Scott VanTuyl recently showed up at his new job as executive chef at Prossimo Ristorante loaded down with boxes of pheasant, Wagyu beef and octopus.
“My arms were so full I couldn’t open the door to get in,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘This is fun. I really like being back on this side of the industry.’”
Prossimo operates as the fine-dining destination under the Andolini’s umbrella, which includes Andolini’s Pizzeria, Andolini’s Sliced and STG Gelateria. It sits next to the Andolini’s Pizzeria and across the street from the Gelateria on Cherry Street.
VanTuyl, whose background includes fine dining, teaching, a food truck, catering and a spot in Mother Road Market, began his new job in early June.
He said he had met Jim and Mike Bausch at Mother Road Market, where the brothers operated Andolini’s Sliced and Metropolis Regional Street Food and VanTuyl was a partner in Nice Guys Shrimp Shack, a spinoff of Mr. Nice Guys food truck.
“It seems like Jim and I were always in the same meetings together, and I liked his values and his savvy notion about how to do things,” VanTuyl said. “My ideas aligned with his pretty well.
“In the spring I just accidentally scrolled past a Facebook notice that Prossimo was looking for an executive chef. I thought about it for a couple of days, then interviewed with Jim and Mike and other higher-ups at Andolini’s and got the job.”
He left Mr. Nice Guys to concentrate on his new duties, which include restaurant management at the three Cherry Street stores. He spent much of the first couple of months reworking the Prossimo menu.
“I added some new dishes, reworked some of the old dishes and kept some the same,” VanTuyl said. “I will be personally cooking in the kitchen at least until everything gets up to speed.”
Among the new dishes are grilled pheasant stracotto, prime filet with bone marrow, tomahawk ribeye with gorgonzola dolce, frascati chicken brodo, heirloom tomato salad and chopped salad with antipasto and basil cream.
“The pheasant is made with tomatoes and porcini mushroom broth and topped with sage brown butter. It is a really nice dish,” VanTuyl said. “The frascati chicken is similar to a dish we did when I was at Lucky’s. It is pan-seared and poached in a Parmesan brodo and served with citrus risotto and sautéed asparagus.
“The prime filet is served with grilled kale and a creamy potato risotto, and the tomahawk is topped with gorgonzola dolce, a super soft cheese. I also really like the Pacific salmon en papillote because we can change the preparation every day.”
Prossimo fans will be happy to know holdovers include tableside preparations of fresh mozzarella cheese and il vero alfredo pasta.
VanTuyl said about a year after graduating from Memorial High School he studied for two years at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After completing his internship at Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah, he returned to Tulsa.
As a young, promising chef, he made the rounds with some of the city’s top restaurants, including Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, Polo Grill, French Hen and Lucky’s.
While at Lucky’s he started teaching adult cooking classes at Savory Chef, a kitchen accessories store. When Savory Chef added restaurant space, he became the executive chef.
After Savory Chef closed, VanTuyl entered the education field. He taught high-school students at Northeast Tech in Pryor for six years, then joined friends in launching Mr. Nice Guys.
“Teaching required a lot of certifications, classroom management, curriculum and theory,” he said. “A lot of red tape. The main thing was to make sure they didn’t die from fire and knives in the kitchen. Teaching 18 year olds from all walks of life was interesting, but I’m happy to be back in the kitchen.”
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