Staten Island, N.Y.
Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.
Education: Graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Married: Wife, Denise, is an abstract painter.
Richard Mancino marches to the beat of his own drum, literally. As executive chef for Chartwells at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., he is currently working to develop a new four-week cycle menu for the upcoming school year. His big challenge right now is creating healthier versions of comfort foods that appeal to his students. But when he needs to escape the kitchen, he takes an unexpected route. He grabs his sticks and plays drums in several bands.
“I first started taking lessons when I was in first or second grade. Then, in third or fourth grade, my parents got me a set of kiddie-size drums for me to practice on. Then, when I was 13 my father bought me my first full set of Ludwig drums. When I was a kid, I played a lot of The Beatles, Young Rascals, Motown and R&B from that time. I was in my first band when I was about 15 and we played school dances, parties, wherever people would let us play. We played Rolling Stones songs and British invasion stuff.
I wanted to play drums professionally but it’s just such hard work. In my 20s, I was playing and working as a bartender, which was great because I had a flexible schedule. While working as a bartender, I got into cooking. Cooking is a full-time thing, so it became a choice between drumming or cooking. I didn’t think I was good enough to really make a living drumming. It just got to a point where I had to decide if I wanted to make money, have a house, a family and all that so I chose cooking, but I’ve always kept playing.
I always liked to cook. I think cooking and drumming are similar in that they are both creative outlets. You also have to always be ‘on’ in both pursuits. You have to get it right within a certain amount of time with no mistakes. Whether you’re playing a show or cooking a dinner for the president of the college, the pressure is kind of the same. I guess I thrive on that pressure.
Currently, I play with a couple bands; the main one is called Bakin Fat. We rehearse a couple times a week and we play about three or four times a month. We play mostly traditional blues stuff, usually covers by Muddy Waters and Dr. John. That band has been together for four or five years but I’ve only been with them for about six months. We play at clubs and festivals. I also fill in as a drummer for other bands whenever I can. That is sometimes hard because I don’t always know the songs. So I can be playing a Latin beat when it’s supposed to be a ballad but I can usually adjust on the fly. I can pick up songs pretty quickly too.
I remember one festival I played about 10 years back. It was an oldies festival on Long Island. We were playing and a brawl between a bunch of bikers broke out in the audience. We just kept playing and while the lead singer was singing he was calling out for security, but we just kept going. He finally got their attention and they broke up the fight but I like the fact that we just kept on playing throughout.
There are a lot of bands and drummers I admire. People like Terry Bozzio, who played with Frank Zappa and writes a lot of drum solo pieces. I also like bands such as Little Feat and The Beatles, of course. I practice every day for about two hours. I built myself a studio at my house about 25 years ago. I soundproofed it and I have three full sets of drums. I have vintage sets and modern ones so I can stay current. I love playing around with all them. Drumming is just my first love.”