Cooking Dinner with Jonathan Waxman

The Obi-Wan Kenobi of chefs shares how his family cooks dinner and recipes from his new cookbook

JW Chicken

Jonathan Waxman, the successful owner of Barbuto in New York City, talks about his newly released cookbook. Called Italian, My Way, it’s filled with approachable and delicious recipes to make at home for both weeknight meals and special occasions. Learn how he balances cooking for his kids, wife, and himself, why he decided to have black and white photographs, and more.  


Since your cookbook includes many recipes meant to be cooked at home, I think it would be interesting to know how dinner is made at your household. Who shops for the ingredients? Do you plan the meals ahead of time?

My wife and I have a pact. I’m not allowed to clean up, because I do a bad job at it. She’s been relenting lately because I’ve been getting better. She goes to the farmers market twice a week, obviously this time of year doesn’t work, but starting around the middle of April until almost the end of the year, and fills the fridge and the whole counter. And she lets me cook what I want to cook. And that’s how we work it. Sometimes she calls ahead and does what she wants to do. She doesn’t ask me what I want to buy and it’s kind of funny because we don’t really communicate on what she buys. I just cook with what’s there.


How do you balance making meals for yourself and your kids?

We have what we call the à la carte menu at the Waxman house. We have three kids, my wife and I, so there are five different voices screaming something different about what they want to eat, plus the cat. Like this morning, one of my sons had bacon and a buttered English muffin. The other one had a farm fresh green egg fried sunny side up on toast with sausage. It’s a complete toss up on who eats what. Like last night for dinner, the one who never eats anything asked for lamb chops and was nibbling on the bone for 25 minutes.


For the cookbook and many of the dishes served at Barbuto, how do you come up with them? Do you test them out on your friends or family first? Or at the restaurant?

It’s kind of a good combination of both. A lot of the recipes from the book are things that we cook at home, that’s why we thought they’d work well. Barbuto is, let’s face it, an uncomplicated restaurant so a lot of what I do at home translates to the restaurant. We meant for the book to be user-friendly, and we didn’t want to complicate it with too many ingredients or garnishes, and there’s very little cream and butter in the book. It’s the kind of cooking that I call the quasi-Italian style or my way.