Anyone who’s attended a cooking demo at De Gustibus knows there’s a not-so-secret ingredient inside every class: owner-CEO Salvatore Rizzo. He’s a force to behold — greeting giddy guests as they arrive, hosting celebrated chefs from around the world, oohing and aahing as recipes are shared with guests, and making all in attendance feel like they’re at one big, fun, dinner party.
Rizzo, raised in Brooklyn, was drawn to hospitality from any early age and followed his love of food and wine to jobs at the Italian Culinary Institute (where he was Director of Events) and the James Beard Foundation (where he was Director of House Operations and Events).
One day in late 2007, Rizzo was approached by De Gustibus founder Arlene Sailhac who suggested he would be the perfect person to “bring De Gustibus to the next level” and take over the company. By April 2008, he’d become the proud new owner of the school and immediately set out to make improvements. This includes changing the kitchen to a more modern look in 2011 and then rebuilding the 2,200-square foot event space in 2014. This included construction of a state-of-the-art back-of-house kitchen with all-new equipment, a larger, more visibly accessible stage with large screen TVs and advanced audio to capture the magic on the stage.
He’s also reimagined what kinds of classes to host, whether it’s on-location in the kitchens at fine-dining restaurants, short trips outside of Manhattan on the weekends, or themed events — like recent pairings that have focused on caviar, truffles and cheese.
Over the years, Rizzo has continued to raise the bar, securing world-class chefs, wine experts and specialty vendors season after season, whether it’s culinary icons (like David Bouley, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Sara Moulton, to name just a few) or discovering new talent in the form of rising star chefs at restaurants like Llama Inn, Adda, and King. If you can name a top chef, chances are good they’ve led a class at De Gustibus—and likely came back to do it again (Missy Robbins has taught here seven times!).
Rizzo is most proud of the benefit series now offered at De Gustibus: Several classes every season are designed to raise funds for a charitable cause. Most recently, a class hosted by father-and-son team Jean-Georges and Cedric Vongerichten helped raise more than $17,000 for their Food Dreams Foundation.
Rizzo is also on the board of both Spoons Across America and he supports the following organizations:
- God’s Love We Deliver
- The James Beard Foundation
- Action Against Hunger
- Food Bank for NYC
- The Matthew Lehrman Osteosarcoma Fund
- The Second Chances Scholarship
- Les Dames d’Escoffier
- S:US (Services for the Underserved)
When he’s not hosting classes at the school, Rizzo can be found participating in national conversations about the restaurant industry as an authority on food, drink and New York chefs and eateries. He’s a frequent interviewee, panelist and moderator, and has participated in the New York City Wine & Food Festival, the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, and the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival. He’s also appeared on ABC, Fox News, and Heritage Radio. Nearly every season, The New York Times covers who’s teaching at De Gustibus. Recent articles have put the spotlight on classes led by Chris Owens (director of innovation at Matthew Kenney’s Plantmade), Chintan Pandya, and Nick Anderer.
For more information about Rizzo and De Gustibus Cooking School, contact James Cury at 917-749-5683.