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Meet Franco Sampogna, Chef and co-owner of Frevo, in New York City

Bridging the gap between international flair and NYC energy, Franco Sampogna creates a narrative centered on the art of seasonality and locality

Photo: courtesy of Franco Sampogna

Born in Brazil, Franco Sampogna began his culinary journey in France 12 years ago. His international background later took him through the rest of Europe, and now the United States, where he is Chef and co-owner of Frevo, a contemporary French restaurant with a modern take, located in the heart of Greenwich Village. His travels have not only expanded his culinary horizons, but have also inspired his craft of creatively incorporating ingredients to respond to the changing seasons. While working with Chef Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, Chef Sampogna was moved by Chef Ducasse’s respect for seasonality and locality – a philosophy he has carried with him since. In February 2017, Chef Sampogna reflected this philosophy while leading the dinner for the James Beard Foundation at Jema, a Newsday 3.5-star award winning restaurant. Only local produce was used from Huntington, Long Island, where the restaurant is located. Now at Frevo, his ever-growing relationships with local farmers and producers is showcased in both the seasonally changing menus but also the wine selections. Committed to sustainability in the gastronomic world, Franco Sampogna believes an exceptional dining experience starts from the origins of the ingredients.

Welcome Franco to Chefs for Impact!

By Franco Sampogna as told to Chefs for Impact

What are you doing to keep busy while Frevo is closed ?

"We have launched Frevo at Home, offering more of a comfort style food to allow guests to enjoy in their homes. Frevo at Home consists of a weekly rotating Three-Course Menu - this rotation is to allow for the ingredients used to be closest to those in-season, as they change very fast. A list of wine pairings curated by our sommelier, Quentin Vauleon, can also be ordered with this menu or bought separately. We also just recently added 7 new flavors of home-made ice creams and sorbets to welcome summer. Soon, our famous steak knives and other details from our restaurant will also be available. All items ordered are available for pick-up or delivery."

How do you see the post-COVID restaurant industry being like?

"I don’t think we will change our way of living too much after this period of confinement. If anything, I think people will have a greater interest and sense of appreciation for the restaurant industry, especially as more people are cooking at home for the first time. The recovery might be slow at the beginning, but eventually we will all get back to enjoying life outdoors and going to restaurants and bars – as humans we are wired to be social!

For the restaurants, we will be even more conscious about hygiene and washing our hands, but this is a good thing. Even during our temporary closure, we made sure to take extra sanitary precautions in Frevo while preparing the dishes, and will continue to do so. We want our guests to return knowing that Frevo has taken the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of everyone."

What are your tips for a more sustainable gastronomy ?

"My philosophy has always been sustainability, locality, and seasonality. I would say this is the foundation for a more sustainable gastronomy. If you closely follow the seasons, you are limited to buying more local items that are only available for this certain period – and that’s a good thing. Doing this, you also form valuable relationships with local farmers and producers, which also supports their businesses. This is also reflected in our selective wine list. Our sommelier, Quentin Vauleon, won the title of Best Young Sommelier in France in 2017, and he also makes sure that all the wines at Frevo are Organic Certified, with the wineries practicing biodynamic farming. Those practices reflect the human care, biodynamic principles, and organic viticulture behind each cuvee, such as the Champagne Pouillon, Sancerre La Cote des Monts Damnes 2018, and Pascal Cotat – all offered at Frevo."

This crisis calls for reflection, do you think this is an opportunity for Chefs to educate their consumers even more?

"This crisis has definitely helped us see, with even more clarity, that the entire industry is connected: from the farmers to the restaurants, and to the customers. Farmers may find it hard to survive without restaurants, and restaurants can’t survive without customers. Looking forward, I think it will be a good opportunity for us to tell customers exactly where our products come from, perhaps by indicating clearly on our menus. This can hopefully educate and demonstrate to them that their choices matter: they are not only supporting an independent small restaurant, but also the small farmers. We can take this opportunity to humanize this cycle and relationship and show how we can all contribute to a healthier ecosystem."

What changes do you plan to make after the outbreak in order to have an even greater impact?

"Detail more explicitly about where our products come from to our customers, like putting the name and location of our farmers. I hope they can realize how their support and choices can go a long way: way beyond our small restaurant but reaching the small farmers and fishmongers so that they too, can support their families and business."

What’s your favorite seasonal vegetable?

"I love asparagus and green peas during the spring. They are extremely versatile, which is why it was featured on the menus for Frevo at Home for this month of May."

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