Chef's Choice: David Timney, Mangia Italiano

It's never easy being new, but two months into his stint as executive chef at Mangia Italiano, David Timney is feeling content. "I think my home is really here," he says. "I'm just as excited being here as I was being at Balaban's seventeen, eighteen years ago."

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Robin Wheeler
David Timney, executive chef at Mangia Italiano
"There are a lot of similarities with the quality of food [at Mangia]," he observes. "The people are very committed and dedicated to working here. Once a place opens and it's been there almost nine years, to see people who've been here almost since the beginning -- that's what we had at Balaban's. We had people who'd worked there since day one."

Timney has experienced a lot of change in recent years. His career started with long stints at Detroit's The London Chop House and The Rattlesnake Club, followed by St. Louis institution Balaban's. In the decade since he left Balaban's, he has worked at Sqwires and Kreis', but now he is ready for another long-standing gig at Mangia.

"At Balaban's, thirteen years went very fast," he notes. "It's amazing how, when you really enjoy something, how time really does fly. There's thirteen years of my life gone, and it was a great experience. I look forward to that being the same here."

He started his career at age sixteen, washing dishes in Detroit, not sure what he was going to do as an adult. Time spent in the professional kitchen changed that: "There was nothing I had a passion for until I started getting involved in cooking."

He soon found himself with the chance to learn from three-time James Beard Award-winning chef Jimmy Schmidt at The London Chop House: "I went to work [for Schmidt] as an apprentice, started working there opening oysters and clams, worked my way up. He took me under his wing then, took me to open The Rattlesnake Club in Denver, then he went back to open The Rattlesnake Club in Detroit, and that's where he is now. I left Denver and went to work at Balaban's.

"[Schmidt] said to me, 'If you're dedicated, it'll take you ten years to be able to run a restaurant and be on your own.' So I worked for him for about nine years and then it was time to leave the nest. For those nine years, it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and say, 'Oh, those nine years were great,' but when I was doing it it was like, this is kind of a drag. But when you get the cake at the end, that's what waiting for that day was all about."

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