James Distefano's ability to create and execute delicious, innovative desserts is aptly reflected in his menu at Rouge Tomate, a modern American restaurant, located in the heart of Manhattan. Distefano's desserts blend seasonal ingredients with skillful combinations of textures, flavors and savory-sweet balances. As executive pastry chef, Distefano plays up the purity of flavors inherent in each dish like Local Camembert and Market Grapes with Walnut-Raisin Pain Perdu, Warm Autumn Poached Fruit with Stone Ground Oat Crumble and Rum Raisin Gelato and Soy Milk Panna Cotta with Tahitian Vanilla, Caramelized Banana and Maple Gelee.
Distefano discovered his culinary ambitions as a teenager growing up in Northvale, New Jersey, where he was surrounded by a family that was always cooking on weekends. He enrolled in the Hudson County Community College Culinary Arts Program where he discovered a natural chemistry with the pastry program. After a few jobs at local restaurants in New Jersey, Distefano got his big break when he was tapped by a friend to work at Park Avenue Cafe in New York. He assisted pastry great Richard Leach and was introduced to Chef David Burke. In December 2003, Burke asked Distefano to join him as executive pastry chef at his restaurant, david burke & donatella. There, Distefano exhibited a remarkable ability to conceptualize and execute desserts that have since become signature items on the David Burke menu. In 2008, Distefano was hired as executive pastry chef at Rouge Tomate where he executes an ingredient and technique driven menu that adheres to S.P.E.®, a nutritional charter that offers a balanced approach to sourcing, preparing and enhancing food.