One of the things that helped me a lot as I was starting out in my career was that I got myself to France and Europe and California, and spent time immersing myself in those culinary traditions. I'd encourage future chefs to dive into whatever culture most excites them, and that they want to cook.
I keep going back to foundation, heritage cooking techniques from my family in Naples and Abruzzi. There are a lot of traditional dishes from those regions that I want to educate my kids' palates about, to pass down that heritage and that lineage. I think my mom would have been pleasantly surprised and absolutely thrilled to have seen all the cookbooks and all the restaurants and all the television I've done.
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In terms of cooking with friends, I realized early on that all great meals seem to start and end in the kitchen, and the more you can get people engaged and hands-on, the better the memories will be. So when people come into your kitchen while you're cooking and prepping and politely ask, "Do you need any help?" the key is to say yes.