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World Chefs: New York's Marc Forgione recalls surviving recession

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Marc Forgione chronicles in his first book how his eponymous New York restaurant that opened in 2008 survived early tough reviews and the Great Recession and became a Michelin-star destination.
/ Source: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Marc Forgione chronicles in his first book how his eponymous New York restaurant that opened in 2008 survived early tough reviews and the Great Recession and became a Michelin-star destination.

This 35-year-old son of Larry Forgione, who is considered a pioneer of modern American cuisine, trained with top European and American chefs after college. After achieving success with his own restaurant, he won the popular U.S. television competition show "Iron Chef" on the Food Network in 2010.

Along with his personal story, Forgione offers 170 recipes in his self-titled book, co-written with Olga Massov and released on Tuesday.

Some of the recipes feature regularly at Marc Forgione, whose menu critics have praised for its use of seasonal local ingredients with modern techniques.

The 35-year-old New York native, whose brother Bryan is also a chef, spoke to Reuters about his career and how to be run a successful restaurant.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: I really wanted people to know the story of how everybody had to work to keep up what is now Marc Forgione and how to keep it going. It was like going to hell and back during the recession. I don't think everyone realizes how hard the journey has been. I think a lot people would look on the outside with me being my dad's son and an Iron Chef. I wanted people to know it wasn't easier to have what I've gotten. Hopefully this will help people in the future when they have a hard time on their own.

Q: What was your toughest challenge? How did things change?

A: The toughest thing we had to deal with was getting people to come and eat in 2009. It was as slow as you could possibly imagine. Getting a Michelin star really increased our business right off the bat. I was ready to sell the business, then we got the star that week. The week I was ready to sell we got the star so I decided to give it another year.

Q: For first-time diners at Marc Forgione, what is the impression you want to give them?

A: We like to use the term 'rip their faces off.' It's kind of an inside joke that we want to rip their faces off with hospitality. We want to turn first-timers into second-timers, fifth-timers into 25th-timers. We enjoy people coming back. That's one of the reasons we change the menu as much as we do, being able to cater to people many times to give them a different experience and to just show them the love, you know.

Q: What was it like growing up under your father, a famous chef?

A: When I was growing up, I had no idea my dad was a famous chef. It's not like we were in a store and people were asking for his autograph. He was obviously very known in the food world. At the end of the day, he was just 'Dad.' I have always been very proud and very respectful of what he has accomplished and what he set out to do which is an American category of food, which didn’t exist before.

Q: What is the best advice your father gave you?

A: When I told him I wanted to be a chef, he kind of looked at me, not like he was trying to scare me. He wanted to make sure I knew, say goodbye to your weekends, say goodbye to the friends you have now, say goodbye to holidays, say goodbye to a 'normal' life. I think I have taken that with me. When I see young kids who are not sure of being a chef, I let them know. This is a hard business. You want to make sure you love it. If you don't, don't do it. As far as cooking, he always taught me to have respect for the ingredients, have respect for the business, have respect for the chefs you are working for, have respect for the chefs who have been there before you.

Recipe (from "Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant")

Fried Chicken and Honey (Serves 4)

20 duck tongues (about ½ pound), rinsed in cold water

2 cups home-made or store-bought veal stock

2 cups home-made or store-bought chicken stock

½ Vidalia onion

1 Bouquet Garni (see below)

2 quarts buttermilk, divided

Canola oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon Ararat spice mix or a spice blend of choice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 recipe Duck Glaze (see below)

1. In a medium pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the duck tongues, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer the tongues for about 10 minutes, periodically skimming any impurities that rise to the surface. Drain the tongues and transfer them to a medium Dutch oven.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit; position the rack in the middle. In a saucepan, combine the veal and chicken stocks, onion, bouquet garni, and 1 quart of the buttermilk, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour the hot buttermilk mixture over the duck tongues in the Dutch oven, cover, and braise for 1 hour in the oven.

3. Remove the tongues from the liquid and let cool for 15 minutes. Using your fingertips or a pair of tweezers, pull out the cartilage in one piece from the fatter end of each tongue. Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, return the tongues to the liquid, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

4. Remove the tongues from the braising liquid and place them in a container with the remaining 1 quart buttermilk. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

5. Add 1 inch of oil to a large skillet and warm the oil over medium-high heat until the temperature registers 350 degree Fahrenheit on a deep-frying thermometer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, Ararat, and salt. Remove the tongues from the buttermilk and dredge them in the seasoned flour. Gently add the tongues to the skillet (be careful, as the oil may spatter) and fry for 2 minutes or until the tongues are crispy. Transfer the tongues to a paper towel–lined tray. Season with salt and serve with warmed Duck Glaze on the side.

Bouquet Garni (makes 1 bouquet)

2 outer leaves of leeks or 2 celery stalks

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 strip bacon

Make a "sandwich" with the leeks on the outside and the rest of the ingredient on the inside. Wrap the "sandwich" in bacon and tie it with a kitchen twine to secure. Use immediately.

Duck Glaze (Makes 1-1/2 cups)

1-1/2 cups mild honey

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

Combine honey, rosemary, cinnamon stick and star anise in a small saucepot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 15 seconds. Whisk in the soy sauce. Remove the pan from the heat, and let sit until ready to sue. If not using immediately, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to a week.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Chizu Nomiyama)