Cooking is work that is traditionally done by working-class people. The work itself is not glamorous. It's repetitive, and it's a lot closer to factory work than art, whatever level you're doing it at. Certainly chefs are used to living like rock 'n' rollers to some extent, inasmuch as we get a lot of those fringe benefits without having to learn how to play guitar.
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But I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one's own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.
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In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful. ... With the best restaurants in New York, you'll find something similar to it in Paris or Copenhagen or Chicago. But there is no place like New Orleans. So it's a must-see city because there's no explaining it, no describing it. You can't compare it to anything. So, far and away New Orleans.
Is it a good hot dog? That's all I want to know ... I don't think the personal health and purity of my colon is that important compared to pleasure. As a chef, I'm not your dietitian or your ethicist. I'm in the pleasure business ... . My responsibility is to give you the most delicious tomato that I can afford, given the circumstances, and maybe increase the likelihood that you get laid after dinner.
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Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
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I'm a big believer in winging it. I'm a big believer that you're never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I'm always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.
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It's an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you've been and whats happened. In the end, you're just happy you were there- with your eyes open- and lived to see it.
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If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food, it's a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.
Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accomodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a 'vegetarian plate', if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.
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We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.
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Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don't burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don't put it through a press. I don't know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain't garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it's soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.
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Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime... Please, treat your garlic with respect... Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.
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It was once said that this is the land of the free. There is, I believe, a statue out there in the harbor, with something written on it about "Give me your hungry... your oppressed... give me pretty much everybody"-that's the way I remember it, anyway. The idea of America is a mutt-culture, isn't it? Who the hell is America if not everybody else? We are-and should be-a big, messy, anarchistic polyglot of dialects and accents and different skin tones... We need more Latinos to come here. And they should, whenever possible, impregnate our women.
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Assume the worst. About everybody. But don't let this poisoned outlook affect your job performance. Let it all roll off your back. Ignore it. Be amused by what you see and suspect. Just because someone you work with is a miserable, treacherous, self-serving, capricious and corrupt asshole shouldn't prevent you from enjoying their company, working with them or finding them entertaining.
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I'm not trying to explain other cultures, or to give a fair and balanced account of a country, or the top ten things you need to know. I'm not trying to spread world peace and understanding. I'm not an advocate or an activist or an educator or a journalist. I'm out there trying to tell stories the best I can.
I've been very careful about what I say yes to and what I say no to. And I think seriously always about... this may be a good idea right now or it may be a lot of money right now, but will it be good for me five years from now? Will it be fun? Will it make me hate myself? I think about all of those things.
I travel 250 days a year. There are chef friends who I only see every couple of years. By conventional standards I'm a bad friend. I'm not there to remember your birthday or to offer you words of support through Twitter. I'm not up on what you're doing in New York because I'm not in New York. I'm not what people call in parenting circles "present."
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I was a serious comic collector and fanboy as a kid. I wanted very badly to draw comic books for a lot of my childhood and early adolescence. So when you have an unfulfilled dream like that, when years later you find yourself in a position to make a graphic novel - hell yeah, I'm going to do that.
As incisively pointed out in the documentary Food Inc.," an overwhelmingly large percentage of "new," healthy," and "organic" alternative food products are actually owned by the same parent companies that scared us into the organic aisle in the first place. "They got you comin' and goin'" has never been truer.
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There are chefs who are spectacular technicians, and often their food is worth eating once or twice, but if there's no heart in it, if there's no personality in it, it's not something you want to go back for. But heart without any skill at all? All the heart in the world ain't gonna help you if you can't peel an onion, or if you don't understand how to apply heat properly. A well-done steak is a well-done steak.
PETA doesn't want stressed animals to be cruelly crowded into sheds, ankle-deep in their own crap, because they don't want any animals to die-ever-and basically think chickens should, in time, gain the right to vote. I don't want animals stressed or crowded or treated cruelly or inhumanely because that makes them probably less delicious.
The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about - or as a ritual like filling up a car - but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon.
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I've sat in sushi bars, really fine ones, and I know how hard this guy worked, how proud he is. I know you don't need sauce. I know he doesn't even want you to pour sauce. And I've seen customers come in and do that, and I've seen him, as stoic as he tries to remain, I've seen him die a little inside.
Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who'd just as soon cut each other's throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.
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Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.
The biggest empty space, the biggest gap in what should be a premier and always vibrant food scene in America is that we don't have hawker centers like they do in Singapore, basically food courts where mom and pop specialists can set up shop in fairly hygienic little stalls all up to health code making one dish they've been doing forever and ever.
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When my father passed, I was still an unsuccessful cook with a drug problem. I was in my mid-thirties, standing behind an oyster bar, cracking clams for a living when he died. So, he never saw me complete a book or achieve anything of note. I would have liked to have shared this with him.
Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime...Please, treat your garlic with respect...Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.
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