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Versatility a requirement for area chef

Carlos Siveti says his cultural heritage has greatly influenced his cooking.

“I was raised in Mexico City, but my mom was from Spain and my dad was from Italy,” says the Hamilton chef. ” I learned a lot about cooking from my mom and had a couple of aunts and uncles from Italy who I learned from too. They would hand-make pasta, and bake everything from scratch. Everything was fresh every day.”

Moves to a variety of new locations have also enhanced his cooking skills.

“I attended culinary school and had several apprenticeships at different restaurants in Spain and Italy,” Siveti explains. “As a chef, you never stop learning as you move to different places and hold different positions.”

As a result, Siveti is known for creating his own international recipes and adding personal twists to classic dishes. He’s also trained in ice carving and can make designs ranging from flower bases and swans to ice wine racks. He’s even created ice seashells for a seafood bar.

Q. What early memories do you have of food and cooking?

A: My earliest memories of cooking are baking cakes with my mom when I was four or five years old. We used to make these big round orange cakes with a hole in the middle and I still remember how good they smelled and how the aroma would fill the entire house.

Q. What ingredients are your favorites?

A: It is hard to choose favorite ingredients, but I am greatly influenced by my Spanish and Italian background. Saffron from Spain is one of my favorites as is the Italian rice, risotto. Both are very versatile, and you can use them in a variety of different foods with different cultural influences. Seafood risotto is a very popular dish in Italy and it’s one of my favorites to make.

Q. What are some of your specialties?

A: I am very strong in Spanish, Italian and Mexican foods because of my background. I enjoy making ingredients from scratch. I love to eat fresh hand-made pastas, a good Italian risotto or a nice Paella from Spain.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is considering a profession in cooking?

A: The best advice I can give to aspiring chefs is to pay attention to detail, follow the recipe and be patient. If you are passionate enough and love what you’re doing, you can go wherever you want. Cooking has taken me all over the United States and to several different countries around the world. I’ve worked with a lot of different people in different places and that’s really where you learn the most.

Q What is your current job?

A: My experience from other positions at 5-star hotels and restaurants has helped me cook for many different people and situations.

I am a Sous Chef for Colonial in Hamilton and my primary role is to oversee nearly 700 meals a day for about 250 residents between our two continuing care retirement communities of Berkeley Square and Westover.

The most challenging part about my job is trying to please everybody, especially because I’m cooking for so many people who all have different tastes and likes.

We also host hundreds of people from the Greater Hamilton community in the Carruthers Manor House at Berkeley Square for high school reunions, wedding receptions, the Colonial Dinner Series, parties and more. We have the Coach House Tavern & Grille, a member’s only restaurant, as well as Coach House Catering for events at Colonial and throughout the community.

We also provide three meals a day for Hospice of Hamilton.

Q. What do you love about cooking?

A: I love to see people enjoying the food that I prepare. For many people, especially the older adults who I currently cook for, meal time has always been social — a time to catch up with friends or family. At Colonial, there is an emphasis on core wellness — we like to provide opportunities for our residents to enhance their physical, social and spiritual well-being. I like being able to provide the quality food that contributes both to their physical nourishment and social experience.

Q. Is there a particular cook book you recommend?

A: My favorite cookbook is Esccoffier. It’s a cookbook for all generations; the best chefs in the world learned to cook from that book. My edition is from the 1940s. Before you can cook really well, you need to learn how to put items together, and that book teaches you how to do that.

Q. Do you cook when you’re at home? What types of food?

A: To be honest, I don’t cook at home much. When you work 10-12 hours a day as a chef, the last thing you want to do is cook when you get home. My son and I like to grill when he visits during the summer, but other than that, I will eat cold sandwiches — good ones, of course.

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