At a young age, Executive Chef John Villa has already had a remarkable career. There is no doubt that Tao Restaurant’s current success can be attributed to the lofty expectations that Chef Villa helps make a reality.
Chef Villa comes from a family that is passionate about food. Raised in Nutley, New Jersey, Villa’s Italian grandmother taught him artistry in the kitchen; while his parents exposed him to the finest restaurants in New York City. The combination provided Chef Villa with a deep respect for food, and the perspective on how it might impress the most discerning of palettes, on the biggest of stages. It was no surprise when Villa enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America at the age of 19.
After graduation, he trained under Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque and then spent three years at Tropica. Villa’s big break came when he was hired at Judson Grill. Within months he trimmed the kitchen staff, cut food costs in half, created a noteworthy menu, and earned himself a new title as Executive Chef. His hard work paid off, earning his first two-star rating from the New York Times. “This would not work so well if the chef, John Villa, did not understand what people want to eat…this food is flavored with authority and geared to modern tastes,” explained New York Times’ Ruth Reichl. At just 24, Chef Villa had already eclipsed his peers.
Villa spent four years at Judson Grill before lending a hand in the reinvention of the Boathouse in Central Park. He was given high praise from the press and, yet again, received two-stars from the New York Times. Ed Levine for Business Week said, “At 26, wunderkind chef John Villa turns out food that finally matches the magical view of the rowboat pond and Bethesda Fountain.” It was now clear that Chef Villa was much more than just a young prodigy. He was well on his way to becoming one of the most distinguished chefs in New York City.
It was during that time that Villa deciding to open his own Portuguese-inspired restaurant, Pico. Villa received universally high media acclaim once more; including his much deserved three-star rating from New York Times. New York Times’ William Grimes acclaimed, “John Villa has created his own private Portugal, a fantasy wrapped in a shimmering haze.”
With incredible success as a Chef, Villa decided to take a step behind the scenes, masterminding of one of the largest and most successful Pan-Asian kitchens in the world. His remarkable skill, unparalleled praise, and industry knowledge has lifted Tao Restaurant to new heights. Villa’s creativity is already on display at Tao with his visionary, Dry-Aged Kobe Special, which is served by request, at $180. Chef Villa is nothing less than a master and Tao is pleased to have him.