The airing of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef: Season 3 finale, where Chef Marc Forgione was declared winner, is coming up on its seven year anniversary, in November.
“I came and I conquered,” said Chef Forgione (like a boss!) after winning the Thanksgiving Feast challenge against Chef Marco Canora.
Since then, Marc Forgione continues to man the kitchen at his Reade Street restaurant, by the same name, which he opened in New York City two years before competing on the show. He is keeping busy as the chef/owner of American Cut and Lobster Press, as well. He is also a partner/co-owner of Khe-yo, a unique restaurant serving up Lao cuisine in Tribeca.
But when did he first fall in love with the culinary arts?
“I don’t know if there was a particular moment per se. I grew up around food and started cooking for myself at a very young age, so I would say I was born in love with cooking,” said Forgione who started working at his father’s restaurant, An American Place, at the early age of 16.
We caught up with the star-studded chef this week, to learn more about him and his cooking philosophy.
How influential has been your father, the legendary Larry Forgione (called, The Godfather of American Cuisine,) been in your cooking style?
Forgione: Very…. Even today I still follow his mantra of using only the best, seasonal, local ingredients. You can’t make a bad ingredient taste great.
What do you attribute your culinary success to?
Forgione: A lot of hard work and being surrounded by supportive people.
What are three ingredients you love to cook with?
Forgione: Salt, pepper, and patience.
One ingredient you could not live without?
Your restaurant was actually top ranked using guest sentiment data by our sister company, Foodable Labs, as the most loved New York restaurant for bread. In your opinion, how important is the role of bread in an elevated fine dining experience?
Forgione: It’s incredibly important. It’s the first bite you have at the restaurant so it’s the first impression you’re getting of our food and the experience.
Can you describe the bread course at your restaurant and what sets it apart from your peers? Do you offer any gluten-free options?
Forgione: We do an elevated version of the classic potato roll served warm and brushed with clarified butter and sprinkled with black salt and served with a side of caramelized onion butter. We don’t at the moment offer any gluten-free bread but we do have starting options for guests with gluten-intolerance or allergies. We accommodate every and any allergy or dietary restriction as much as we can.
Any personal favorite menu items or something you'd suggest first-time visitors should try at Marc Forgione?
Forgione: We change the menu regularly to adjust to changing seasonal ingredients but my signature dishes that are always on the menu are Chicken-Under-A-Brick, Chili Lobster, Hiramasa Tartare, and Halibut en Croute.
In general, how important is quality at your restaurant? What do you do differently to uphold high standards?
Forgione: Quality is the most important thing at my restaurant from the food to service. I make sure to hire people who have the same level of standards as me and a real care for food and hospitality.
How did it feel to be the youngest American-born chef to receive the honor of receiving a Michelin star? After, did you feel any pressure to maintain the star?
Forgione: It was a huge honor. I actually didn’t believe it when I got the initial phone call. I thought it was my old chef playing a joke on me! I don’t really feel the pressure to get awards, in general. It’s, of course, nice to be recognized but at the end of the day, I just want to put out delicious food and make sure our guests are having a great experience at the restaurant.
We imagine that cooking for T.V. and cooking professionally are very different experiences. What did you learn from cooking competitively that has helped you grow as a chef?
Forgione: When you’re in the kitchen there’s a lot of time to plan and focus on each dish. When you’re competing, things don’t always go as planned and you need to make changes in seconds. So I’ve definitely learned a lot about improvising and "cooking on my feet."
Who is your culinary mentor?
Forgione: I’ve been lucky enough to work with several amazing chefs who have influenced me in many ways so it’s tough to just pick one.
What is your favorite restaurant to eat at when you aren’t working?
Do you have any new concepts or projects in the works?
Forgione: Not at the moment, but I’m always open to new projects if it’s the right fit (hint hint!)