What is your favorite memory of cooking with your father?
I was sitting at An American Place with my mom and I was ten years old. I tasted the soft shell crab and remember turning to my mother and telling her, "I never knew food could make me feel this." It was actually in that moment when I knew I wanted to be a chef.
How has your approach to cooking been influenced by your father?
When I was a kid, I would ask for money and my dad would say “You want money, you’re going to have to work.” So he’d bring me into restaurants. I loved it. I fell in love with it right away. To this day, it still seems fun to me; it doesn’t seem like work. I love working with food. I love feeding people and hearing their reactions when they taste the food. I started working with my dad at the age of 16 at An American Place. I have combined my dad's philosophy; along with those of the many different chefs I have had the privilege of working with over the years, and created my own. In general, the season and what kind of mood I am in influences my cooking style. I try not to get too caught up in what is considered "trendy."
How does your culinary philosophy differ from your father's?
Our culinary philosophies are very similar. We both believe in ingredients driving the dishes, not the dishes driving the ingredients. However, my father believes whole-heartedly that all the ingredients should come from America; they cannot come from anywhere else. I believe that good food is good food, whether it comes from Wisconsin or Italy. If my favorite olive oil happens to be from Calabria, then that’s what I use. My dad helped put America on the map, but I feel like my cuisine is more New York and more melting pot. My dad laid down the tracks, and now I feel like I’m riding where those tracks haven’t been yet.
Our business model at Marc Forgione —not to use a cliché—is good food, good people, and good times. “Fine dining without the BS” is really our motto. I’m not a very fine-dining person, but I’ve worked in fine dining restaurants my whole life. I grew up in one, basically. So what we do here, we try and keep the fine dining service, the fine dining food, but you’re allowed to relax. We’re not having a waiter come over and make you feel incompetent because you don’t know where Creekstone Farms is. We have fun with our cocktails, fun with our food. Fun is supposed to be part of the dining experience. We try to do that here.
What is your father's favorite dish that you cook?
What is your favorite dish that your father cooks?
Crab Spring Rolls with Smoked Onion Remoulade and a Charleston Slaw.
Are there any recipes for dishes that your father won't tell you the secrets to?
Not to my knowledge.
Are there any recipes from your father that you've tried to cook that you cannot quite make the same way?
Yes, his shortcake. My shortcake never comes out as good as my dad's. To go back to your prior question, maybe he is not telling me exactly what is in it?