Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse
Chef’s Spotlight • By Karla Wall
When Chef Larry Mannheimer, executive chef at Vic and Anthony’s Steakhouse in Golden Nugget Lake Charles, was invited to be one of the 15 Louisiana chefs to compete in the 2019 Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off in Lafayette in June, it was an honor, but a bit of a daunting prospect.
“I was a newbie — this was my first contest. I was also a guy from Massachusetts cooking in a Louisiana seafood contest,” he points out.
“It was nerve-wracking,” he admits. “But it was also very exciting. I got comfortable and eased into it after a while.”
Mannheimer prepared Black Drum Pontchartrain with fried green tomatoes. And though his dish didn’t earn him a placement, he says he was well pleased with it.
“The dish just said Louisiana to me,” he explains. “Black drum is a Gulf fish; you have the Pontchartrain sauce, which is Louisiana, and the fried green tomatoes are Louisiana.”
Mannheimer learned to cook at home with his stepmother.
“Her parents were from Italy, so Italian became my go-to food,” he says. In fact, lasagna is his favorite dish to make when he cooks at home.
He moved to Lake Charles with his mother at age 10 and knew before he was out of high school that he wanted a career as a chef.
“I took courses at Sowela my senior year in high school, and went through their culinary program,” he says.
He left Sowela just a couple of (non-culinary) courses shy of a degree when he was offered a management position at 121 Artisan Bistro in Lake Charles. It was an offer he couldn’t pass up.
“I just missed Italian food,” he quips.
He worked several jobs after leaving 121 and eventually found his way into the casino industry, with a short stint at Isle of Capri.
After leaving the Isle, he and his wife moved back to Massachusetts; she wanted to experience the northeast, he says. “That lasted about six months,” he laughs.
The couple moved back to Lake Charles, and his wife got a job at Vic and Anthony’s in the just-opened Golden Nugget.
“She came home one day and told me they really needed people over there. I decided to apply,” he says.
He began as a sauté chef and worked his way up to executive chef, a position he’s held for about a year now.
At one point, he says, the restaurant almost lost him to the local Jimmy John’s franchise.
“I took a delivery driver position for Jimmy John’s as a second job when my wife went back to school,” he says. “It was actually a nice change of pace for me. They eventually offered me a management position there.”
But the management at Vic and Anthony’s, he says, made it clear they wanted him to stay and work his way up through the company. He turned down the Jimmy John’s offer and never looked back.
As executive chef, Mannheimer spends only half of his time cooking. The other half, he explains, is taken up with personnel matters, inventory (we met at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning; he’d been there since 8 to do inventory) and other “bookwork.” That’s something a lot of chefs who rise to the position regret — having to leave the kitchen and become a manager, with all the headache that can entail. Mannheimer, though, says he hasn’t regretted the decision to leave most of the cooking to others.
“I’ve always wanted to move up to the top,” he says.
Vic and Anthony’s, of course, is a restaurant which focuses on steak, though they do offer a “fish feature” on their menu. But Mannheimer’s comfortable with seafood dishes, from the lobster and clams of his native northeast to the shrimp and redfish of the Gulf Coast. And he says the restaurant will soon offer more in the way of seafood dishes.
Mannheimer says his plans are to stay with Golden Nugget and “keep growing with the company.” He seems happy to be where he is and seeing diners enjoy what his team produces. That, he says, is one of the best things about his job.
“I love seeing people happy with what we’ve prepared,” he says.
And, he says, he loves the entire process of turning out those dishes.
“I love seeing the line flow, seeing everything come together and the food go out hot and fresh,” he says.