Feasting is our column dedicated to cooking, grilling, eating and discovering what’s on the menu across America and the world.
New York City can be a fickle place for restaurants. Whether the rising rents push you out, something cooler comes along or the grueling work gets too far under your skin, there are more than a few reasons that can account for an eatery’s failure – or success. So when we found out Marc Forgione’s namesake restaurant is celebrating its seventh birthday this year – practically 70 years in New York life – we had to ask him about the journey and how he keeps things new and fresh on a daily basis.
Chef Forgione grew up in the restaurant industry where he worked with his father Larry Forgione in the kitchen of his restaurant An American Place. With experience at renowned spots like Eugenie les Bains in France and BLT Prime in New York, he learned the business from the inside out and further developed his meaningful relationship with ingredients. Now his three restaurants – Marc Forgione, Khe-Yo and most recently the delicious steakhouse American Cut – are seen as essential New York staples that deliver some of the best experiences you’ll have eating in this town, from atmosphere to the last bite of dessert. We caught up with the chef to talk about the seventh birthday of his namesake spot and how he’s constantly innovating to keep his places as fresh as they were on day one.
Your namesake restaurant is about to celebrate its 7th birthday in NYC. What are some ways you’ve reinvented Marc Forgione over the years to keep things fresh in a city with an ever-changing culinary landscape?
Every day is like the first day of the restaurant. You can ask the people who work here, but sometimes I see it in their faces. It’s like “do we really have to do this?” But I can tell they really love what they do, which is why so many of our staff members have been with us for so long. I try to reinvent the restaurant every day by trying new things, using new ingredients and what I’ve learned from my travels.
You have an “Experience Menu” that changes every night. What types of factors inspire you when creating a new dish? Seasons, travel, etc?
I get inspired by the craziest things. For example, we just served morels that were grown on remains from a burnt forest fire, and I cooked them by grilling them over regular fire sticks/wood.
Also, what has become one of our amuse bouche is an Everything Gougere with vegetable cream cheese, which is my version of an everything bagel with cream cheese I ate one night after indulging in some herbal essence. Some things stick, some things don’t, but at the end of it, we want you to feel like you’ve had an experience, not just dinner.
Your bar program also rotates its menu with the seasons. What are some cocktail trends you’re seeing this year versus last? Any ingredients you can’t get enough of at the moment?
I don’t follow trends, and sometimes I think trends are created by press so there’s something to talk about. Somebody told me kaffir lime is trendy, and I thought “Really? Does that mean sunny side up eggs are trendy?” It’s springtime now, so we’re using different vegetable juices such as carrots and sugar snap peas. This is also when we’re getting our beautiful herbs such as wild mint and shiso, and we’re using more unusual ingredients such as pepino melon. It’s an exciting time to play with cocktails in the same way we’re playing with food.
Many of your sauces and purees are made using excess waste from produce so nothing edible is actually discarded. Is this something you’ve always done in your kitchens? Is there a recipe you can share for us to make at home?
I’ve always come from the school of using everything you possibly can. One thing on the menu now: fermented chili powder from the scraps of making our own sriracha. A nice quick thing to do at home is to chop up the cauliflower stem/core and cook until soft. Then blend it into a beautiful puree and add a little butter and salt/pepper.
To learn more about the restaurant and Chef Forgione, visit them at marcforgione.com.
Photo of Chef Forgione courtesy of Evan Sung.
Food image courtesy of Mark Rywelski.