With almost three years of Iron Chef America battles behind him since winning The Next Iron Chef, Marc Forgione is in no way the rookie of Kitchen Stadium anymore — after all, Iron Chefs Zakarian and Guarnaschelli have both accepted the famed title after him. He clinched the win in 2010, and from that point on he’s been reinventing the secret ingredients to make Chairman-worthy plates in each and every battle, and challenging not only his opposing chefs but also himself to compete at a higher level. Fresh off the opening of his third New York City restaurant, American Cut, FN Dish sat down with Marc to reflect on the past few years of Kitchen Stadium contests and to find out how he balances the demands of restaurant cooking and Iron Chef competitions. Read on below to hear from Iron Chef Forgione and learn which of his restaurants’ dishes he’s re-created on television and more.
It’s been almost three years since you won The Next Iron Chef. What’s been the most-surprising thing you’ve learned in that time? Marc Forgione: Especially being in New York City, you can’t — whether you want to or not — you can’t rest on your laurels. There’ll be somebody just as hungry, or hungrier, or just as hungry as you were right there waiting for you to fall down so that they can start taking your customers and people can start talking about them. New York is the cliche: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But once you get there, it’s tough to stay there. You have to make sure that you can.
1. He doesn’t believe in kid-friendly recipes. “What do your kids like to eat? That’s a good kid-friendly recipe,” he says. Even better: Ask them to help in the kitchen. “Get them involved with whatever you cook. Let them feel something!” It’ll turn picky eaters into enthusiastic ones, Guy says.
2. He’d take a wok over the grill any day. “The wok is one of my favorite things to work with when I’m camping,” he says. “Outdoor cooking is not just about hot dogs and hamburgers. There are so many styles of food you can make.”
When I was growing up, macaroni and cheese was a very special treat. The only time the boxed version made an appearance at our table was on the rare occasion when my parents went out in the evening and left us with a baby sitter. The sitter was given strict instructions to serve it with carrot sticks and glasses of milk, which dampened the joy of dayglow pasta just a little.
It wasn’t until I went away to college that I discovered two things about macaroni and cheese: It is dead simple to make from scratch, and if you stir in some kind of vegetable in with the pasta, you can call it a complete meal.
Once I was living off-campus and had a real kitchen at my disposal, I had my way with the world of mac and cheese. My roommates and I made cheesy shells with cheese, stirred ribbons of zucchini in with leftover spaghetti noodles, and we even did a batch of smoked salmon and cream cheese mac and cheese once for a brunch potluck. They were all tasty dishes that left me with a healthy respect for the power of cooked pasta and a quick batch of cheese sauce.
The first Thanksgiving I ever hosted was a cooking obstacle course, except the stress had nothing to with the actual cooking task at hand. It was the fact that I knowingly tossed my family’s traditions out the window, in an effort to create new ones for my own growing family — I was four months pregnant with my first daughter.
The list of what I changed goes on and on (including the stuffing and cranberry sauce). Therein lies my biggest mistake that very first Thanksgiving: I changed too much, too fast. Rather than create the picture-perfect memory of a blissful family Thanksgiving, I was left feeling under-appreciated for all my hard work.
What does any of this have to do with your Thanksgiving plans this year, you may be wondering? It’s pretty simple, actually. Learn from my mistakes. Thanksgiving is first and foremost supposed to be about family and being grateful. People hold tight to their traditions, though, and making drastic changes to beloved family recipes is an invitation for disaster. This doesn’t mean you can’t chart your own course. It just means you should stick with familiar favorites, but give them your own twist.
You don’t need a turkey at the center of the table to make Thanksgiving a special day! Here are delicious dishes that can take the spotlight at your feast, whether you’re a vegetarian or just hosting a few.
Get a head start on Thanksgiving this weekend with the help of Food Network. On Saturday, see Ree’s plan for using up leftovers. Then let Trisha show you her no-fuss holiday menu. And later, see how Giada deals with her Turkey Day remainders. In the evening, watch expert bakers on Cupcake Wars create cupcakes that will lead to the perfect match on a singles’ night.
On Sunday morning, Guy puts his own personal spin on Thanksgiving with a turkeyless menu. Then Damaris is inspired by the season’s many vegetable offerings to create a comforting fall menu. After that is the premiere of Farmhouse Rules, where farm owner Nancy Fuller prepares a family-friendly fall-harvest feast. In the evening, watch all-new episodes of Guy’s Grocery Games and Restaurant Express before the premiere of On the Rocks, where expert John Green helps struggling bar owners find the path to a successful business.
“Anytime you mix friendship with business, there’s always inherent conflict, and you can see it’s sort of coming to the surface,” Restaurant Divided‘s Rocco DiSpirito said not long after arriving at Against Da Grill, a Staten Island, N.Y., eatery specializing in diner-style classics. Co-owners Kurron Mangin and Vinny Lima — the chef and the business manager at Against Da Grill, respectively — are longtime best friends facing imminent closure of their restaurant if they can’t turn around the business. While Kurron is committed to maintaining the original diner concept at Against Da Grill, Vinny believes a change is in order and proposed they begin serving traditional barbecue instead. “I feel that the Island is missing that,” Vinny explained. “If we could bring something that no one else is doing, we have a better chance at success.”
The team at Against Da Grill is a tightknit one: The staff is like family, and the restaurant is well-ingrained in the community. So for Rocco to decide what the best next step should be for Against Da Grill, he ultimately divided it. After a complete interior overhaul and menu redesign, Kurron served customers at the new Against Da Grill while Vinny ran S.I.Q. on the other side of the restaurant. Rocco listened to customer and critic feedback, tasted dishes from both eateries and reviewed both restaurants’ chances for lasting success before deciding that S.I.Q. offered the most opportunity for viability.
It’s Thursday, and while that means everyone is just one day away from the weekend, it also means it’s time to throw back — to an earlier period in Food Network’s history. Check back on FN Dish every Thursday to find the latest #tbt of your favorite chefs and get a retro look at their earliest days on TV.
Long before Scott Conant took his seat at the judges’ table on Chopped, he spent his days in the kitchens of some of the most-celebrated restaurants in New York City and abroad, earning his reputation as one of the premiere chefs and restaurateurs in the industry. He graduated from culinary school and soon moved to Germany for several years before returning stateside to begin his journey up the culinary ladder, first as a sous chef and eventually as an executive chef at San Domenico and City Eatery, respectively.
Throughout his training, Scott focused much of his attention in the kitchen on his passion for Italian food. He spent time in Italy cooking with renowned chefs and relatives alike, which ultimately inspired within him a style of Italian cuisine all his own. His roster of flavors and ingredients went on to be featured at the forefront of several of his restaurants, including his now-signature eatery, Scarpetta, and in many of the dishes he’s made while competing on Chopped After Hours and Chopped All-Stars.
Alex Guarnaschelli puts her culinary chops on display daily at her New York City restaurants Butter and The Darby, but she also knows a thing or two about entertaining a crowd (especially during the holidays). When FN Dish caught up with her at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, she was throwing a jazz brunch in the newly renovated Butter, featuring dishes from her debut cookbook, Old-School Comfort Food. Though the event was small and intimate, her entertaining ideas work for any occasion — big or small:
Mix up the menu. You don’t have to serve an entire buffet of right-out-of-the-oven hot dishes. A mix of both hot and cold bites not only keeps the menu interesting, but it also gives you more time to mingle with guests. Try putting out an assorted meat plate with some dried fruits, toasted nuts or a mix of cheeses. It’s an elevated way to serve a wider variety of food without making more work for yourself. Alex recommends pancetta, culatello ham, mustela loin and capocollo Calabrese. Don’t forget to set out grilled bread or pita too.