August 2023 Recipes/Chefs/Bakery
Chef AJ Sankofa
E S O A r t i s a n a l P a s t a
Hello Chef AJ! What inspired you to start your journey as a chef?
I started off as a busboy at Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen during my senior year of high school. I had no interest in restaurants, let alone food. I was just trying to make quick cash. I worked my way through the ranks. Eventually, I became a captain in the dining room. Along the way, my time spent as a food runner made me reconsider which part of the restaurant I thought was cooler. Being in the kitchen, seeing the passion, and camaraderie amongst the cooks was mesmerizing. I had a particular interest in the pasta station because of how fast the pace was, how much finesse it took to build each sauce from scratch via a minute, cook the pasta perfectly, toss it with the sauce, plate and garnish it elegantly, and so on. In my mind, it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen!
"Being in the kitchen, seeing the passion, and camaraderie amongst the cooks was mesmerizing. I had a particular interest in the pasta station because of how fast the pace was, how much finesse it took to build each sauce from scratch via a minute, cook the pasta perfectly, toss it with the sauce, plate and garnish it elegantly, and so on".
You also have a co-founder named Chef Kristina. When did you two begin to collaborate? What motivated you both to start ESO Artisanal Pasta?
I met my wife, Kristina, while working at Legacy Records Restaurant in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan. We started dating in November of 2019. By the time covid hit in March of 2020, I had been living with her in her apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Things were crazy in the city so I asked her to come stay with my family and I in Morristown thinking the lockdown would be over within two weeks or so. Two weeks turned into two months. Within that time, we decided to start a cake and pie delivery service called Babushkas Pies. Kristina would bake, and I would deliver her creations all throughout Morristown and the surrounding area. This quickly blew up and the lightbulb turned on; why not try to do the same thing with pasta (my specialty).
Where are you located?
92A Elm Street, Morristown, New Jersey, 07960
How would you define or describe artisanal pasta?
Pasta that is made using the traditional Italian technique and mindset.
What is your favorite pasta?
If you could have the perfect pasta meal, then what kind of drink and dessert would you prepare with it?
Tagliatelle Bolognese, Chinotto, and Kristina's Olive Oil Gelato.
Do you have a favorite seasoning or spice that you like to add to pasta?
What kind of events do you offer your food services at?
We offer a range of private chef services, including in house catering, tasting menus, pasta classes, family style meals, buffet meals, and drop off catering. Also, we collaborate with local businesses. We host a range of pop-ups from takeout to private or secret location dinners.
Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as a chef?
Plenty, most notably a partnership dissolution that nearly ended in us closing our business. Luckily, the Morristown community banded together behind us and raised over $20,000 to ensure our survival.
What are some words of advice you can give to future chefs who want to sell their own food kits or open a restaurant?
Be sure to have a solid OVERstanding of the financial side of running a business. You can learn along the way like I did as well. It's a lot more difficult than taking the time to do your research, and going in with a solid base of knowledge.
Outside of your business, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
Music and Motorcycles.Follow At:
Instagram: @esopastamorristown and @ayindesankofa