The Importance of a Mentor

Erik Pettersen / Founder Evo Italian

September 23, 2021

Guest Bio

Erik Pettersen / Founder Evo Italian

Chef and restaurateur Erik Pettersen opened Evo Italian in March 2007. He currently hosts a recurring weekly cooking segment on CBS12 in West Palm Beach called "What's For Dinner With Chef Erik?" and won an episode of the Food Network's "Guy's Grocery Games" in 2020. Erik grew up in Oyster Bay, Long Island, and his Italian heritage played a significant role in what would become his passion and career. As a fourth-generation Italian chef with over 30 years of culinary experience, he was exposed to Italian food preparation by his Sicilian grandmother, whom Erik would watch and help cook whenever he visited her. He learned the authentic, farm-to-table recipes passed on from generation to generation, and the respect and attention to detail that each dish merited. She taught him the family secrets that still influence his cooking to this day. While working at a pizzeria as a teenager, this made him aware of his keen sense for quality that he saw in his own family's cooking, which led him to become more and more attuned to the nature of his true calling. With the knowledge of knowing how to cook, Erik's mother constantly reminded him to explore this natural ability further. He climbed the ranks of some of the most well-respected and popular restaurants in New York, working as a sous chef in Manhattan restaurants for revered restaurateurs the Scotto brothers and renowned chef Brendan Walsh. As the years passed, his dream took full shape, as he knew he wanted to go back to his roots and start showcasing the family recipes. But Erik's dream was put on hold when success came knocking and he was brought in as executive chef and working partner for Ciao Baby!, an upscale four-star restaurant in Commack, Long Island. The restaurant took off with Erik, age 29, at the helm, and his sauces and recipes were being raved about in reviews from the New York Times and the New York Post. First time customers became regulars, a line was out the door to get a table, and after the first six months in business, a second Ciao Baby! location broke ground in Massapequa. He was on his way to becoming one of the hottest chefs in New York, until his mother in Florida called to tell him she had stage-four lung cancer. It took a while for this horrific news to set in, but when it did, he sold his share of the restaurant and moved south to Delray Beach. While living in Florida, Erik focused on being his mother's caretaker. In her final months, they would visit relatives together in Jupiter and Tequesta, and she would remark, "when I get better, we're going to sell the house in Delray, open a small place in Tequesta, you'll do the cooking and I'll handle the business."

After his mother's passing, Erik lived out both his mother's dreams and his own with the opening of Evo Italian on Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, 2007, in Tequesta. While adding the title "restaurant owner" to his credentials, his one-room small restaurant had only eight tables and 35 seats. Erik served his first customer, legendary ice hockey player Bobby Orr. Evo soon was the talk of the town, and Erik was once again building his reputation like he did back in New York. After two years, he added a bar area and expanded into a second room, and by the fifth anniversary, Evo moved into its current location with 150 seats, a full bar, lounge and outdoor patio area. Evo Italian, now 14 years in business, offers a contemporary interpretation of authentic Italian recipes. Evo, short for evolution, brings time-honored, old world traditions evolving full circle into fresh new beginnings with the freshest and highest quality ingredients. And Erik's chef jacket has the name Nancy scripted on the back, as he knows, his mother Nancy always has his back! Years ago, in the Italian village where his grandparents lived, there were no supermarkets to shop for food, so dinner came fresh from the farm to the table. Today, this is the philosophy Erik continues to practice, and he does not simply wish to just feed his guests but nourish the body and mind with culinary experiences that set a new standard in dining. At Evo Italian, Erik embraces this area's rich farming and fishing heritage and celebrates the remarkable seasonable bounty. The climate supplies him with a year-round steady stream of stunning ingredients from which he crafts the menu. He sources and handpicks the finest products to incorporate into contemporary variations of his family's secret recipes, and traditional treasures with a new twist and the warmth of the Italian way of living. Evo's beef, chicken, veal and pork are prime grade, all-natural and hormone-free, and fish is delivered every day from local fish purveyors. Imported Italian products play a major role in Erik's unique approach to cooking. In partnership with his family in Italy, Erik has the ability to import only the finest D.O.P certified products, from San Marzano tomatoes to Sicilian and Tuscan first cold pressed extra virgin olive oils, bufala mozzarella a pugliese, "rocca" Reggiano parmigiana, aged balsamic from Modena and the finest fresh and handmade dried pasta Italy has to offer. Evo Italian, Erik's dream come true, is Palm Beach North's most elegant and upscale Italian cuisine dining experience and welcomes guests from all over the country, snowbirds, and regularly serves the Tequesta, Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and Juno Beach areas.

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