When Hell’s Kitchen goes into its eighth (yes, eighth) season next week, one of the contestants will be Vinny Accardi, a 30-year-old Maspeth boy who has spent time chefing in Queens as well as on the line in top-tier restaurants like Oceana and Union Pacific. Accardi was working in Vegas when he tried out for the show and blew the producers away (“I’m one of those guys that’ll lighten up a room,” he tells us, “I have a habit of stealing the show without really trying”), but we’ve just learned that he’s coming back to Williamsburg (where his mom’s family grew up) to be the chef and partner at Vertuccio’s, the brick-oven pizzeria that will now get what Accardi says are classic Italian dishes with a modern spin.
This week, the restaurant reopened after two weeks off, with Accardi’s menu in place. Not yet offered is the signature dish he prepared for the show’s first challenge: olive-oil-poached halibut with potato-fennel purée, roasted tomato, and lemon sauce. Was he nervous about Ramsay’s reaction to it? Not really. “Vinny don’t do nervous,” he says. “I ain’t intimidated by anybody.” Accardi says that Ramsay “tore a ton of people to shreds” during the challenge, but “he wasn’t as bad with me. I seriously can cook. When you see me in the kitchen, I’m dead serious and it’s all business. On the other hand, once my chef jacket comes off and I put on the velour suit and the hat, you can see I’m from New York and I like to shoot the shit and have fun.”
That said, Accardi was careful around Ramsay (in his opinion, one of the top ten chefs in the world). “I didn’t throw gas on the fire trying to piss the guy off.” Owing to his contract with Fox, he can’t discuss anything beyond the first episode, but he says he quickly surmised that he didn’t have much competition: “I could tell right off the bat that four of the guys had absolutely zero chances of doing anything at all. You knew they were just there to be made a fool out of, like lambs being sent to slaughter.” He adds, “I thought my signature dish was the best one out of every dish that was made, and I’m not going to be shocked if other people think the same.” So who’ll be his competition? “This guy named Russell, because he wasn’t friendly or smiley or anything; you knew this guy meant business.”
So there you have it. Look for Vinnie to go head-to-head with Russell when the new season of Hell’s Kitchen premieres September 22. And look for Vinnie in the semi-open kitchen at the new Vertuccio’s. His menu is below.
Vertuccio’s Menu [PDF]
Vertuccio’s, 232 N. 12th St., nr. Driggs Ave.; Williamsburg; 718-486-3900