A couple weeks ago Tuesday, I was lucky enough to score an early rez at the restaurant Animal, the much-hyped LA restaurant run by chefs Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (Vinny’s the bushy one, photo courtesy of Animal). A few weeks earlier, in town for a gig at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (bet you didn’t know I played the cello!), a friend took me to their second restaurant Son of a Gun. I told this friend I loved it and that it reminded me of The Greenhouse Tavern, because it did the same kind of food. (Only of course it didn’t really–Greenhouse doesn’t sell alligator schnitzel!–so what did I mean? Fabulous dish, that schnitzel.) It wasn’t till I ate at Animal with my friend the writer Dan Voll and our kids that I realized Read On »

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Michael is currently on the West Coast touring colleges with his daughter.  After the college tour, he heads back home to Cleveland for a few days and then is off to Palm Beach.  The last leg of his trip leads Michael to New York.  While in New York, he will be preparing his Carolina BBQ from Twenty  and Michael Symon’s pickled chillis with help of the amazing Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan who suggested an American charcuterie dish at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) awards on April 2nd. By the way I need give a big congratulations to both Michael and Donna for being nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award for Twenty in the General Cookbook category.  Great work you two! Originally posted on March 4, 2009 More than a year ago, I Read On »

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If you’re on the road and will be cooking in unfamiliar kitchens, what are the essentials you cannot afford to be without? Thomas Keller once told me he always brought three things, kosher salt, string, and his pepper mill.  Everything else, a restaurant kitchen was likely to have. But what about when you’re traveling to a rental house, as I did last week. A rental house you count on providing you with one crappy non-stick pan, a small plastic cutting board, a cheap pot just big enough to cook a box of spaghetti in, and an array of dull and serrated knives. Donna photographed the tools I brought with me to Key West to cook 9 consecutive dinners for 16 people.  A big cutting board is the first thing I set out. You’re badly handicapped Read On »

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It requires a certain amount of stress to cook for a lot of people. Otherwise you won’t get it done. Too much work, and therefore too much focus and efficiency to both get everything done and also enjoy yourself. You’ve got to like this very peculiar kind of stress.  Or like the release that inevitably follows. And it’s not the same kind of release as it is for the guy who, when asked why he’s banging his head against the wall, responds, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”  But it’s close. You’ve just got to have that kind of love-the-pressure, love-the-release to cook for a lot of people night after night. If you do, you can make a good and happy living as a cook and maybe chef-restaurateur. Me, I really only liked Read On »

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Race week in Key West is a massive boondoggle for me.  I wake, look out at the water, drink coffee, write until noon, personal writing, then head to the house where I cook for 12 to 16 people every night. I straighten the kitchen, throw away a few forgotten red plastic cups with limes floating in them, make a list, do some shopping, prep what can be done ahead (make some sauces, or a stock, pick and blanch green veg).  Then I go back to my room at The Galleon, condos right on the docks, and have some coffee and write and re-write some more. The boys return from being on the water and I put in earphones and listen to music and keep working till six, then head to the house and start dinner. Read On »

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