A Celebration of Chefs

This is an excerpt from the book "Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories" published by Villard.

weekend_update_b.jpgWe had just started Saturday Night Live, I was an apprentice writer, 24 years old and I felt intimidated.  Chevy was hysterically funny. So was John and Danny and Gilda and Franken. And Michael O’Donoghue, well, Michael O’Donoghue simply scared the shit out of me. So I stayed pretty much to myself.

One day I came to work, and on my desk was a framed cartoon. A drawing – no caption – of a drunken rabbi staggering home late and holding a wine bottle. And waiting for him on the other side of the door was his angry wife, getting ready to hit him with a Torah instead of a rolling pin. I had no idea who put it there. I started looking around and out of the corner of my eye I saw a white-haired man in his office, laughing.  He had put it there. That was the first communication I had with Herb Sargent– which was significant given that he never spoke and he gave me a cartoon that had no caption.

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jam.jpg Many years ago I met Chloe, we never knew much about her or how old she was but the one thing that we did know was that she was French and very fussy about her food, specifically her cheeses. Chloe would arrive at the strike of 9 in the morning just as our store was opening for the first of the days baguettes and then off to the cheese case she would run. If you had a wild unexpected racy little french cheese she would relax and tell you a story. If not, she would get a slice of Conte and retreat with her hot baguette till the next week.

Over the years we learned that she was a war bride and had been relocated to a very small town in Maine. She had a lackluster relationship with her husband, bore one son who moved away after high school to become an engineer in Connecticut and he was very busy and visited rarely. She was pencil thin with the most gorgeous out of place red hair, she could be very tender or she could cut glass with her disapproving stare. After many years she started bringing us a “very small” jar of apricot jam in the early summer. With no fanfare she would just reach into her oversized pocketbook and take out a tissue wrapped jar after she had checked out, hand it to my sister or me and leave with any further communication. The thank you’s would have to wait till next weeks visit.

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oa2012diningSteve Plotnicki and Opinionated About Dining are proud to announce the list of Top 100 Restaurants in America for 2012 as determined by the Opinionated About Dining Survey. Over 3,000 people, including many of the top food bloggers in the country, registered for this year’s survey and contributed more than 70,000 reviews.

The Opinionated About Dining approach to rating restaurants relies on tapping into the experience and opinions from diners who are passionate about where they eat and who describe how strongly they would recommend a restaurant and why. The methodology further gives weight to different kinds of restaurants and survey participants based on factors such as price point and number of restaurants reviewed.  The surveys that form the basis of the ratings are open to the general public and can be accessed via Opinionated About Dining.

“If these survey results have shown me anything, it’s that 2012 is and will continue to be an incredible year to dine at some of the most progressive and thoughtful restaurants in recent memory,” says Plotnicki. “Take the number one restaurant of the year, Manresa by David Kinch, a perfect example of a chef and restaurant that are pushing the boundaries and encouraging the culinary industry’s creativity and advancement.”

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sirensfeast.jpgI’d just finished writing my memoir Siren's Feast, An Edible Odyssey, a coming of age tale filled with recipes from my Armenian youth, my vegetarian restaurant on the island of Ibiza and various exotic locales I’d spent time in. 

When I first told people I had written an autobiographical cookbook, they offered perplexed looks.    

“A what?” was the usual response.

An editor at a large publishing house told me my combination autobiography/cookbook was not feasible for a large bookstore display.    

“Where would it be placed?” she asked.  “In the cookbook section?  With the travel writing?  The biographies?”

“Put it everywhere,” I told her.  “People will figure it out.”

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mollygoldberg.jpg I was recently given a gift of an out of print cookbook called The Molly Goldberg Cookbook.  When I first saw it I was amused and when I opened it up, I immediately saw a cabbage recipe I wanted to make. Score! Here was a cookbook that had that “Through The Looking Glass” aspect to it. These were recipes long forgotten, mysterious in their 1950-ness, soon to be resurrected by me!

I had a faint notion of who Molly Goldberg was; however, despite the constant ‘jokes’ in my house about my age I was actually too young to have seen The Goldbergs on TV. It still amazes me that I saw Amos n’ Andy. The premise of this prototype for all subsequent sit-coms was the lives of Jewish immigrants, usually featuring a solvable family or friend-related problem.  Molly, in her infinite “Jewish Mama” wisdom would involve herself in these neighborhood and family dramas dispensing invaluable advice. 

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