Chef Desi Szonntagh


Desi graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1980, receiving an Associate in Occupational Science Degree. He then apprenticed at the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, one of only eight five star resort hotels in the country. During the culinary revolution of the eighties New York City was home to some of the greatest restaurants in the world. One of those, Le Cirque, was to be Desi's most valued experience, and he worked under the famed Allain Salliac.

An introduction to Roger Verge one night led to a stint at the Michelin three star Moulin De Mougins in the south of France during the summer of 1984. Upon returning to New York, Desi teamed up with Michel Jean, who opened Provence, in the Soho section of New York. Provence quickly became, according to Gault-Millau, "white hot," and one of the top rated bistros in the city. Desi garnered many writeups during the four years he was Executive Chef between 1986 and 1990, including 2 stars from Bryan Miller, the New York Times Restaurant Critic. This led to a partnership with the Tatou Corporation, where Desi was Corporate Chef for four years and opened Tatou's in New York (also a two star rating from the New York Times), Aspen, and Beverly Hills, and consulted for Tatou Tokyo.

After traveling to Japan, Desi took over the helm at Ocean Avenue Seafood and is developing regional American specialties using the freshest and widest selection of seafood from Hawaii and Alaska to the Eastern seaboard.


Signature Dishes:

Wasabi Crusted Hawaiian Yellowfin Tuna with Ginger, Basil and Miso
Dungeness Crab Cakes with Grilled Red Onion Vinaigrette
Seafood Sausage with Napa Cabbage, Mustard Sauce, and Tobiko
Coriander-Cumin Crusted Santa Barbara Thresher Shark with Green Peppercorn Sauce
Grilled Alaskan King Salmon with Mousseline of Asparagus and Pinot Noir Demi Glaze


Chef's Cooking Tips

Desi Szonntagh, Ocean Avenue Seafood

  • When slicing vegetables hold the knife with a slightly forward slant to keep the cut vegetables from rolling away.
  • When chopping or slicing vegetables use a very sharp knife to avoid bruising them, especially the softer ones like tomatoes.
  • When you don't want to use veal stock in a recipe reduce chicken stock to a glaze. The taste and consistency will be very close to veal without the flavor of meat.
  • When purchasing filleted fish the first criterion is color; the fish (whether the flaky or oily type) should have a natural sheen and must never appear dry.
  • Always buy fruit that has a natural scent, ripe and sweet. Fruit you can't smell has been picked prematurely and will have no flavor.
  • Always heat a sauté pan first before adding oil because a hot pan requires much less oil than a cold one.

Grouper Braised in Red Wine
with Orzo and Cabbage


Serves 4


  • 5-6 oz. lean beef cut into strips
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 qt. dry red wine
  • 4 tsp. minced shallots
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 ea. bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup parsley stems
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 ea. medium diced tomato
  • 1 cup fish stock or clam juice
  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 4 ea. 6 oz grouper fillets
  • 1 cup orzo (ripe shaped pasta)
  • 1 cup green cabbage
  • 2 tbl. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • salt


Sear the beef strips with olive oil in a large saucepot, cooking until brown. Add the rest of the ingredients up to the fish stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and reduce by half. Strain and reserve.

Bring three cups of water to a boil and cook the orzo 5-6 minutes, or until cooked but al dente. Cook and reserve. sauté the cabbage in olive oil, adding the stock or water a little at a time, until the cabbage is well cooked. Add the cooked orzo, mixing well and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring the red wine reduction to a boil in a casserole or large saucepan. Add the four fillets, cover and bake in a 350 degrees oven for 6-7 minutes. Place the cooked fillets onto a serving platter and keep warm. Bring the red wine to a boil and reduce by a third to yield approximately 2 cups. Lower the heat and slowly add in the whole butter, whisking until fully incorporated. Pour some around the grouper, serving the rest in a sauce boat. Heat up the orzo-cabbage mixture in a sauté pan and serve immediately.


Steamed Manila Clams
with Roasted Garlic Butter


Serves 4


  • 2 tbl. chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ea. head of roasted garlic
  • 3 tbl. butter
  • 3 tbl. margarine
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 2 lb. cleaned and scrubbed Manila Clams
  • 6 oz. dry white wine
  • 4 oz. clam juice
  • 2 tbl. chopped shallots


To make the compound butter wrap one small head of garlic loosely in a 5" x 5" piece of aluminum foil ( or use a clay garlic baker) and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the garlic cloves feel soft. Remove from the foil, cut off the top, and squeeze out the garlic cloves that are now a paste. Combine this with the parsley, lemon juice, butter, and margarine. Reserve.

Carefully clean the Manila clams, discarding any that have opened. In a large heavy saucepan heat up the olive oil. When almost smoking add the clams, stirring until all are evenly covered. Add the wine, clam juice and shallots and cover until the liquids boil. Add the compound butter and cover again, continuing to cook about 2 minutes or until all the clams have opened.

Serve immediately with plenty of sourdough or country bread.


Provided by Ocean Avenue Seafood


Cookbook Profile Archive


This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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