Three generations cooked in the Giambalvo kitchen with ten at the table every night (plus guests), and among them there was agreement that the teenage Kenny Giambalvo could cook. But it wasn't until his uncle handed him the article from the Sunday NY Times on the rigorous program at Culinary Institute of America, that the 15-year-old Giambalvo began to aspire to be a chef instead of a rock musician.
From a first job cleaning squid at Lenny's Clam Bar in New York to receiving the honorary title Maître Cuisinier de France, Giambalvo's culinary trajectory has taken him through some of the better kitchens in New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, and now Portland.
A brief exchange between his father and La Mascotte owner André Guillet led to his entrée to this world. "My son wants to be a chef, would Jean-Claude talk to him?" "Talk to him, I'll put him to work," Guillet replied. Giambalvo apprenticed with Jean-Claude Denner, who'd previously been a saucier at La Caravelle, bastion of true French haute cuisine, for two and a half years.
Giambalvo has a vivid memory of his first day on the job walking into the kitchen, "I was smelling mussels, garlic, shallots, white wine. I could smell all different ingredients, and I said, 'Wow! What is that?' And the chef said, 'Those are mussels, now get them cleaned. Get to work.'"
After graduating from the Culinary Institute in 1983, he worked at La Côte Basque, La Réserve, Gotham Bar and Grill, and Remi before spending two years under the tutelage of Terrance Brennan. He moved west to take an opening chef position at Pentola in Santa Monica. Then he was offered the position of Executive Chef at Ristorante Bologna, a chic, modern three star restaurant...in Singapore. "I had carte blanche, had food flown in from anywhere in the world," says Giambalvo, and when not in the kitchen, he reveled in the indigenous food at this Asian crossroads. "It was a life-changing experience for me. To enjoy these very specific dishes from so many cultures—Thai, Malaysian, Indian, every kind of Chinese—that have been done for 500 years the same way." He returned to Los Angeles two years later to become a chef at Remi.
Pazzo Ristorante in the Hotel Vintage Plaza brought Giambalvo to Portland as their executive chef, and in 2000, he opened Bluehour with partner and friend Bruce Carey to instant acclaim.
Giambalvo has cooked on two occasions at the James Beard House in NYC, first in 1999 as chef of Pazzo, and the second time in 2003 as chef /owner of Bluehour. He hosted celebrity chef Casey Thompson for a James Beard Chef Tour dinner in 2008 at Bluehour. Shortly after its opening in 2000, Bluehour and Chef Kenny were featured in Gourmet Magazine, Travel and Leisure, NW Palate, and more recently in Portland Monthly.
In 2009 Giambalvo was given an honorary award from the Maitre Cuisinier Society for his contribution to the preservation and promotion of French culture and cuisine.
Giambalvo has cooked for numerous Portland benefits including those for the Cascade Aids Project, Portland Center Stage, Portland Public Farmers Market, PICA, The Humane Society, for the Morrison Family Services Classic Wine Auction, Caldera School of Art, and for the Taste of the Nation.