Vitals: Angelo Sosa knows what it takes to get noticed, thanks to having grown up as one of seven brothers and sisters in Connecticut. Half Dominican and half Italian, Sosa grew up with a bouquet of flavors which he now brings into his sensual, trademark pan-Asian cuisine. He’s the chef-owner of two restaurants in New York City: Social Eatz and Añejo Tequileria, an innovative Mexican small-plates restaurant which Sosa opened earlier this year.
Experience: Sosa takes food seriously, recalling that even as a small boy, he would labor intensely over his chore sorting pounds of rice for family Sunday meal. He graduated from The Culinary Institute of America with honors and with experience in several of Connecticut’s best kitchens, landed at Jean Georges in 1999, where he began to explore Asian techniques and flavors. He made the rounds at TanDa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Dune in the Bahamas, Spice Market and Yumcha before making a splash on Season 7 of Bravo’s popular Top Chef series. He’s now a regular on the culinary festival circuit and is prepping for the June release of his new book, Flavor Exposed.
His love for innovative, complex flavors: “I’m just so passionate about my food – I think that’s from my heritage, being Dominican and Italian. Food is naturally interesting in terms of flavor elements and I think even as children, we learn about salty, sweet, umami, sour. It’s that combination of elements that drives me to create beautiful food. If you have a gorgeous product, even a simple one like a ripe watermelon, you want it to shine and that’s what I try to do every day. That’s my philosophy with food, making something delicious through unique, full-bodied flavor combinations.”
His inspiration: “I would have to say my Aunt Carmen. She passed away 20 years ago, but she’s my inspiration when it comes to cooking with flavor and soul. As a family, we’d pile up all nine of us in the car and go down to her house in Queens. I remember my brothers and sisters would rush through the front door out to the backyard to play, but I was always drawn into the kitchen. I must have been around 8 years old the first time I just pulled up a stool to watch her cook for hours and hours. She poured everything she had into dishes like bacalao. Beautiful tomatoes, briny capers and flaked fish – so delicious and something I’ve recreated many times since. It was thanks to her that I realized very early on that I wanted to be a chef.”
Current passion project: “We’ve just finished a total remodel of Social Eatz. From the décor to the menu, cocktails, everything has been redone. So I’m excited about that and I have a new cookbook coming out. The timing was right to dive deep into the roots of what I’m all about and the premise is really simple: just about deconstructing different flavor profiles and giving people the tools they need to create. I break down flavors by category – like sweet, smoky, salty – and give people a glimpse of my history and personal journey through the recipes in each category. It’s been a huge passion project for me.”
Favorite Latino foods: “Bacalao, always. Those flavors from Aunt Carmen’s kitchen would just, oh my god, just engulf you. I have such wonderful memories of her through food and traditional dishes like bacalao and garlicky, crispy tostones.”
Below, Chef Sosa shares his very own variation of Tia Carmen’s magnificent bacalao recipe. It’s just one of the bold recipes featured in his new book, Flavor Exposed.
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 pound salted cod, soaked in water for 2 to 4 hours and drained
one 15-ounce can plum tomatoes
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄2 cup green olives, pitted
2 red Thai chiles, chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh bay leaf
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup diced celery
3 tablespoons capers
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Put the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
When it’s hot, reduce the heat to low, add the cod, and cook for
about 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the fish up as it cooks.
2. Add the tomatoes, water, olives, chiles, thyme, and bay leaf and cook over low heat for another 15 minutes, then add the vinegar, celery, capers, and salt. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and serve the stew over white rice.