Monthaven Art and Cultural Center

Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center
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Chef Anthony Mandriota. Photo by Drew Kirk.

What’s a chef’s most important kitchen tool?

We recently posed that question to Chef Anthony Mandriota, chair of the culinary arts department at Nashville’s Nōssi College of Art and Design. The query clearly caught the master chef off guard. Judging from the look on his face, you might think we asked him to pick his favorite child.

Chef Anthony, a tall, lean New Yorker who sports a stylish ponytail, fingered the cutting edge of his knife and cast a furtive glance at his high-tech knife sharpener. He then proceeded to state the obvious.

“You can have the sharpest knife in the entire world, but that’s not enough,” he said softly in a barely detectable Queens accent. “Without a great range oven, anything you cook will likely fail.”

As it just so happens, Chef Anthony’s industrial kitchen at Nōssi is equipped with four extraordinary range ovens, each with enough BTUs to cook an entire herd of cattle. The kitchen also boasts equally remarkable deck ovens, a dough sheeter and, in Chef Anthony’s words, “every delicious spice known to man.”

Teens enrolled in the MACC’s first-ever summer cooking camp will get to use all of these tools and more. The camp, called Savory Sensations, will run June 17 to 21 at Nōssi College. This immersive class will introduce students ages 13 and up to the basic techniques of cooking. Topics such as sautéing, grilling, braising and roasting will all be covered. Of course, Nōssi is an art school, so the importance of plate presentation will also be stressed.

“Presentation is crucial,” says Chef Anthony. “We eat with our eyes first.”

Students will prepare a full-course meal every day. Sample menus will include chicken breast and corn bread on day one. Young chefs will prepare pork tenderloins in lemon sauce, glazed carrots and au gratin potatoes on day two.

“We’ll end every class with dessert, because obviously that’s what kids love,” says Chef Anthony with a playful grin.

For his part, Chef Anthony loves every aspect of cooking. Indeed, he was born to the profession. He was introduced to the art of cooking by his grandmother Josephine Mandriota. “She taught me that if you want to be a great cook, you always have to use the best ingredients.”

Trained in the classic tradition of French cooking, Chef Anthony spent 25 years working in kitchens. “Being a head chef is hard work,” he says. “You’re the first person to arrive and the last person to leave.”

But in addition to being a cooking professional, Chef Anthony also possessed a deep desire to teach. His father had been a professor at Hunter College in New York. He wanted to follow a similar path.

For Chef Anthony, that path naturally led to Nashville. In recent years, Nashville has evolved into an “It City.” Nearly 17 million tourists visited the city in 2023. They brought with them both their dollars and appetites. Suddenly, the “It City” couldn’t find enough trained chefs to staff its burgeoning high-end restaurant scene.

Nashville didn’t have a culinary program to train these chefs. But it did have a great art school in Nōssi College of Art. About four years ago, Chef Anthony approached Nōssi’s [now] President Cyrus Vatandoost about starting a culinary arts program.

“When Chef Anthony came to me asking if I was interested in starting a culinary arts degree program, all I could think of was, ‘that sounds expensive,’” says Vatandoost. “But he explained the void of homegrown chefs in this town and his vision of the type of program Nashville needs. I quickly realized he had a pulse on this city’s food scene. It became a no-brainer for me.”

Not willing to do anything half-way, Vatandoost spared no expense in creating one of the best industrial kitchens in Nashville. Obviously, that’s helped Chef Anthony recruit top talent for his program.

He’s quick to note, however, that he’s not interested in recruiting your typical casual dining cook. He’s looking for budding chefs who possess a true entrepreneurial spirit, the sort of professionals who will open Nashville’s next great restaurant. Chef Anthony is convinced that Nōssi is the best place to train the next generation of master chefs.

“Nōssi students concentrate on everything from filmmaking and photography to culinary arts and graphic design,” says Chef Anthony. “When you’re surrounded by 350 other creative minds, you’re bound to succeed.”

NOTE: All photos by MACC Education Director Drew Kirk

One Response

  1. What a wonderful delight for the teens to be creating culinary art & the love of great food with Chef Anthony Vatandoost! 👩‍🍳👨‍🍳🎨

Kaylin Warden

External Affairs Coordinator

Kaylin Warden joined the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center staff in 2024 as External Affairs Coordinator. In this post, she organizes special off-site events and manages the organization’s external communications. She also works with the development department by updating the MACC’s customer relations database, and she assists the executive director in setting up exhibitions. Above all else, Kaylin is passionate about the arts. It comes as no surprise, then, that she is now pursuing a master’s degree in art history. When she’s not at the MACC, you can find her reading her favorite books (especially ones dealing with maritime mysteries), cooking, gardening, playing with her cat and two dogs, and cheering for the Nashville Predators.

Ruth Chase

Regional Arts Director
Ruth Chase is the Regional Arts Director of Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, joining the team in 2023. For Ruth, the job is all about community, bringing people together to uplift and educate artists and art lovers alike. Her role at Monthaven is to strengthen the local artist community and build connections that will enrich Hendersonville and our surrounding communities through art exhibitions, art education, and opportunities for regional artists.
Prior to joining Monthaven, Ruth worked in the arts for over 30 years and is a multimedia artist and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. Her artistic practice is inquiry-based and engages in community bridge-building. She was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, curated and juried exhibitions, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum.
Ruth was awarded an Artist-in-Residence for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for three consecutive years. Her film Belonging screened at both the 18th Annual Nevada City Film Festival and Wild & Scenic Film Festival. She has received the Legendary Female Artist of Venice award, and she has exhibited in The Crocker Kingsley, the Museum of Northern California Art, and the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute. Ruth also continues her work as a Curatorial Consultant and Art director for the Californian Indigenous Research Project, where she has worked with the local tribe since 2018.