Marc Forgione was visibly stunned when he was announced as the winner of last season’s The Next Iron Chef. The 32-year-old, an already accomplished chef, had survived the series by defeating nine other highly-skilled, award-winning competitors, securing his spot on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.
It’s still sinking in.
“It hasn’t really hit me that this is all happening,” says Forgione. “I feel very humbled when people in the restaurant ask for my autograph or I’m stopped for a picture on the street. At the end of the day, I still walk to work and make changes to my restaurant’s menu every day. My day to day hasn’t changed much…the phone just rings a little bit more.”
The son of famed chef Larry Forgione, the younger Forgione spent his early culinary years shadowing both his father and chef Kazuto Matsusaka before teaming up with chef Laurent Tourondel. From chef de cuisine to corporate chef of Tourondel’s BLT empire, Marc Forgione helped to establish the groundwork for a number of BLT locations across the country, including BLT Fish and BLT Market, before opening his own restaurant in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood. Awarded two stars from New York Times restaurant reviewer Sam Sifton in 2010 and a star from Michelin in both 2010 and 2011, Restaurant Marc Forgione has been recognized as one of the best restaurants in Manhattan.
Before making his way to Miami for next week’s Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Chef Forgione talked to Daily Blender about his new Iron Chef responsibilities as well as what he’s learned from his father, what he thinks of his city’s food scene, and why it’s best to be respectful in his restaurant.
In The Kitchen
Q: Was there anything from your experience with Chef Tourondel that really aided in the start of Restaurant Marc Forgione?
A: Absolutely! During my time at BLT I was able to work behind the scenes on the opening of a restaurant. It truly is something that you cannot teach but simply have to get down and dirty with. Experiencing the opening of 9 BLTs made the opening of my restaurant just a little bit easier to manage. I never would have attempted it in the first place if I had not undergone those previous experiences and known what to expect.
Q: You have some big shoes to fill with your father, chef Larry Forgione. How has he influenced your cooking?
A: I think that my father has influenced every American chef that has come after him. Without my father and the work of other American chefs from his generation, I don’t believe we would have the green markets and beautiful American ingredients that chefs today work with on a daily basis. He paved the way for that next generation and I can only hope that we can do the same for those following behind us.
Q: Would you agree that New York is one of the best culinary cities in the world?
A: Of course! Walk down a city block…just in my neighborhood alone, you have The Harrison, Locanda Verde, Bouley and Corton. All within three blocks of each other. Where else in the world does that happen? It is also the hardest place in the world to open a restaurant. The bar is set very high when it comes to the critics and one bad review can send you packing.
Q: I was compelled to write a post on Daily Blender – and agree with – your ejection of New York Times writer Ron Lieber from your restaurant last spring. Have you had to defend that decision since the incident occurred?
A: I have had to answer this question many times and I would like you and everyone reading this to know that Ron was very politely asked to leave my restaurant because he was rude and disrespectful to me. If you are rude or disrespectful to anyone in my restaurant, whether it be me, a hostess, waiter, or bartender, you will very politely be asked to leave whether you write for the New York Times or USAToday.
Q: Anything that surprised you about The Next Iron Chef competition?
A: Overall, I didn’t realize how hard the competition was going to be. At the restaurant, you are in charge of a team and work together to put something on the table. During The Next Iron Chef I was battling with some of the country’s best chefs with only my own two hands. Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of pressure we were under throughout the entire experience.
Q: With balancing your new television schedule, how often would you say you’re still in the kitchen?
A: I’m in the kitchen five days a week. I’m a chef…and the kitchen is where I work and where I belong.
Q: Are there chefs you keep an eye on?
A: I always make an effort to keep up with what is going on in my industry. I am currently reading Heston Blumenthal’s book, In Search of Perfection, and I make it a habit to buy a cookbook a week.
Q: What’s up next for you? Any thoughts on expansion, particularly with the Michelin and New York Times stars?
A: Right now I am weighing options and deciding the best next move for me. Anyone out there reading this, feel free to give me a call at the restaurant with suggestions.
Stay tuned to Daily Blender the first week of March for all of my coverage of the 2011 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival – including events with chef Forgione – happening next weekend in beautiful (and hopefully, sunny) Miami!
*Photo credit: Marc Forgione / Berk Communications