a proponent of sourcing local ingredients for your restaurant.
I absolutely am, but I really hate when people list things on their menu as being local or from a certain local farm just because it is the trend, when the product really isn’t and they are blatantly lying. Not cool. These farmers work unbelievably hard to produce superior products.
Your opinion of the WNY restaurant scene?
I think the Buffalo restaurant scene is moving in a great direction and pretty fast in the past few years. But the dining public needs to be less timid and homogenized and have a little faith in some of the great talent we have here. Forget the chains; support your local restaurants.
If you could plan your last meal, what would it be and why?
My mom’s chicken soup. Because it’s the best. Period.
Rachel Fix Dominguez writes features and food coverage for Buffalo Spree.