Why Chef Joe Isidori Wasn't Always Thrilled About Being A Chef - Exclusive

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You know how the old saying goes: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them." These Shakespearean words of wisdom are especially true for acclaimed New York City chef Joe Isidori, the executive chef and owner of Arthur & Sons. His elevated Italian cuisine has received accolades from The New York Times, Time Out NY, and New York Magazine in addition to a coveted Michelin star. That list is pretty impressive on its own, and all the more so when you consider that Isidori never really wanted to be a chef.

Isidori opened up about his culinary journey recently while chatting exclusively with film director Joe Russo on Tasting Table's "Shared Tastes" series. The two discussed great Italian cuisine, the importance of family, and storytelling through food — and Isidori sure had a story to tell. At one point Russo asked the chef when exactly he fell in love with food. "I can't pinpoint that," Isidori admitted, adding, "I was born into this." The chef went on to explain how his successful culinary career wasn't the path he set out for himself, but rather something that was forced upon him by his family's legacy. All these years later, Isidori can laugh at the truth of his father's words, ringing in his ears since childhood: "Chicken Parmesan pays the bills." 

Becoming a chef was the only option for Joe Isidori

Joe Isidori is a proud third-generation chef, which gives him a definite advantage in the kitchen, but it also carries a lot of pressure. "I don't know anything else, and I wasn't given the opportunity to learn anything else," he explained while chatting with Joe Russo. When Isidori was growing up, he had dreams of all kinds of careers, just like every other kid. The only difference was that his dad was a serious chef, and cooking was in Isidori's blood. "At the end of the day, my father said, 'Some people lay brick, some people fix shoes. We cook. Get in the kitchen.'"

Because of that mentality, Isidori said he spent his entire life in the kitchen, for better or for worse. "It used to feel like a little bit of purgatory for a while," he confessed, adding that kitchen chores were even his form of discipline growing up. While other kids were being grounded or having their allowance taken away, Isidori recalled when he got in trouble, his parents would say "'Get in the kitchen. Clean a hundred pounds of galamad [calamari], clean a hundred pounds of shrimp, a hundred pounds of [mussels].'"

Eventually, "it got to a point where it was natural," said Isidori. And perhaps to his own chagrin, the engrained skills he picked up led the way for his future success. "My punishment turned into my career."

Visit Arthur & Sons NY Italian in New York City's West Village for an authentic dining experience. Joe Isidori's new line of Arthur & Sons New York Italian Tomato Sauce, available in Marinara, Fra Diavolo, Alla Vodka, and Spicy Vodka, is coming soon to brick-and-mortar and online stores near you.

"Citadel" premieres on Prime Video April 28. "Pizza Film School" is now available to stream on YouTube.