Visionary Women: Amanda Russ Cifaldi
Cooking to perfection
Chef Amanda will never stop growing, even after being recognized as a top chef.
Amanda, you are recognized as one of the top chefs in the Lowcountry as well as a leader in the community. What was your inspiration? Growing up, I watched my parents teach Italian cooking classes out of our home in Michigan. I watched my mother, ever the entertainer, throw countless euchre parties and holiday gatherings, bake trays of lasagna and take them to sick neighbors, help cook at the church bazaar, using food as her vehicle to show love. My parents cooked us dinner almost every night, and in our home the meals we ate were simple and comforting. The food on the table was a conduit to the connection and the conversations where we would share our days of schoolwork and basketball practices, my parents prodding us with questions and offering gentle nudges toward better results. When I opened Pomodori, I envisioned it being an extension of our family home, where parents can bring their kids and connect over a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, where four spoons can fight over the last bite of tiramisu. I’ve had the privilege and honor of watching this dream come true countless times over the last 11 years, watching children and parents being raised right in front of me. That continued growth for my community is all the inspiration I will ever need, and I am eternally grateful for it.
You must have faced challenges. What was your biggest one? Undoubtedly a lack of experience was my biggest hurdle. I had only worked in two professional kitchens before I opened my own restaurant, which is practically unheard of. Luckily, I had wonderful mentors and guides along the way who helped me hone and shape the restaurant we are today. My own skills and abilities also have sharpened throughout my career, particularly with the advent of Driftwood Catering, a business born solely of my desire to continue growing and evolving in my love of food and entertaining. Where there’s a will…
If you could share one piece of advice to people trying to make it in a pretty competitive industry, what would it be? Treat everyone with respect and appreciation, and you will always have plenty of helping hands.
Three Lessons Learned
1. Pick up the broom. The manager of my first restaurant in Charleston comes to mind when I think of lessons learned. He never asked us to sweep the kitchen; he just picked up the broom and started doing it. Inevitably one of us would go over and take it from him. Never ask anybody to do anything that you yourself are not willing to do. If you lead by example, you will always have someone there to take the broom.
2. Show gratitude to those who help you. One of the reasons I think our restaurant is so beloved by our community is that our staff has stayed the same for over a decade. This wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t love and appreciate every single member of our Pomodori family.
3. Balance is everything. I am at my most productive when my work life and personal life are in harmony. Prioritizing my wife and kids, my sleep, exercise, and connecting with friends and family frees me up to not only run my company to the best of my ability, but to do so with joy and peace, both of which are utterly contagious.
Amanda Russ Cifaldi
Founder and chef, Pomodori Italian Eatery
Come in: 1 New Orleans Rd, Hilton Head (Reservations are recommended)