John Castellucci grew up in the restaurant industry. His parents opened Sugo and he worked in that kitchen in middle and high school. “That’s where I got my first real restaurant experience,” he says.
By age 13 he knew his professional path: “I felt like cooking was something that not only I would enjoy most but also be good at. It aligned together and was an obvious choice for me.”
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Castellucci worked in several kitchens, including RN74 in San Francisco, WD~50 in New York City, and Arzak in San Sebastián, Spain, before officially joining the family business in Atlanta.
Now the 25 year old is one of the owners as well as the head of culinary development for The Castellucci Hospitality Group. He helped relocate Double Zero to Emory Village, serves as executive sous chef for Cooks & Soldiers, and will helm the kitchen at the new Bar Mercado in Krog Street Market.
“Bar Mercado is going to be very traditional Spanish tapas,” he says. “Very ingredient driven, focused, with a fun, lively environment.” In preparation, Castellucci has been hitting the books – old Spanish cookbooks to be exact.
“I’ve been learning a lot about classic old-school Spanish techniques,” he says. “It’s nice to get back to the nuts and bolts, see how it’s been done for hundreds of years, the most traditional way to make something super delicious. That’s exciting for me.”
He predicts the restaurant industry will see more ethnic-driven restaurants. In particular, he thinks “people will be looking at South American food differently.”
Castellucci’s ultimate career goal is to “really keep my head down and keep progressing as a chef,” he says, “and hopefully create people under me who are as talented or more talented than myself, at whatever pace that may be – I don’t want a number as a goal. I’d like to be recognized in the city as one of the best restaurateurs with the best concepts.” – HP