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The Clandestine Chef

Cooking for the CIA, Fred DeFilippo Enjoys A Free Hand -- but He Needs an Escort

By Emily Kaiser
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 13, 2005; Page F01

Fred DeFilippo was about to quit the cooking profession altogether when he got the call.

After years of working in hotels and restaurants around upstate New York, the chef was tired of the long hours. He had heard of "fantasy 9-to-5 jobs" -- corporate work in which chefs got paid handsomely to cook lunch for top executives.


Fred DeFilippo studied at the Culinary Institute of America -- known to chefs as the CIA -- before being hired by the agency with the same abbreviation. (Mark Finkenstaedt For The Washington Post)

Veal, CIA Style

Sauteed Veal Scaloppine With Peaches and Black Mission Figs

2 servings

Executive chef Fred DeFilippo's most popular recipe at the CIA features fresh figs and peaches -- two ingredients available to him now at the CIA although these ingredients won't be in neighborhood supermarkets until early summer. DeFilippo uses only fresh ingredients, but we substituted frozen peaches and omitted the figs (you may wish to wait until the fruits are in season). Nonetheless, the subtle interplay of the sweet fruit, earthy sage and pungent blue cheese is memorable.

2 large fresh peaches, peeled, quartered and pitted (may substitute frozen sliced peaches, thawed, drained and patted completely dry)

10 tablespoons ruby port

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Four 3-ounce veal scaloppine, pounded very thin

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 small shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped country ham (may substitute pancetta)

3 fresh sage leaves, left whole

6 to 10 tablespoons beef broth

3 fresh black mission figs, halved (optional)

4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the peaches and 2 tablespoons of the port. Set aside for 1 hour.

Place the flour on a shallow plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Lightly dust each veal scaloppine with flour on each side.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the veal and cook, turning once, until browned on each side. Transfer to a plate.

Carefully wipe out the skillet, return to medium to medium-high heat and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic, shallot, ham and sage leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until the ham is crisped, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the peaches and the port they marinated in, along with the remaining 8 tablespoons port and the broth to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the skillet for 2 minutes, until the sauce is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Add the veal, plus figs if using, and stir just until combined. Remove from the heat, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and tilt the skillet until the butter is incorporated into the sauce.

Place 2 pieces of veal on each plate, and spoon the sauce and fruit over the top. If desired, top with cheese.

Recipe tested by Yuki Noguchi; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Per serving: 636 calories, 25 gm protein, 25 gm carbohydrates, 44 gm fat, 152 mg cholesterol, 19 gm saturated fat, 737 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

He consulted his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. -- known in culinary circles as "the CIA" -- about such a position. Alumni office staff members thought DeFilippo would be perfect for a corporate job in Northern Virginia. They just didn't say which corporation.

He offered to drive down for an interview.

Not so fast, he was told. He'd need clearance. He wouldn't have to cook for his potential new bosses, but he would be subject to extensive reference checks.

Only after he got the job did he learn his title. He was the new chef of the "other CIA" -- the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley.

"It was a big surprise," DeFilippo says. "This place has history. To come here, to see the emblem, the monuments: It was exciting."

Tucked away along the marble halls of federal buildings such as the State Department, the Federal Reserve and the National Security Agency are the private dining rooms of the government elite. They serve only the lucky and the powerful few.

Amid the passageways at the George Bush Center for Intelligence at Langley are three small dining rooms, all with abbreviations.

Agency Dining Room (ADR) 1 serves about 90 people a day. ADR 2 is a conference room that seats around 50. And the Director's Dining Room (DDR) is for the DCI -- director of Central Intelligence, Porter J. Goss, -- and his guests. As executive chef, DeFilippo cooks for all three.

ADR 2 and DDR are by invitation only. But ADR 1 takes reservations from CIA staffers. In any other setting, it would be a regular cafe: It has tablecloths, wicker chairs, a seasonal menu, a staff of waiters and a view of treetops over the Potomac River.

DeFilippo hardly notices. The novelty wore off, he says, about a month after he started. The peculiarities of working for a spy agency have become routine.

The only reminder may be his badge, which reads, "Escort Required." Because DeFilippo does not have clearance to handle classified documents, he must be escorted anywhere outside the kitchen.

Most government cooks obtained clearance as former military personnel, says Martin Saylor, chef at the new Juniper restaurant in Washington's West End and former chef for the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.


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