NEW YORK — Chef Darren Carbone may have been born Bogota, Colombia, but he was adopted into an Italian-American family and his upbringing didn’t expose him to the flavorful ingredients used in the traditional dishes of his Colombian heritage. “I didn’t realize what it meant to be Latino until my cooking career later in life,” he wrote in his professional bio.
In May 2005, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America — where he built his foundation in French and Italian cooking — and a couple of years at the four star French restaurant Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston, he started as a sous chef at Philadelphia modern Mexican eatery El Vez, where he discovered his passion for the cuisine.
From there Carbone did a tour of duty at various nuevo Latino restaurants, immersing himself in the ingredients of Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador — all places he’s visited. He eventually landed a spot at Philadelphia’s Alma de Cuba, working under Douglas Rodriguez, before returning to El Vez as executive chef and then going on to La Verdad in Boston.
Carbone became head chef at Super Linda — the trendy Tribeca Latin grill helmed by Matt Abramcyk, Richard Ampudia, and Serge Becker — last summer, and is now known for his ability to thoughtfully honor a dish’s heritage while adding a sophisticated flair to his creations.
“It needs to have its roots in Latino food,” Carbone told ARTINFO. “You’re taking a dish that’s traditional and putting your spin on it and making it your own, but not losing what the dish’s integrity is.”
When Carbone became head chef at Super Linda he introduced a menu with fresh, seasonal ingredients procured from the Tribeca Greenmarket to make dishes like this summer’s tuna ceviche, which used heirloom cherry tomatoes, watermelon, and cascabel chili vinaigrette.
But with the changing of the seasons, Carbone switched gears into autumn/winter mode. “We have to adapt,” he said. So he picked up ingredients like local bosc pears and pomegranates, which he uses in the fall tuna ceviche, and kabocha squash for the soup.
“I like being able to run the gamut, but utilizing ingredients that are from here,” said Carbone.
This fall Carbone created an array of mouth-watering entrées, like a pasilla chili-braised lamb shank crusted with epazote and mint and a dusting of panko, served with a beet chimichurri and a creamy poblano quinoa; and scallops with a rocoto pepper glaze and calamari squid ink rice.
But he also knows how to go back to basics. At the Super Linda Taquería that operates next door, he serves up sumptuous tortas and tacos that incorporate traditional ingredients like carne asada and more unconventional components like pastrami. Carbone insists in keeping aligned with the soul of the traditional taco.
“Nine hundred people are making tacos nowadays, but not a lot of people are doing things that are necessarily true to what taco is,” said Carbone. “I agree with being limitless, but there are some parameters to that sometimes.”
Super Linda, 190 West Broadway, New York; 212-227-8998; superlindanyc.com.
Click on the slideshow to see dishes from Super Linda's fall menu.