Wednesday, April 25, 2012
IT’S WHAT you call the age-old parental sacrifice.
Shannon Hart, a rising star in the culinary industry, put it all aside years ago to raise her two children, and she said she has no regrets.
“It was a choice,” Hart says simply as she ties on her apron and sets her sights on the day ahead.
“I had a plan set up for myself and, when I look back on it now, I don’t know where it would have taken me, so it was a tradeoff.”
Now that her children are teenagers, Hart has returned to the field in which she excels.
The restaurant lucky enough to have her in its kitchen is Gadaleto’s Seafood Market and Restaurant at 246 Main St. in New Paltz.
Slowly but steadily, the 36-year-old Culinary Institute of America-trained chef has transformed the place into one that rivals the Hudson Valley’s finest establishments.
Many of the old, fried standards have been replaced with entrees like the pan-seared sea scallops with potato medallions and apple salad or the Prince Edward Island mussels cooked in a Sambuca espresso orange broth.
“We’re trying to get away from fried fish into more of an experience,” said Hart.
“It’s about bringing in pleasant, more sophisticated items for our customers and getting away from the everyday fare, and I think it’s been working.”
No doubt, Hart is happy to be back in the kitchen full-time, but she said the time spent with her children was worth the sacrifice.
“I am so happy to have chosen the path I chose, but I’m also happy now that I can fulfill the ‘me’ side. It’s the best of both worlds,” she said.
Delaying her career hasn’t been easy.
There were tough days and even doubts. Hart can’t help but wonder where she’d be today if she hadn’t put it aside.
“Try to understand having this immense amount of talent and all of these dreams,” she said.
“I was a very young person when I had my daughter. I thought it would be entirely too taxing on her, but I always knew I would return to this industry.”
Hart, who is from Mercer County, N.J., peaked early in the culinary arts.
She won local, state and even national awards—for overall best dishes and for presentation—in various competitions in the state of New Jersey.
The nationally known Sysco food products sponsored her as a young adult and bought her a knife set and uniforms.
She had even received offers to work at prestigious places like the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, N.J. and did her externship at the nationally known August restaurant in New Orleans, La., which specializes in contemporary French cuisine.
“I was very, very talented,” Hart said.
Obviously, that talent is still there, and she is happy to apply it at Gadaleto’s—something she sees as a new and satisfying chapter in her life.
“Things have kind of blossomed into a new kind of opportunity and relationship,” she said.
“I’m now running this kitchen and have a wonderful boss, who gives me creative control, so I’m learning how to run the business and plan menus and every aspect of the restaurant industry, and it’s been so exciting.”
Those at the family-owned Gadaleto’s see it the same way.
The long-established business that’s also recognized as a top supplier of fresh-from-the-ocean seafood is clearly sailing in a new direction.
While Gadaleto’s continues to sell fish to upscale restaurants like Gigi’s Trattoria in Rhinebeck, Armadillo in Kingston and the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, it’s on a course to feature more sustainable products and sell more locally produced items.
“All of our seafood is hand-selected by me,” said Steve Kraus, the general manager at Gadaleto’s.
“We have a generations-long relationship with purveyors in the city, so we get the top choice of all the products. It makes buying fish somewhat easy because people know our reputation,” he said.
Nat Gadaleto, an immigrant from Bari, Italy, opened Son’s Seafood Market in Highland in 1945. He later added another location in Poughkeepsie.
The shop in New Paltz opened in the early 1980s, and the family added the restaurant in the late 1990s, said his granddaughter, Stacie Becker.
She continues to operate the business along with her mother, Susan.
“We literally sell everything from soft-shell crabs to Alaskan salmon to Pacific halibut to Maine lobster,” Becker said.
“We are known all over as the fresh seafood market. That is our specialty,” Becker said.
“Our customers know that it’s fresh in the case as opposed to frozen like most of the grocery stores around here. I think our staff has a huge knowledge base, and (customers) seek our opinion about what they should have for dinner.”
As far as the restaurant goes, Becker said she is delighted to have Hart aboard and putting her touch on the menu.
“A lot of the new items are hers,” she said. “One of our most popular is called ‘Any Fish Dish,’ where our customers can get anything they see in our case cooked however they like it with their choice of side dishes. That’s our signature,” Becker said.
Hart is equally excited about what the future holds for Gadaleto’s.
When asked why she chose to work there as opposed to any of the other upscale restaurants in the area, it didn’t take her long to respond.
“Why not? They have the broadest selection of fish you could ever work with,” Hart said.
“Besides, my experience with fish was limited, so I wanted to exercise that skill, and I thought it would be a good place to do that.”
And, as always, there are her children to consider.
Her daughter is in high school, and her son will be starting his freshman year of high school in the fall.
“With teenagers, it’s imperative that you be there for them, and Gadaleto’s allows me that freedom,” she said.
Gadaleto’s Traditional Crab Cakes
1# Pasteurized Lump Crab Meat
1/4 Juiced Lemon
1/2 tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup + Panko Bread Crumb
1 tsp Parsley - minced
1 tsp butter per 2-4 patties
Mix wet ingredients first thoroughly, followed gently by crab meat, parsley and then panko.
Once mixed, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Form into small 3-4 oz patties and pan fry with butter until golden brown on both sides
Serve with fresh lemon, tarter or cocktail
At Gadaleto’s we serve the crab cakes with a petite salad and pickled vegetables