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DELMAR — Chris Torncello, the chef who helped found Twisted Vine, has left the wine bar to pursue a job in personal catering.
“I just wanted to get out of the nightlife part of the service industry,” said the 32-year-old Torncello, explaining that he was recently engaged and hoped to have more time to spend with his fiancee.
In 2015, Torncello opened the wine bar with co-owners Daniel Casey and Brendan McCann, the duo that also owns Perfect Blend Cafe and Bakery just around the corner from Twisted Vine, which is located at 384 Kenwood Ave. in Delmar.
“It’s such a small place,” Torncello said of the wine bar. “It was tough with three people and so I just chose to walk away amicably and leave it in those guys’ very capable hands.”
He has since opened a personal chef business called Traveling Chef 518. “I do in-home, custom meal planning for people, private dinner party events in the home and private cooking classes. I also do private dinner party/cooking classes, where you can have a few friends over and I’ll walk the group through a cooking class in your house.”
To open this new venture, Torncello went through the U.S. Personal Chef Association to get set up as a sole proprietor, get registered and figure out taxation and insurance. “It’s been a really helpful tool for me,” he said.
While it’s all still very new, Torncello said he does have some jobs already lined up for this summer. He’ll be cooking dinner for a sorority house six days a week. “It’ll be nice to be done by 5:30 p.m.,” he said.
With an uncle, Daniel Darves-Bornoz, who owns Provence in Albany and Milano in Latham, and who also ran a catering company for a while, Torncello said he has always been around food and food service. “I grew up doing odd jobs. Dishwashing, delivery driving, things like that. Then I started working in kitchens.” Eventually, he said, he went to Schenectady County Community College, enrolling in its lauded culinary arts program.
“It’s a really amazing program,” Torncello said. “I can’t speak highly enough about it.”
After graduating in 2009, he went to work for Casey and McCann at Perfect Blend. Years later, the three decided to open Twisted Vine together.
“It’s really hard to walk away from something that you’ve put so much time and effort into but, at the end of the day, you really have to do what’s right for your own mental health and quality of life,” said Torncello. “I miss it a ton. There was so much I still wanted to do there. But I’m really happy. It’s nice to be able to enjoy life a little bit more.”
He’s not worried about his former partners, however. Casey, he said, went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island. “So he’s kind of taking the reins and controlling the kitchen and the line cooks that I trained there are handling everything, I’m sure.”
Torncello said he learned “a ton” from his erstwhile partners while working for them at Perfect Blend, especially in terms of baking.
Ultimately, Torncello wants to run a full-blown event catering business. “I see this as kind of a stepping stone. I don’t need to have a brick and mortar business just yet and won’t have to take out the loans to pay for that sort of thing.” He hopes that his reputation will help him to land the kind of “gigs” that will help him realize that dream.
“I’m really into what’s categorized as the New American style,” he said, when asked what cuisine he prefers to prepare. “Taking classics and using fresh seasonal ingredients to recreate them. It’s really focused in on that farm-to-table aspect too, which is really popular right now. And vegetarian cooking. That’s a huge thing right now, too. I think those are the styles I would really like to focus on.”
Tornccello will be will be the featured chef at the Cheese Traveler’s Friday night cookout on June 29, where he will create the menu. Anyone else interested in hiring Torncello can reach him through his website at www.travelingchef518.com, where he also writes a food and wine blog.