Rick Tramonto's 24-year restaurant career has been a climb to the stars. With the stellar success of his current culinary endeavor, Chicago's TRU, Tramonto has become a star in his own right. "Tramonto is a blend of mad scientist and magician in the kitchen. He is innovative, creative and somewhat an illusionist," described Pat Bruno of the Chicago Sun-Times.
A native of Rochester, NY, Tramonto became disinterested in traditional academics during his teen years, choosing instead to enroll in a vocational tech program where he began developing his cooking skills.
He then went to work full-time at Wendy's old fashioned hamburgers to help out his family, earning $200 for a six-day workweek. He left after two years becoming grill/sauté cook at the Scotch & Sirloin, which led to his first real culinary experience at the Strathallen hotel. Under the tutelage of Chef Greg Broman, Tramonto learned the techniques of classic French cuisine in the hotel's first class kitchen.
Young and ambitious, Tramonto moved to New York City in 1985 where he worked at the legendary Tavern on the Green. From there he joined Chef Alfred Portale as line cook at Gotham Bar & Grill and was part of the brigade awarded three stars by the New York Times. He also worked under Chef Gerard Panguad at Aurora. Tramonto was brought to Chicago by noted restaurateur Richard Melman in 1987 to work at his popular Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. establishments, including Avanzare, Scoozi, and the Pump Room.
Tramonto moved to Charlie Trotter's in 1989. Soon he received a call from Bob Payton, who operated 14 American-style restaurants in London (My Kinda Town, Ltd.) and 17 other venues across Europe. Payton asked Tramonto and his culinary partner Gale Gand to transform the kitchen and cuisine at his award-winning country-house hotel, Stapleford Park, in Leicestershire, outside London. They accepted the opportunity to live and work in England, France and Spain. Their proudest moment was receiving the coveted Michelin Guide's Red "M" after only a year at Stapleford, a feat not accomplished by an American in five years.
Tramonto reopened the historic Criterion Brasserie in Piccadilly Circus, London, the restaurant made famous in a Sherlock Holmes novel, with Bob Payton and Rocko Forte of the Trusthouse Forte Hotel Group. These experiences abroad allowed him to work with some of the world's greatest chefs including Chef Pierre Gagnaire, Chef Anton Mosimann, Chef Michel Guerard and Chef Raymond Blanc. He returned to Chicago after a four year experience abroad.
Tramonto's passion for food, unique culinary style and his proven track record at home and abroad provided him a solid foundation to partner in a successful restaurant. When he and Gand opened Trio in 1993, the restaurant was an immediate triumph, earning Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel's first four-star rating in six years. 1994 saw the opening of Brasserie T in Northfield, IL & in 1995 they introduced the Vanilla Bean Bakery. Their first cookbook, American Brasserie, hit the shelves in late October 1997 and was named as a finalist in the IACP/Julia Child Cookbok Awards.
May 1999 saw the opening of TRU, an acronym for “Tramonto” and “Unlimited.” Tramonto's goal when opening TRU was to remain true to his art, keep flavors true, use unlimited creativity and have access to unlimited resources from around the world. Critics agree — Tramonto has remained true to this vision — a vision born when Tramonto partnered with Rich Melman and Executive Pastry Chef Gale Gand.
Tramonto & Gand’s second book, Butter Flour Sugar Eggs, released in October 1999, was nominated for the 2000 James Beard Award for the Best Cookbook in the Baking and Desserts category. In October 2002, Random House published Tramonto’s third cookbook Amuse-Bouche, which features the little bites Tramonto has become known for.
Tramonto has a history of television work, including “Oprah”, “Today”, “CBS This Morning” and the TV Food Network. His sixth cookbook, “Fantastico!”, is a tour of Italy one small plate at a time and will be released in autumn 2007. In 2006 he founded Cenitare Restaurants with culinary partner Gale Gand , a restaurant management and development company which opened four new concepts The Westin Chicago North Shore, including Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood, Osteria di Tramonto and RT Lounge.
Tramonto is president of Tramonto Cuisine, which encompasses his work as an author and a corporate spokesperson. In addition to his best selling cookbooks, Tramonto has lent his expertise as a spokesperson and consultant to many well-known companies including, Nestle, Sunkist, the American Dairy Association, Chef's Catalogue, Illy Coffee, and Isi North America, just to name a few.