When you’re a Long Island kid with a dad dubbed “The Godfather of American Cuisine,” you grow up with an unusual perspective on food.
“I loved cooking and I thought everybody else did, too,” says Marc Forgione, whose father Larry ran the pioneering New York restaurant An American Place in the early ’80s. “I was making my own breakfast at nine while everyone else was playing wiffle ball.”
Swapping sports for the stove turned out to be a fortuitous move for Forgione, who holds court in Tribeca with the eponymously named restaurant he opened in 2008—that same one that made him the youngest American-born chef to snag a Michelin star three years in a row from 2010-2012—and nouveau steakhouse American Cut (there’s also an outpost at the Revel in Atlantic City). Last year, he ventured into Southeast Asian territory, partnering with his longtime chef Soulayphet Schwader on Laotian-inspired Khe-Yo.
I was making my own breakfast at nine while everyone else was playing wiffle ball.
When he was 16, Forgione headed to the kitchen of his father’s storied restaurant, which championed seasonality long before farmers’ market visits were weekly rituals for chefs. After college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he worked with Patricia Yeo before becoming Laurent Tourondel’s sous chef at BLT Steak. But the Next Iron Chef champ didn’t fully embrace a cooking career until he followed in his dad’s footsteps and moved to France to work with Michel Guérard.
“I was by myself, no one spoke English, and every person I met loved food. They worked in restaurants not to get a paycheck, but out of passion and a love for ingredients. It was contagious,” he says.
At Restaurant Marc Forgione, that reverence informs thoughtful dishes like BBQ baked oysters with sea salt and pancetta powder, and John Dory served with lobster and foie gras sausage. The recently released Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) further delineates his artful approach to food. “When I started cooking I never thought I’d see my stupid face on the cover of a cookbook,” he says. “Writing it was a long process, but it’s been fulfilling hearing people’s reactions.”
Although Forgione is adamant he will never unveil another Marc Forgione—“It’s my baby and when people ask me to open in Vegas or Florida I say no”—his years as Tourondel’s corporate chef intrigued him enough to join forces with LDV Hospitality to open American Cut. “ I like the idea of a farm-to-table steakhouse. The vegetables are always on the side, so it’s an opportunity to let beautiful ingredients shine. If you have enough guts to put carrots on a plate with honey it better be fucking great carrots.” Like father, like son.
From an eye-opening tortilla Española to Long Island bagels, the no-nonsense Forgione shares 10 of the dishes that have fueled his culinary evolution.
Great Grandma’s Spinach Fettuccine
My great grandmother was fresh off the boat from Campania. One time, when I was a kid, I was at her house in Florida and she was hand-rolling spinach fettuccine. I went over to the countertop and spent the rest of the day rolling it out with her. As I sat at the table sucking it up, with olive oil and garlic, I didn’t give a shit that other six-year-olds were in the backyard playing.
One of the first things my mother taught me was how to make meatballs, and hers are the best I’ve had to date. She used a combination of veal, pork, beef, and bread soaked in milk. She hated onions, but there was garlic, dried oregano, and fresh parsley. It’s weird—when you make them without her they just don’t come out the same way. (Photo: Taste Blog)
Dad’s Crab Cake
At An American Place, I really looked forward to my dad’s crab cake, with smoked onion remoulade and Charleston slaw. I do a version of it now. I just thought I was eating at my dad’s restaurant back then; I didn’t know it was a big deal. My brother would sit there with a chicken sandwich. Other kids didn’t eat this way. (Photo: Atlantic City Insiders)
Asparagus in Ambush
The first time I wore a tuxedo was at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, where my father was cooking at an event. He made a version of one of James Beard’s favorite hors d’oeuvres, Asparagus in Ambush—asparagus spears, béchamel, and hollowed-out bread. My dad was cooking, I was eating it by myself, wearing this fucking tuxedo with a baby-blue bow tie, and it shocked me. I didn’t know food could taste like this. (Photo courtesy Marc Forgione)
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese
I grew up on Long Island, where a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is your go-to with a cup of coffee from the deli. I try to do different versions of it when I can, like a sous-vide egg in a Parmesan shell with candied pork belly. Obviously that kind of dish is nothing like a Long Island bacon, egg, and cheese, but it’s that same familiar combination. (Photo: Facebook/Marc Forgione)
Long Island has some of the best bagels in the world. One night I was drunk with a friend, eating an everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese and potato chips. It’s 4am and I’m wasted, and I look over at him with a mouth full of food and tell him that if I make it as a chef, I’m going to make everything bagels. I now use everything bagel spice all the time, from biscuits to gougères. (Photo: Facebook/Marc Forgione)
I was working in France and there were three or four guys from Spain. I went to their apartment and they made bread with chocolate and salt and my first tortilla Española. I had never really had Spanish food at that point, but it inspired me and I ended up going to Spain for a month with those guys. I was an ignorant kid from New York who thought Spanish food was spicy like Mexican, but that dinner woke me up to what Spain was. (Photo: Smitten Kitchen)
Michel Guérard’s Pigeon
Working for Michel Guérard, the one dish that floored me was his grilled pigeon stuffed with foie gras under the skin. He cooked it slowly in the fireplace in such a way that the foie soaked into the meat. It is one of the best bites I’ve ever had in my life, and it made me want to be a real chef and work in fine dining. (Photo: Michel Guerard)
Wild Herbs at Restaurant Yoann Conte
Yoann Conte, who has a restaurant in Veyrier-du-Lac, France, is known for going into the woods and picking wild herbs. I went this past summer and there was one dish where they poured hot water into moss. There was no protein in it, just the taste of what they picked out of the ground that morning. It was such a pure experience. Here was a guy putting six herbs on a plate and getting away with it. I started to think about how I could replicate that experience here and found a few people who forage. My cooking has changed a lot since that meal. (Photo: Savoie Mont Blanc)
James Beard’s strawberry shortcake is one of the first desserts I ever learned to make. When I get together with my family in the summertime it’s what we eat. Every year, when strawberries come into season, I do something with them at the restaurant, whether I put them in a sundae or make a mille-feuille. It always has the same flavor and the same elements as that shortcake. (Photo: Susie Cushner/ames Beard Foundation)