Firebox, in its ninth year as a premier farm-to-table restaurant at Hartford's Billings Forge Community Works, has a new chef at the helm.
Tony Camilleri, whose lengthy career includes a recent executive chef role at Rizzuto's in West Hartford and experience with Billy Grant's restaurants, began his new position at Firebox last week. He replaces Ed Jones III, who was hired to become the executive chef at Cook & The Bear later this year.
Cary Wheaton, executive director of Billings Forge Community Works, said Camilleri was the "perfect choice for this role at this time." He had worked with Firebox's general manager Jennifer Holcomb at Rizzuto's, and they reached out to him when the position became available.
"We knew that Tony has an incredible resume, and has also owned his own place [the former Amelia's in Simsbury]," Wheaton said. "[We knew] he would really only want to go somewhere where he could do his food, that he could own the food within the restaurant - obviously within our mission of farm-to-table, community-supported agriculture."
In an initial interview, "we just talked the same kind of language," Wheaton said. "We wanted to kind of explode the food into new directions - based on what we have been in the past, but really much being more market-driven, being able to bring lots of specials to the table, lots of interesting and new combinations of food."
Camilleri, who grew up in Hartford's South End, fell in love with food and cooking thanks to influence from his grandmother, Amelia. In a written statement, he said he chose to join Firebox because "it already has a great reputation. They had a vision, they stuck with it and they've made it happen. Now I'm ready. I've already put together 150 new menu ideas."
Camilleri is also committed to the Billings Forge mission to bring jobs, investment, and opportunity to Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood. Wheaton said he is prepared to mentor and support Firebox's chefs and staff from the Kitchen at Billings Forge, the farm-to-table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.
"He’s just a lifelong food professional who has a really incredible spirit," she said. "He fits into our family…and we just couldn’t be more thrilled."