Sometimes, a love of cooking is in our blood. And for Josef Mujanovic, that’s exactly what got him into the kitchen at a young age.
“Growing up, I remember sitting on bags of flour watching my dad cook,” said Mujanovic, food service director at The Bristal at Holtsville. “A lot of my passion for cooking comes from my mom and dad, and their culinary backgrounds have played a significant impact on my success and growth as a chef.”
Mujanovic’s parents owned several restaurants while he was growing up, which spurred him to make his own career move into cooking. He attended SUNY Delhi for hospitality and restaurant management, moving on to work in catering, hotels, and more restaurants. Along the way, he said, he found his passion.
The Dining Experience at The Bristal at Holtsville
Mujanovic didn’t intend to end up working in the senior living industry, but while at another job, he learned of an opening at The Bristal from another employee and applied.
“It’s rewarding to be able to help these residents,” he said. “We see them every day, three meals a day. It’s not always easy to make everyone happy, but when you do, it’s rewarding.”
Cooking itself is just one part of the job he enjoys. Mentoring other chefs at The Bristal is another, as well as keeping up with new developments in the industry.
Even though he’s not cooking for a traditional restaurant, Mujanovic works as if he does.
“I feel and I treat my kitchen as if it was my own restaurant. And I look at the food I put out as restaurant quality — the style, the garnish… I put my own twist on it every day,” he said.
Finding a Passion for Cooking
Outside of work, Mujanovic enjoys — what else? — cooking for loved ones. Besides the influence of his family, Mujanovic credits his wife, coworkers, and friends with the support they’ve given him along the way.
“Through the years, I have always taken knowledge from every experience during this ride to be where I am now in my career with The Bristal,” he said.
Handmade Cheese Tortellini Francese with Amaretto-glazed Mushrooms
Mujanovic’s experiences – from his Yugoslavian heritage to his Italian culinary background – mean some of his favorite foods to make are homemade pizza dough, stromboli, and fresh pasta. Here, he shares his recipe for a rich, from-scratch cheese tortellini in Francese sauce.
For the pasta dough
- 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix eggs, flour, oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with your hands until a shaggy dough forms. Knead with dough hook until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes.
Cut and roll as desired.
Do ahead: Dough can be made 1 day ahead; wrap tightly and chill.
For the tortellini filling
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons food-processed candied pecans
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- Fresh pasta (recipe above)
- 1 egg mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water for egg wash
Using the fresh pasta recipe, roll out your dough either by hand or machine. Cut into 3- or 4- inch rounds with a round cookie cutter. Place 1/4 teaspoon into the center of each round. Brush egg wash on the bottom half of the round and fold over to seal. Fold back around your finger and turn down the edge to form the tortellini.
In half a gallon of rapidly boiling salted water, add the tortellini in batches. Cook for three to five minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove to a strainer to drain.
While tortellini is cooking, begin Francese sauce and glazed mushrooms.
Francese sauce and amaretto-glazed mushrooms
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 2 ½ cups white wine
- Juice of 2 lemons (approx. 1 cup)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ½ cup heavy cream (optional)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch OR 1 packet dry chicken gravy mix, to thicken
- 4 cups sliced button mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon amaretto honey
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste, lemon pepper, granulated onion, and garlic to taste
In a pan over low heat, combine melted butter and wine. Add in lemon juice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Thicken sauce with chicken gravy mix; or, blend together cornstarch and a few tablespoons water, whisking into the sauce slowly until desired thickness is achieved. An immersion blender may also be used to combine.
Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, lemon pepper, granulated onion, and garlic. If desired, add ½ cup heavy cream for a richer sauce.
Next, in a separate pan, sautée sliced mushrooms in olive oil and amaretto honey, adding fresh rosemary throughout the process. Mix your finished tortellini with the hot Francese sauce in a sauté pan on medium flame until desired temperature (approx. four minutes).
To plate, set a bed of pea microgreens, add the tortellini Francese, and top with amaretto-glazed mushrooms. Finally, garnish with rainbow microgreens or your preferred herbs and serve with Italian herb-crusted crostini.