Hello! Welcome, and thank you acquiring this book, we (I am) are honored. It’s a special little book, written in time of the Covid19 Pandemic in the United States and all over the World. It’s not a happy subject, so I really don’t want to get into that, just to not that fact here. But speaking of the Pandemic in America, the happening of it changed many things in this World, one of them being, many Americans (millions) really got into cooking at home. Many had never even cooked before and wanted to learn, many Americans who were already fairly accomplished cooks, upped their game, or simply just cooked more, and tried new recipes along with the tried and true. And as I’ve already said, millions of Americans were jumping into cooking for the first time, some partly out of necessity as in the beginning of this thing, most restaurants were closed, and people had to eat, so millions began to cook, some just to put food in their bellies, others as a new hobby, like knitting, making model planes, doing wood carving, embroidery, or whatever, just something to do. But unlike some of these mentioned hobbies and others, cooking, the making of food, filling one of our most basic necessities of life. Not just a necessity, but an absolute must to survival itself, we need shelter (a roof over our heads) clothing, breathing air, drinking water, and putting food in our bellies. If you can’t breat, drink water, or eat, if any of these three things are denied to you, you will eventually die. So you see, knowing how to cook, is quite important.
I’ve written several cookbooks, and through this lock-down thing (Covid), I wasn’t doing much, just trying to keep safe, not get the Covid Virus, and trying to make it through each day without going out of my gourd. At first, I could not write at all. I have a book that is about 85% finished, and I simply couldn’t work on it at all. When writing, as all writers, I have my own methods and ways of doing thing, and how I go about writing, and one of the big things with me is, I can’t write at home and very rarely do (about 5%). I do almost all my writing at one of my favorite cafes, and this one I’m doing at the first cafe I ever went to in my life, when I was a you man of just 15 years old, and I used to hang out on weekends in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, watching the street performers and taking pictures with my 35mm Camera. It was a hobby of mine, and I loved it. I’d hang out in the park for a couple of hours, and then go to Caffe Reggio on Macdougal Street, and have a Cappuccino. Well, let me tell you, I thought I was cool, hanging out in this renowned bohemian caffe in the center of one of the World’s great centers of Bohemia, Greenwich Village, New York.
So anyway, after things started opening up, after the the bad stats (people getting the virus) started going down, and things looked better, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill Deblasio started, little by little, one-step-at-at-time let various businesses start opening. It took 3 months, but after the numbers started going down, and it looked like it might be safe to let restaurants and cafes open, letting people sit outside, but no indoor seating yet, around the middle of June, the powers that be said restaurants could open under these conditions, people had to stay 6 feet apart, wear mask, wash their hands and such, and keep social distant apart. So Caffe Reggio, aroudnthe block from my house opened. I gotta have my coffee everyday, and I usually do this at my favorite cafes. My current cafes that I frequent for the past several years and before the Pandemic Lock-Down were Grounded Cafe on Jane Street in Greenwich Village, and the coffee lounge at The Marlton Hotel, also in Greenwich Village. Come March 15, 2020 and New York is on lock-down, only essential business can be open; grocery stores, liquor stores (“Essential? This is Funny.”), drug stores, and restaurants, only for delivery service. So no cafes for me to go to. What did I do? How’d I get my coffee, that what vital for me to have each and everyday? Well, I could make it at home, but me, “I don’t do coffee at home. I love it, and I love going out for it. It’s a thing.” So, how did I get my coffee fix, if I didn’t make it at home, and all the cafes in New York were all closed down? Well, I did the only thing I could. I went to the local Korean Market, where they make coffee to go, and I got my coffee their. I was quite stunned at the quality of the coffee and how good it tasted. And cheap to boot, at $1.25 for a small one, $1.50 for a medium, and just a $1.75 for one that was quite large. I was satisfied. No, I was ecstatic, happy as hell. I got coffee and it’s good! At least they can’t take that away from me. And this made me happy. So, as they say “I Got Coffee,” but where to drink it? Simple, I’d got over to Bleecker Farms (Korean Market), get my coffee and go. I’d go to all the little parks in the neighborhood and drink it my coffee at Winston Churchill Park on Bleecker Street, Bleecker Park on Bleecker, Prince Street Park, Spring Street Park and a few others. like Abingdon Square Park on Hudson Street at Bleecker.
Yes I drank my coffee at parks, but my favorite spots were actually on the stoops of two town-houses in the Village, not far from my house. One was on Commerce Street, also known as Cherry Lane, and the other was one block away on Barrow Street. Yes, I’d get my coffee and walk over to one of those stoops. I had my coffee, and it’s a simple pleasure that makes me happy, just about everyday of my life, I just love it. Coffee never gives me a hard time, it’s always ther, it satisfies me, and it makes me happy. What more can one ask for? I’d sit on my stoop on Barrow Street, I’d get comfy, sip my coffee, see if I had any messages, look at my Instagram, post on Instagram, read the News on my Google News Feed, make phone calls, and chit chat with friends on the phone. I’d drink my coffee, play around on my Smart Phone (“Haha!”), jump on my laptop, I was actually writing for my blogs here and there, but no book writing at all, until I started this book. Yes, I’d chat on the phone with friends, a lot of what was going on as far as the Pandemic was concerned, but other topics as well, sometimes what we’d mostly be talking about pre-pandemic, but there was a lot of talking about the pandemic and how to survive it, and what Cuomo and Deblasio said that day, and things we needed to know about this dreaded thing thrust so brutally onto the World. It was (still is as of this writing July 23, 2020). Yes I really don’t want to talk about this that much, but as I said, this is why I’m writing this book, but it’s not what it’s about. So what is it about? Read on and find out. Next chapter?
OK, what is this book about? It’s just about cooking, and the Joy of it, knowing how to cook, eating the fruits of your labor (cooking), and if you’re lucky, sharing this food that you made with those you love, friends and family, for this is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and I just love it. I’ve been doing it since I’m 13 years old. Yes I love to cook, and I became interested in it at an early age, when I was just thirteen. I, along with my friend John P. and a couple other guys at Becton High School in East Rutherford, I (we) had the balls, and we decided we wanted to take cooking class. No males had ever taken cooking class at Becton or East Rutherford High School which this high school was called for many years before Becton HS was built. Yes no boys had ever taken cooking clas before, only girls. But my friends and I loved food and we wanted to learn how to cook, so we signed up and got into cooking class at Becton Regional HS, way back in 1972, the first boys ever. So we got into class, and we loved it. I can’t even remember the things we cooked other than Rueban Sandwiches, Meatloaf, and Stuffed Peppers are the only dishes I remember cooking. But I do remember loving the class, having a good time, that I learned how to cook, and I was very proud of myself, that my buddies and I were the first boys ever to take cooking class at E. Rutherford HS (Becton), we had the balls and we were all proud of it. I was always a trend setter. I also was the person to get a bunch of my friends to wear Halloween Costumes to school on Halloween, none had ever done it before. it wasn’t an organized activity, other than me getting a bunch of my friends to dress up, they did, and we started a new tradition at Becton. Anyway, this is where I first started cooking, we learned some things at school, then I’d make them at home, and try some new dishes as well.
My stepmother Joan was a waitress at the Cambridge Inn Restaurant in Paramus, NJ and she got me a job as a Bus Boy there, where I worked on weekends all through (4 years) high school. I din’t have hardly any weekends off all through high school, but I always had money in my pockets, and I loved working in the restaurant. I even got two of my friends, Ronnie DeRizzo, and Michael Caci jobs at the restaurants as well. Yes, I loved it, I was dam good at it. I was the best busboy in the place. Seriously. I was smart, and I could move. I was fast, and all the waitresses in the restaurant used to fight over me, to get me to be their busboy that night. I was so good, I did all of my work and I’d do a good part of the waitresses job so she could take it easy, and not have to kill themselves (so to speak). And they paid me for it. They always paid me more than the percentage cut, cause I was worth it. As Walter Brennan used to say in that show he was in, “I’m the Best. No Brag, just fact,” and it was a fact that I was good, the best.
So, I worked at the Cambridge Inn, I liked working, I liked all the complements on being such a good worker, “that’s pride my friends.” Yes you might say I was a little cocky. Yes maybe a little cocky, I was confident in myself and my abilities, but most of all, it was that I had Pride. I had pride in myself and the work I did, and that I did it just about as good as it could possibly be done. Yes this job was good for me, it gave me a good work ethic. But then again, maybe it wasn’t good for me. Why? Well for one, it’s not the greatest business in the World, you bust your ass, and you just make a living wage and not a whole lot more. I know I was smart, still am, and if I didn’t get interested in the restaurant business at such a young age, maybe I would have gotten into something much better, and I would have made a lot more money. And I know I had the smarts to do a lot of things. I know I could never be a doctor, or a scientist, but I was capable of doing probably 80% or more of the things (careers) out there. I know I had and have the smarts to be a lawyer, work on Wall Street (Big Bucks), work in television, all sorts of things.
Yes, I watched those guys behind the line, the cooks, and I wanted to be one. And I wanted to go to culinary school, and I did. I found out about a program at New York Technical College in Brooklyn. It was for a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Mgt. & Culinary Arts, and I wanted to get it. I checked it out, got all the info, applied and got in. The school was great, we had some wonderful professors, learned a lot, got a good education, and had some fun along the way.
Dam, I’m going on and on. I’ve had a good long career in the restaurant business. I worked at some of the finest restaurants in New York, also being some of the best in the World. I did it all, 4 years at the start as a Busboy, and a dam good on. I got my education at New York Tech College. I started cooking in restaurants in New York. At that point in my career, we had a great culinary background at NY Tech where they thought us Classic French Cuisine, and that’s what I wanted to do at that time, in 1982. So my first few years I worked in French Restaurants, and one hotel. Learning how to cook, and cooking in restaurants, you start at the bottom and little by little work your way to the top, in stages. So that’s what I did. After my first year ant NY Tech, I got a job with one of the greatest Frecnh Chefs in all the World, at Lutece on East 50th Street in New York, with the great Andre Soltner. I got a job as a prep-cook and I had to do a lot of things. I had to cut a lot of vegetables into all sorts of intricate shapes, like carving Carrots and Turnips into little Football Shapes. Cutting various vegetables into Brunois and Julienne. I had to clean veal kidneys, calves liver, and meats to braise into some sort of French Stew. I made Fish Terrines and stuffed Quails with Mushroom Duxells and Foe Gras, then wrapped them in puff-pastry. I did a lot of things, including cutting my fingers all the time, as they gave you a lot of work to do, and they wanted things done fast, and when you don’t have a lot of experience with the knife yet, you end up cutting your fingers a lot. Dam, I cringe when I think about it now. I did become quite proficient with the knife eventually, and could work fast and hardly ever cut myself. I also got my fare share of little burns along the way too. Luckily with all those cuts, and a few burns here and there, I never got hurt too bad. Thank God. Yes, that my first job in the kitchen, it was just for the Summer, got some good experience, and learn a good deal, one being that the French can be real ball-breakers. Well, I knew that. No I didn’t. Anyway, Chef Soltner, on the last day, had a little talk with me. He was a little stern with me, he said, “wake up boy, “ not one of my prouder moments, but I would learn. Let me tell you something, cooking in a restaurant is hard work, it’s not easy, and not everyone can do it. There are brilliant doctor and lawyers and all sorts of successful people who could never make it in a professional kitchen, I did, but it wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning when you have almost no experience. But I was tough, I stick it out and I made something of myself. I worked my way up step-by-step. I started at the bottom, I did prep, then became a line-cook, now that’s really hard, and this is wthe point where a lot of aspiring cooks (Chefs) drop out. They quite. They can’t do it. They don’t want to do. I didn’t. Didn’t quit that is. Almost, but I didn’t I stuck it out.
My friend Loci, who was the Chef at Le Relasie on Madison Avenue got me a job with Chef Michel Fitoussi at The Palace Restaurant, which at the time was one of the top restaurants in New York, one of the most famous, and thee most expensive place in town. When Loic told me about the job, that it was at the Palace, I told him, “I can’t work there. I don’t have enough experience.” He replied, “Sure you can. Go over there.” I didn’t have the confidence that I could do it, but Loic did, and he pushed me into it. I’m glad he did.
So I went over to the Palace, I met the Chef, we chatted, and he ended up hiring me. He had faith. So I went to work at the Palace. My day was, I did a couple hours prep work when I came in, then I worked the line with Michel at night. oh my good, I was horrible, I din’t know what I was doing, it’s a very difficult thing to do, working the line, You got to have mad skills, you have to be super organized, you gotta be fast, and precise, you gotta get the job done, you have to be good, and turn out perfect product when you have 20 things going on at once. Not everyone can do it. I couldn’t. Well I couldn’t for a bout 10 days, then I started getting the hang of it and got better and better, until the day the Chef gave me a nice compliment. He told me I was doing good. He said, “Ah plutante. You were like a Stone Man. Now you know what you’re doing. Good job.” Well he was right, I was like a stone, I’d freeze, it’s dam hard to do, it takes a little time, and then you either get it or you don’t. Michel knew this, and he stuck with me. He was good to me, and he taught me a lot. He was a great Chef. At the time he was known in New York, as “The King of Nouvelle Cuisine,” and he was dam good, and he liked me, and he thought I was good, and that’s all I needed. “Thanks Chef.”
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Cooking at Home (working title) / America’s favorite recipes. During the Pandemic of 2020 (Covid19 Virus), I was getting tired of doing nothing, basically the same old thing everyday, not working and not writing. I was thinking about all the cooking that people were doing because of the Virus Lock-Down, being stuck at home and not having restaurants to go to, as they were all closed, yet people had to eat. Some would just call and get food delivered (restaurants were open for delivery only) many cooked their own meals at home, and people were cooking at home, much more than before the pandemic. Many people were cooking for the first time, while others who had a little more experience, cooked more and wanted to learn new dishes. They figured, “what the heck, I have to stay home, I have to eat everyday, I might as well cook.” People needed recipes, I love food, I love to cook, I love eating tasty food, writing cookbooks, talking food, and teaching people how to cook. Most of my cookbooks are Italian, but I love all cuisines, and have written books on so-called American Food, and what American’s love to eat. So I wanted to write a cookbook for Americans and their favorite dishes, what they love to eat, and incidentally, what I love to eat. I love cooking Italian food, so there is a section called “That’s Italian” with a few of the favorite Italian dishes that Americans love to eat most: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Chicken Parm, Lasagna and such. I gathered all my recipes and started compiling the book, on what Americans love to eat, and dishes that any American who likes to cook should have in their repertoire. Most beloved of all, are; Burgers, Fried Chicken, Breakfast dishes, Fried Chicken, BBQ Ribs, Burritos, Tacos, Chili, Meatloaf, Barbecue Chicken, Potato Salad, Buffalo Wings, Pasta, and such. I even put in my recipe for General Tso’s Chicken which Americans devour like there’s no tomorrow, along with Fried Rice, and Moroccan Chicken. I believe I put together a nice book with a great collected of my recipes. Not just that they are my recipes, as I’ve been cooking for 40 years, all kinds of dishes, tweaking the recipes, writing them down, and eventually they would go into cookbooks like this one. I still have my mimeographed hand-outs of all my recipes from culinary school, and I’ve compiled thousands of recipes since then. I have a certain take on food, that’s much like the late great Anthony Bourdain, if I must say so, and I believe dear Tony if he were alive would like this cookbook. No it’s not about the Pandemic or the Corona Virus< I don’t want to talk about that stuff, people are getting sick of it. I’m just letting people know, that because of the pandemic, circumstances in New York and America sparked me to write a cookbook with a great collection of recipes that Americans would really love. I always break my recipes down and make them as simple as possible for people to understand, and help them execute the recipes with tasty results. Always. So this book is for this time and for all times. At least for the next 50 years or so. You can use the book and your favorite recipes within over and over again. I hope you will. This book is for the American people. they’ve been through a lot.
Greenwich Village, New York, July 24, 2020
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