Baseball season has arrived. We highly recommend taking a ride service to The Park if you are coming on a game night.
It was a big birthday yesterday for my most influential cooking mentor, my cousin Marcia. Happy Birthday!
I have already told the story of how Marcia helped me get my professional cooking career started. Looking back on that early period I realize that my philosophy on cooking and eating was also largely formulated back then by our near constant obsession with the edible arts.
One of the main principles of this shared philosophy is never to pretend that making food is overly important. It is worthwhile, it can be enjoyable, it brings people joy and satisfaction — these are all noble pursuits. But we’re not talking about saving lives here or educating children or solving the problems of society. It’s wonderful to cook for people, to bring people together around food, to indulge the creative instinct and that’s about the end of it.
My dedication to the classic form of the entree is also shaped from Marcia’s sensibilities. Back in those days small plates were just emerging as a food trend and were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. But everyone knows that entrees are often boring and appetizers usually offer much more in the way of flavor and interesting combinations.
Marcia was always adamant about creating interesting and harmonious combinations for entrees so that they would remain compelling and delicious. “You have to put one killer item on the plate, one show stopper,” I remember her saying. I couldn’t agree more. This idea of a protein with sides for an entree is not modern or enjoyable. To make a great entree with a protein, the vegetables and starches, the sauces and garnishes need to complement and balance each other creating multiple tastes and textures that keep the palate entertained until it is only a smudge and a smear on the plate.
Looking back on the early days of my cooking career and Marcia’s influence I realize that food was the prism through which we viewed the world. From the farmers markets and multiple daily trips to specialty shops and supermarkets, from poring through cooking magazines and books looking for recipes to planning the next dinner party, the next experiment, food was the constant, the prime mover. All that time, effort and energy created a legacy that has taken shape in the form of The Park restaurant. Thank you, Marcia, for your inspiration, and Happy Birthday!
Have a great weekend and hope to see you at The Park.