"We were cooking there for four hours," says chef Marc Forgione about his stint at Monday night’s James Beard Awards, "and every two and a half minutes someone would ask me about my dad." Though Forgione long ago moved out of his father Larry’s legendary kitchen — "I stopped working for my old man when I was 22, and I did that on purpose — he agreed to cook at the awards in honor of the "culinary legacy" theme. "I felt it," he admits. "But I just put my head down and I cook." Forgione and his eponymous restaurant will participate in next week’s Taste of Tribeca. Find out what he had to eat this week (including a quick jaunt to Las Vegas) in the latest installment of the New York Diet.
Friday, April 30
We got in to Vegas at about two-thirty in the morning and went to the Wynn. I’m friends with the guy in charge of room service. When we woke up, he sent us up lobster eggs Benedict, silver-dollar pancakes, a whole fruit platter–type deal. I had coffee.
There wasn’t much lunch. There was a lot of alcohol, gambling, drinking — poolside, doing the Vegas thing. I used to be the corporate chef for BLT, so around dinner time we went to BLT Burger at the Mirage, and I had the burger and fries — classic, with American cheese.
Then at like five in the morning we went to Society Café, where my brother is the sous-chef. They’re open 24 hours, and we basically had dinner. We got every single appetizer on the menu, but the one thing that everybody loved in particular were the mac-and-cheese bites, which were these little fritters. We got two rib eyes for two, and I remember the steak being really good. I like it medium-rare.
Saturday, May 1
We actually did pretty well and woke up and went right back to Society Café by about 11:30 a.m. I didn’t get to see my brother when we were there before, and he made us breakfast. It was a poached egg, steak, and cheese on this Cheddar biscuit. It was really good. I had a Bloody Mary, and then we went to the pool.
For dinner, I went to visit my brother’s family, my nephews and stuff. His wife made spaghetti and meatballs.
Sunday, May 2
I took the red-eye back, and got in to New York at about 7 a.m., got to the restaurant about 10:30 or 11, and right away starting prepping stuff for the James Beard Awards the next day. We do a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich on a popover here for brunch, so that’s what I had for breakfast. And lots of coffee, among other things, to get me going.
All day I prepped, prepped, prepped. My dad was friends with James Beard, so I decided to take [the event’s theme] of "passing on the legacy" literally as my inspiration for the dish. There’s a dish called "Asparagus in Ambush" that’s in James Beard’s original cookbook, and my dad did a version of it in the eighties, and then I did my version on Monday. The original was just asparagus stuffed inside hollowed-out bread with bechamel, and I turned it into baby white asparagus with fiddleheads, morel mushrooms, fresh fennel pasta, and Koppert Crest pea shoots. I had to prep all the vegetables for a thousand people. I could’ve left a list for everybody and had them do it, but I wanted to do it myself. I had to make the morel sauce, the pasta, the whole thing. We used Dickson’s tasso ham in the dish, and I probably ingested a couple pounds of that over the last five days.
My girlfriend cooked for me that night. She made a honey-glazed chicken with a little cherry tomato and fennel salad; it was good.
Monday, May 2
I went back to my usual breakfast. More or less five or six days of the week when I get to work, I have the same thing. We have an olive-oil cake on the dessert list that I don’t let [pastry chef Ashton Warren] take off the menu because it’s my breakfast. I eat an order of that cake — not with all the fixings, just a slice of the cake with a cup of coffee.
We got over to the Awards around 2:30 p.m., and we set up. For the rest of the night, I tasted a whole bunch of things. There was a cucumber jelly with king crab [from Avenues chef Curtis Duffy], Jean-Georges’s kid [Perry Street chef Cedric Vongerichten]’s crab dumplings. My favorite of the night, believe it or not, was the vitello tonnato sandwich that Jonathan Benno did. It’s funny — I looked at the tasting as a micro look into the industry, where you had half the people doing edgy weird stuff and the other half of the people doing classically done simple stuff. I thought that was really interesting, seeing the differences in creativity and flavor. It was a lot of young guys, so I think maybe people were trying to flex a little bit, but you could see clearly the two different styles of chefs working in today’s industry.
After the awards we went to Terroir Tribeca, where we didn’t eat anything but we drank. We’d heard that that was where all the after-parties were gonna end up, and I had to go down there to drop all the shit at the restaurant anyway. It was pretty packed by the time I left.
Tuesday, May 3
I woke up, came to work, had my usual cake and coffee.
During the day I had nothing much, just tasting whatever we were cooking. I made my dinner — we do this spring salad, it’s kind of like a riff on the Caesar salad, where instead of romaine we use sugar snap and snow peas and sorrel, cut almost the way chopped romaine would look, with a Parmesan-lemon dressing and croutons.
At the end of every night I usually have — well, I call ‘em hash browns. It’s grated potato that we put onion in and fresh spring garlic, and we make them fresh every day so there’s always some left over after service. I dip them in this ginger ketchup we do. I quit smoking weed a couple years ago, and every time I eat these hash browns I’m like, "I wish I could eat this while I’m baked." It’s one of the best after-service snacks in the world.
Wednesday, May 4
We know how it started. Cake and coffee.
Family meal that day was chicken thighs, and then one of my cooks made mashed potatoes but added some flour and baked them, so I don’t know what you’d call it. Maybe a casserole. Family meal gets pretty funny sometimes at a restaurant. You give it over to your cooks — one cook does the meat, one the veg, one the carb — and depending on how much time they have or don’t have and what ingredients they have to work with, it varies. They all want to get creative, and so sometimes you end up with baked mashed potatoes. But it was delicious — I think he had some spring garlic scraps in there. We eat that at 3:45. It’s dinner time, then service starts, and then there’s usually some kind of snack after service.
I live right over by Despaña, and when I got home from work that night I had some some beautiful blood sausage, morcilla, that I had bought. I’m always stuffing my face at home with cured meats. Nothing to drink; I’m on detox after Vegas and the Beards.