You hosted The Art of Food last year.
I did, It was really great to able to be with and meet our customers and clientele and get to connect with them and have a conversation. It’s a great
opportunity for me to give back. Vaucluse is participating again at the upcoming event, we just opened a little over a year ago. In restaurant years, it’s so young, but we’re firing on all cylinders now.
What kind of food do you serve there?
I’d say it’s a brasserie-plus plus. So what that means is you can get a great white label burger there, or you can get something classic: a beef bourguignonne or a veal chop, great steak frites. It’s very classic French.
How did you get started in the culinary world?
Years ago: 1989, 1990. I was in college, and there was no Food Network. There was a time in the early ‘90s when Italian food was just starting-and by Italian food, I’m not talking Italian-American Food. I mean real, Tuscan food, risotto was just being cooked, prosciutto came in to America legally in 1989. We take these things for granted now: being able to go to the deli counter and getting mortadella.
Growing up in the Midwest with a Norwegian family, food was always important. We were always gardening, so I grew an appreciation for that at an early age. I always liked and was around good food. But going to Chicago in 1990 and seeing all of these things was a mind-blowing experience. It was all very, very new. People make risotto now at home now, but at the time, there was so much happening. That’s how I got into cooking, and from there I went to Italy and Europe to learn Italian food and its origin.
You’ve earned a ton of recognition over the years, “Best New Restaurant,” Michelin Stars...
I’m a really lucky guy, I don’t take it for granted. There are many great chefs, and a lot of them don’t get the accolades or the light they deserve. We all work hard. I don’t think the average person realizes how much work goes into it. They see it glamourized on television- which is great for our business, don’t get me wrong-but people think it’s fire and flames in the kitchen, and that’s a little part of it, but it’s still a vocation, it’s not a white collar job.
What’s your number one cooking tip?
Keep it simple: ingredients, ingredients, ingredients. If you’re going to take the time to cook a recipe, make sure the ingredients are of good quality.I feel like people feel the need to over-embellish or they think there’s some big secret to a good recipe, but it’s all about good ingredients. Ingredients at least 70% of cooking. You could have the most amazing chef, but if he or she doesn’t have the right ingredients, they can’t make the food taste fantastic.
Favorite thing to cook at home for your family?
Anything, as long as we’re eating together. But I like to go with a one-pot meal that really makes the house smell good, especially this time of year: whether it’s risotto, braised meats, or soup. As a chef you can take food home, but I don’t often do that because it doesn’t perfume the house. It’s like having Thanksgiving dinner, but getting it dropped off, you know?
Check out what Vaucluse is serving up for the Art of Food at: www.artoffoodny.com