Tom Valenti is one of the most revered chefs in New York, and his flavorful cooking has drawn raves from the food press for well over a decade. In her 1998 review of Butterfield 81, New York Times critic Ruth Reichl characterized Valenti as a “clairvoyant in the kitchen” because of his uncanny talent for understanding what diners like to eat. Gael Greene named him one of her top 10 favorite chefs in the January 1999 “Where to Eat Now” issue of New York Magazine. And Ed Levine, author of New York Eats, dubbed him “Flavor King of New York.”
A native of Ithaca, New York, Valenti began his life in the kitchens a high school student at L’ Auberge Du Cochon Rouge, a French restaurant in his hometown, where he apprenticed to chef Etienne Marie. After graduating from high school, he served as a chef at a private estate in Westchester before beginning his long association with restaurateur Guy Savoy, first as a pastry chef for a Savoy-owner restaurant in Westchester, and then as chef tournant for Savoy’s Paris restaurant.
Returning to the United States, Valenti worked as a line cook at several flagship restaurants before becoming Alfred Portale’s first sous-chef at the famed Gotham Bar and Grill. This led to the executive chef positions at Café’ Grecco, Restaurant Giancarlo and Chelsea Central.
Valenti came to prominence as the executive chef at Alison on Dominick, the west soho bistro that catapulted him to stardom. In 1989, Esquire magazine dubbed this romantic rendezvous the “Best New Restaurant” in New York City, while Food and Wine magazine lauded Valenti as one of the country’s “Ten Best New Chefs” in 1990. At Alison, Valenti’s vast experience culminated in the creation of the bold, Southern France-influenced cuisine that has become his trademark.
When he moved to Cascabel, Valenti took his unique fare to a higher level, earning rave reviews from critics and the top spot on Ruth Reichl’s list of favorite restaurants in 1994. He left Cascabel in 1998 for Butterfield 81, garnering more rave reviews.
In 2001 Valenti opened his own restaurant Ouest to instant acclaim including a 2-star review from The New York Times and a 3-star review from the New York Post. A magnet for celebrities, media personalities and neighborhood residents, Ouest was one of the pioneering restaurants that brought exceptional cuisine to the Upper West Side.
Valenti also established the Windows of Hope family relief fund, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to the families of food-service workers killed in the World Trade attack on September 11, 2001. To date they have raised more then 24 million dollars.