Sunil “Charlie” Prabhakar
Casa Mia Italian Steakhouse
155 First Avenue, in Marco Lakeside Inn. Phone: 642-5253
Began working at present restaurant?
Valentine’s Day, 2009.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?
I used to help my mother in the kitchen, and then when I was older I found that I liked to cook and subsequently enrolled in culinary school in India. After graduation, I went to Europe, actually Germany, and worked there nine years in resort hotels and restaurants. In 1990 I came to the United States and worked in a five star Italian restaurant in New Jersey for 14 years. I moved to Marco Island in 2005 to accept the position of executive chef at Vergina in The Esplanade. After Vergina closed, I began working as a chef in Kurrents restaurant at the Marriott.
What was your first restaurant job?
In 1981 when I started as pastry chef at the La Stalla Restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
For the last 27 years, give or take a few.
Do food trends affect your cooking style?
Yes, I’ve always cooked with fresh ingredients — fresh herbs, meats, vegetables and seafood.
Are you planning changes to your menu for the new season?
Yes, we will be eliminating some things and adding many light pasta dishes reflecting the current trend for light and fresh sauces rather than rich, dense sauces. During the summer when it’s hot people tend to enjoy eating salads made with light dressings along with fresh vegetables and seafood. We will have flounder or sea bass on Friday. I try to enhance our seafood offerings with things like seafood chowder or lobster bisque. Yes, we will have more seafood on Fridays. But remember we’re famous for our dry-aged New York strip steak; it’s very tender after being aged for 21 days.
What is your most popular dish?
I’d say veal Osso Buco, and some weeks we’re planning to offer lamb or pork Osso Buco as an evening special. Another popular item on our regular menu is my Five Pasta Platter — five kinds of pasta with five kinds of homemade sauces — and I also make our gnocchi and serve it with a creamy Gorgonzola sauce.
What is your favorite food?
Chilean sea bass and fresh caper berries with garlic lemon butter sauce. Incidentally, I’m offering it as one of our evening specials.
Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your freezer?
Yes, for my family, but my wife is also a great cook and she does most of the cooking, but I always do on my days off.
What is your secret ingredient? Why?
It’s not a secret – everything fresh, especially herbs and I grind my own spices. If I use a red wine base I can create several different sauces, for instance porcini will give it a different flavor rather than fresh sage and rosemary.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
Not be a chef? That’s a difficult question I’d have give that more thought.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
Everything must be spotless and in its place: When I reach for something I want it to be there.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I enjoy the creative aspect, being able to make different dishes. In the 27 or so years I’ve been cooking I learn something new every day. If a customer asks me to make something special I would love to make it for them if I have the ingredients. Otherwise, I’d like 24 hours notice — you name it and I’ll make it! We make all our own desserts, like our bread pudding with apricots and brandy is very popular. That’s what I’m saying, everything is fresh including every one of the desserts that we display on our dessert cart!