BON VOYAGE - Boulud Sud' Executive Chef Travis Swikard
April 11, 2014

Boulud Sud’s Executive Chef Travis Swikard on His New Dinner Series, Working with Daniel, and Moving Up the Kitchen Food Chain

ENZO AND ELVIS - My Lost Morning with Charlie Trotter
April 4, 2014

My Lost Morning with Charlie Trotter

B 6745
April 1, 2014

Gramercy Tavern was Born at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen. Tom Colicchio Remembers.

March 31, 2014

Five Thoughts about The New York Times Magazine Food and Drink Issue

THE BOSS - In a Chef-Centric Age, Restaurateur Drew Nieporent Has Stayed as Famous as His Toques
March 27, 2014

In A Chef-Centric Age, Restaurateur Drew Nieporent Has Stayed as Famous as His Toques

March 24, 2014

Our Newest Chef-Scribe on Dual Disciplines, When to Break Out the Second Person, and Maintaining Relationships

  • BON VOYAGE - Boulud Sud' Executive Chef Travis Swikard
  • ENZO AND ELVIS - My Lost Morning with Charlie Trotter
  • B 6745
  • NYT-Magazine-Food-Issue-Flynn-McGarry
  • THE BOSS - In a Chef-Centric Age, Restaurateur Drew Nieporent Has Stayed as Famous as His Toques

Toqueland Wire

    June 20, 2012

    The First Pop Up?

    Los Angeles’ Ma Maison Was Noteworthy for Many Things, Including an Early Prototype for One of Today’s Most Popular Dining Trends

    This mention of a new pop up on Kickstarter reminded me of a little nugget I’ve been looking for an excuse to share. In interviewing Ken Frank, the Napa-based chef of La Toque who came to prominence in 1970s LA, for my forthcoming book on the 70s and 80s, he recounted how he was recruited to go along with Ma Maison owner Patrick Terrail and Ma Maison’s chef Wolfgang Puck, to open a temporary French branch of Ma Maison at the Cannes Film Festival way back in 1980.

    Frank was supposed to be doing other things just about then, but life interfered. Here is how it went down, in his own words:

    In April of ’79, the restaurant [I was planning to open next] burned. The partner forgot to extinguish a candle in the dining room when he closed up at night and the restaurant burned to the ground. Well, not to the ground, but damn near. I finally got a chance to look at the books and I didn’t know anything about bookkeeping. I was the cook.  It turns out the partner hadn’t been paying the waiters their tips and we were really in debt so I threw the partner out.

    In the meantime, because the restaurant was closed for remodeling . .. Patrick and Wolfgang invited me to go open Ma Maison Cannes at the Cannes film festival in May of 1980. We went over to Cannes and we opened a Ma Maison for two weeks . .. we went over there and . .. we had a blast in this gorgeous chateau right on the point. And of course all of Patrick’s Hollywood customers that were in Cannes for the film festival came and ate with us every night, and we went out after dinner every night and we just had a blast. 

    As you can see, Frank doesn’t use the term “pop up,” because it wasn’t part of the vernacular. I’m not yet 100% sure this was the first restaurant that would fall, retroactively, into that category, but it’s the first instance that I’m aware of.

    I look forward to learning more details about this episode as I continue interviewing people for the book. In the meantime, I recently came across this nugget from the great Roger Ebert’s archives, in which he related his impressions of Ma Maison Cannes as part of his mid-festival wrap up at the time. (The Ma Maison stuff is eight paragraphs in.) There are some fun details, including the fact that Terrail flew in 800 pounds of New York strip steaks. Money quote: “Their [the French] thoughts about an American flying in to open his own festival restaurant are unprintable.”

    Fascinatingly, there’s no mention of Puck in Ebert’s account. Chefs weren’t celebrities then; though Puck was a known quantity to some, a Hollywood executive who lunched at Ma Maison multiple times a week, told me that “we never knew there was a Wolfgang.” That would all change shortly after the Cannes adventure, of course, when Puck opened Spago.

    - Andrew

    May 14, 2012

    Hasta La Pasta

    Michael White Shoots for a Little Old School Industry Camaraderie Monday Nights at Osteria Morini

    Cappelletti at Osteria Morini (photo copyright by Nick Solares, courtesy Altamarea Group)

    Tonight, Michael White’s Osteria Morini (218 Lafayette Street) will kick off what the chef hopes will become a regular stop on the late-night culinary circuit: “Industry” pasta nights. The restaurant is offering all its pastas for $10 from 9:30pm until closing every Monday night. You’re supposed to mention that you’re in “the industry” but nobody’ll check your working papers or ask you for the secret handshake. So if you’re a toque on a night off, or enjoying an early push-off time on one of the quieter nights of the week, or just a pasta-loving New Yorker or visitor to our fair city who enjoys pasta, you might want to stop in and end your day with a bargain bowl of top-notch noodles, or carbo load for the long bar crawl ahead.

    I spoke to Michael about this new promotion over the weekend and he says he started it in hopes of conjuring a little of the community he enjoyed as a young cook–he has especially fond memories of  late nights at Blue Ribbon–but which he feels has gone out of the biz in recent years. He’ll be on hand this evening, and I plan to drop in myself.

    - Andrew

    Published in Michael White, Restaurants

    A Working Session Reveals Where the Chef Ends and the Collaborator Begins 

    [Editor's Note: In this post, the second of a two-part series about working on a cookbook proposal for Harold Dieterle's Kitchen Notebook, we take you inside a working session. - A.F.]

    Harold Dieterle, left, and Andrew Friedman, at Morandi restaurant, NYC

    The other day, I shared a little about how the idea for my next collaboration, Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook, came about. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read that post before reading this one, to familiarize yourself with the book’s concept and structure.

    Today, I thought it might be interesting to take you inside an actual working session, for two reasons: (a) to demonstrate how a cookbook takes shape, from inception to publication; this is the first collaboration I’ve taken on since relaunching Toqueland earlier this year, and I plan to track its every development here, and (b) after the confusion left in the wake of some recent newspaper stories about collaborating, I thought there’d be nothing like pulling back the curtain on the process to help clear up how things actually work, at least between one chef and one collaborator.

    Two of the most important components of a cookbook proposal are the sample recipes and text. Herewith, the genesis of some material, in three steps:

    STEP 1:

    Harold emails me a recipe for a dish.

    Here is the recipe for Ricotta Cheese, Acorn Squash Tempura, Truffle Honey, Sunflower Seeds, and Grilled Bread, exactly as it was received:


    All Purpose Flour 1 cup

    Soda Water 1 pint

    Put the flour & soda water in a bowl; mix vigorously with a whisk, then strain & reserve.

    Acorn Squash- peeled, sliced 1/4in thick 1ea. / about 16 slices

    Truffle Honey 2T

    Sunflower Seeds-toasted 3T

    Grilled/toasted Sourdough Bread- ¼ inch thick 8 slices

    S&P tt **

    Extra Virgin Olive oil 4 T

    [** "tt" = "to taste"]

    Preheat deep fry or large pot of oil to 350f. Coat the acorn squash slices in tempura batter. Remove excess batter and place in the oil for about 2 minutes or till golden brown. Remove from oil, season generously with salt & pepper and lay on paper towel.

    To The plate;

    Place 2 slices of bread on each plate drizzle each slice with olive oil, place ricotta cheese on each slice. Next drizzle truffle honey over the cheese, sprinkle sunflower seeds over the top. Finish by laying squash tempura over the top.

    [NOTE: Harold also sent along his recipe for homemade ricotta and ways to vary/use it, all of which has been edited below. In the interest of space, I'm not including his version here; suffice it to say the level of detail and description was comparable to what you see above.]

    STEP 2:

    We conduct an interview based on the recipe.

    Here’s the audio of our interview about both the dish and the ricotta cheese. I’m presenting the full, 7-minute dialog here for those interested in how all elements find their way into the text that follows, but you might well get the gist after a minute or two.

    Harold Dieterle Interview – ricotta (April 13, 2012)

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    Published in Harold Dieterle
    May 9, 2012


    After Months of Brainstorming with Harold Dieterle, A Cookbook Concept Emerges

    [Editor's Note: In this post, the first of a two-part series, we take you inside the process of developing of a new book project. This piece describes how a concept is devised; the follow-up, which I'll run on Friday, will take you inside a working session, complete with audio of an interview and an illustration of how a chef-collaborator relationship works. - A.F.]

    Right in Front of Our Noses: Everything We Needed to Know was Locked in Here (photo copyright by Andrew Friedman)

    Every so often, somebody pondering a book idea asks me for advice. One of the questions that inevitably arises is how long it takes to write a book proposal, the document that literary agents circulate to editors and publishers in hopes of setting the project up with a publishing house.

    “Writing a proposal only takes a few weeks,” I say. “The variable is how long it takes to come up with a concept.”

    With very few exceptions, even the most well-known culinary celebrities need a solid concept to convince a publisher that their book is viable. Oh, sure, if you’re a big enough television star, you might be able to sell the flimsiest of ideas, or even enter into a blind book deal, with the idea to come at a later date. Generally speaking, though, a concept will make or break one’s publishing prospects.

    I’ve collaborated on projects where the concept was evident from the get-go, restaurant books being the most obvious examples, along with those that grew directly out of a chef’s area of specialization, such as Go Fish, which Laurent Tourondel and I conceived while he was the chef of the posh seafood temple Cello. In cases where the concept isn’t as turnkey, my main goal is to come up with a concept that bridges what a particular chef does in his or her restaurant kitchen(s) with what home cooks do in theirs. Sometimes the answer reveals itself quickly; others it can take several frustrating months

    As mentioned a few months back on this site, Harold Dieterle and I have been engaged in a sporadic dialogue about a possible cookbook project since last fall. It’s been a long and winding road: At first, we were going to write a Thai book since Harold has such a passion for it. But we succumbed to the commercial limitations of that notion, switched gears, and decided to write a more general cookbook. To put it in restaurant terms, we went from focusing on what Harold does at Kin Shop to what he does at Perilla.


    Published in Harold Dieterle

    The Godfather of Brooklyn’s Dining Renaissance on Discovering Smith Street, Outer-Borough Economics, & Creative Restlessness

    Alan Harding, photographed outside Littleneck Restaurant, March 2012

    Back in 1997, Alan Harding, who first garnered attention at Nosmo King in Tribeca, stunned New York diners when he crossed the East River and opened Patois on a desolate stretch of Smith Street in Brooklyn. The space that housed Patois is now home to red-hot Battersby and Smith is, of course, one of the premiere thoroughfares of the modern Brooklyn dining scene. Harding and his Patois partners Jim Mamary and Mamary’s brother Paul, collectively and individually, would go on to have a hand, if not necessarily a stake, in more than a dozen Brooklyn restaurants including Uncle Pho, Schnäck, and Pacifico.

    Though widely acknowledged as Brooklyn’s culinary Pied Piper, Harding is no longer associated with past projects other than the Gowanus Yacht Club, a seasonal, open-air MASH unit of a watering hole in Carroll Gardens. But he’s still very much a factor out here in Kings County, currently as the chef (though not a partner) at Littleneck, a fish house on Third Avenue, between President and Carroll.

    Last spring, while pondering a possible book about Brooklyn, I sat down with Harding in the open air of the Gowanus Yacht Club, which happens to be Toqueland’s favorite place to knock off early in the summer, and as he puffed on a stogie (a habit he’s since quit), discussed his pioneering of Smith Street and what’s transpired in these parts since those days. The book never happened, but I recently came across the dialogue and, with Harding’s consent, decided to share it here.

    TOQUELAND: Let’s contextualize: I remember, when I lived in Park Slope twenty years ago, if we made plans with people in Manhattan, there wasn’t even a discussion about venue; the assumption was that the Brooklyn people came into “the city.”

    HARDING: Correct.

    TOQUELAND: And now, Manhattan people might come to Brooklyn.

    HARDING: Well, you know, we decided to do a project in Brooklyn because we all lived in Brooklyn and because the city at that time was hard. It’s always been hard.

    TOQUELAND: You don’t just mean financially?

    HARDING: Financially and logistically and entrepreneurially and bureaucratically. For a long time, Brooklyn was off the radar as a place that the city could generate revenue from the entrepreneurship. The Board of Health never came to Brooklyn because they were so busy doing places in Manhattan. For a long time it was like this like secret little place that had people that enjoyed good food that were sick of going to Manhattan.

    At Patois, there was a line out the door and they had to wait in the backyard in a tent where there was a wood-burning stove. Nowadays, if someone said, “There’s a tent in the back with a wood burning stove,” probably the first five calls would be to 311.


    Published in Brooklyn, Interviews

    A Rare Chance to Revisit Signature Dishes from One of the Most Quintessentially New York Restaurants, and Enjoy a Live Conversation with Chef David Waltuck

    David Waltuck

    Hi, all,

    I’ll be wrapping up and publishing quite a few backlogged posts over the next week or two as I’m just digging out from a few short-term deadlines, as well as some travel, including a trip to Chicago for the El Bulli dinner at Next, about which I’ll be filing a report in a few days.

    For the moment, however, I want to briefly mention that David Waltuck and I will re-telling the Chanterelle story in dialogue and dishes at De Gustibus in New York City Wednesday night (April 18). I’ve just learned that there are still some seats available, and encourage Toqueland readers to snap them up here.

    The class will be like most De Gustibus presentations in that David will be demonstrating a number of dishes that will also be served up to those in attendance, along with wine pairings. What will be unusual is that I’ll be on the stage with him, and we’ll be discussing quite a bit between the bites: We’ll put the dishes in the context of Chanterelle’s timeline, and talk about the ins and outs of collaboration (we penned the restaurant’s book together a few years back). And, as I’ve just begun working on my own tome about the chefs of the 1970s and 1980s, an era that David and his wife Karen helped define, we’ll also engage in some storytelling about those formative dining days in New York City.

    Beyond all of that, this will be a rare opportunity for fans of Chanterelle to savor another taste of the restaurant (how often does that happen?) including David’s signature Seafood Sausage.  The evening will begin with a Chanterelle amuse and end the way meals at the restaurant did, with elegant little fruit gelees. The full menu is as follows:

    Cold Beet Soup with Crème Fraîche and Caviar

    Grilled Seafood Sausage with Beurre Blanc Sauce

    Potato Risotto with Sautéed Foie Gras

    Sautéed Turbot with Peas, Pearl Onions, and Pancetta

    Roast Lamb Loin with Marjoram and Mini Moussaka

    Chanterelle Fruit Gelees

    I’ll be skipping lunch that day, and hope to see you there.

    - Andrew

    Published in Appearances

    Follow Toqueland Between Now and Labor Day and Earn a Chance, or Chances, to Win the Chanterelle Cookbook, Autographed and Personalized by Chef David Waltuck

    We’re delighted to announce the second edition of our fan contest, wherein we offer new followers a chance to win a suitably chef-related prize. This time around, one lucky Toquelander will win a copy of the beautiful Chanterelle cookbook, personalized by David Waltuck (and yours truly, who served as his coauthor).

    This edition of the contest will run through Labor Day, at which point we’ll select a winning name at random. The winner will be contacted privately so you can tell us how you’d like the book inscribed and to where we should ship it. It’s that simple.

    You can subscribe to us by email, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook. (You can also follow our RSS feed, but we can’t track that, so it doesn’t count in the contest.) For each way you follow, you earn one more chance to win.

    We hope this gives you an extra reason to keep up with Toqueland. In the meantime, we promise to keep the content coming and make you glad you chose to keep in touch.


    Published in Contests

    Why The Industry’s “Most Likely to Succeed” List is Even More Historically Significant than You Might Think

    [Editor's Note:  This piece was first published on April 9, 2010, on the original, 1.0 version of Toqueland. Thought I'd re-post it today for a few reasons: (1) The Jonathan Waxman interview referenced herein was the very first interview I conducted for what has become my just-announced book project(2) Food & Wine unveils its 2012 Best New Chefs class on Tuesday, with party to follow; and (3) if more than a dozen people read this during my first, halfhearted attempt to run my own site/blog, I'd be shocked (didn't realize what I was getting myself into that time). As the waiters say, "Enjoy."]

    Here We Are Now: Entertain Us... Dancing Girls at the BNC Party (photo copyright by Sylvain Gaboury, FOOD & WINE Magazine)

    APRIL 9, 2010; NEW YORK, NY – Food & Wine Magazine staged its 22nd annual Best New Chefs party Tuesday night at the Four Seasons restaurant in midtown Manhattan.  And I do mean staged:  Just before the recitation of the names (you can’t really call it an announcement as the news broke online earlier in the day), dancing girls decked out in hot pants, top hats, and feathered wings—getups worthy of a Bob Fosse fever dream—danced along the brink of the shallow fountain in the western dining room.  It was fabulously over the top – one of those moments that you sometimes see in movies about New York and think, “There aren’t really parties like that in New York.”  Only Tuesday night there was!

    The event, as always, was one of the best food industry events of the year—almost comically packed with both top chefs and, owing to the magazine’s relationship with the show, Top Chefs (i.e., past cheftestants and winners from the Bravo TV production).

    As I say, the BNC class of 2010 was announced earlier in the day Tuesday.  The inductees were:

    Roy Choi, Kogi BBQ truck, Los Angeles, California
    Matt Lightner, Castagna, Portland, Oregon
    Clayton Miller, Trummer’s on Main, Clifton, Virginia
    Missy Robbins,A Voce, New York, New York
    Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland, Ohio
    Alex Seidel, Fruition, Denver, Colorado
    Mike Sheerin, Blackbird, Chicago, Illinois
    John Shields, Town House, Chilhowie, Virginia
    Jason Stratton, Spinasse, Seattle, Washington
    James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland, California

    Christina Grdovic, Dana Cowin, and Gail Simmons, flanked by the BNC Class of 2010 (photo copyright by Sylvain Gaboury, FOOD & WINE Magazine)

    The whole scene–peppered as it was with bloggers (many armed with digital still and video cameras) and tv stars (Sarah Jessica Parker plus food-world tv celebs such as Tom Colicchio and Kelly Choi)–got me to thinking about how much things have changed in toque-land over the past few decades, and made me want to take a moment here to reflect on Best New Chefs’ place in the relatively young history of the modern American restaurant chef as we understand that term today.  Because amidst all the glam and glitter Tuesday night, one might easily forget how very significant the awards were when they were first rolled out a little more than two decades ago.

    I recently interviewed Jonathan Waxman of New York City’s Barbuto restaurant.  Jonathan started out at Chez Panisse back in the 1970s, then rose to prominence at Michael’s in Los Angeles, and then JAMS in New York City.  We were discussing the formative days of modern American restaurant food in general, and the California school in particular.  When I asked who he was following outside of his immediate circle (Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, Wolfgang Puck) back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he floored me with his answer:  Almost nobody.


    Announcing a New Book that Will Revisit the Golden Age of the 1970s and 1980s

    [updated March 2014]

    Alright, enough with all the ghostwriter talk: A few days ago, after some interest that came straight out of the blue, I closed a deal to write my next nonfiction book: a dream project I’ve been working on sporadically for a few years but which I can now announce will be published by one of the top impresarios in the business. I’m still pinching myself.

    The as-yet-untitled book will be an oral history of the coming of age of American chefs, American restaurants, and modern American restaurant cuisine in the 1970s and 1980s. It will be published by Dan Halpern’s Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. Ecco is also home to Mario Batali and April Bloomfield, Zak Pelaccio and Andrew Carmellini, not to mention Tony Bourdain, both as an author and as overlord of his own imprint, Tony Bourdain Books. Ecco also boasts a  stable of non-culinary literary luminaries that’s simply mind-blowing. Where better to publish this book than this house? Did I mention that I was still pinching myself?

    Of course, other books have touched on this subject and time period, but this one will be its own animal. It will focus only on the 1970s and 1980s, will be told (almost exclusively) in the voices of the chefs, restaurateurs, critics, and other principal characters, and it has a thesis all its own: that the same societal forces that produced punk rock and independent film, pop art and the sexual revolution, also drew a band of game changers into the kitchen, where they broke the rules and redefined what we eat and how we eat it.

    In other words, the focus will be more on the people than on the food, although the food is obviously central to the story. Fortunately, one of the many remarkable things about that time was how very young the players were. With a few exceptions, the major characters are still with us today, and are still vital forces in the industry. My recent interview with Jeremiah Tower for this site, which also ended up doubling as an interview for the book, should give a sense what to expect in this book. While there are dozens of interviews yet to be conducted, one thing I hope to capture is the incredible energy, spontaneity, purity, and utter lack of materialism that defined the chefs of that era, none of whom got into cooking with an eye toward book deals, television shows, product lines, or commercial pitchman gigs. All of those things were, to put it mildly, beyond imagining to a young man or woman sticking a toe in the water of professional cookery thirty or forty years ago. The chefs of the 1970s and 1980s got into the business for one reason and one reason only: to cook. Imagine that.


    March 20, 2012

    Feeding Frenzy

    The New York Times Ghostwriting Story Saga Just Won’t End

    Last week, when I found myself featured in the New York Times story on cookbook ghostwriting, I never could have imagined what was about to transpire: outrage from Rachel Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow, a confusing follow-up post, and then–this afternoon–mere moments after I posted a Huffington Post opinion piece about the politics of ghostwriting, a sudden request for me to rush into Manhattan to tape an interview for a Today Show segment set to run around 8:10am tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

    They kept running around behind the segment producer while he interviewed me. Damn kids!

    The invitation was so last minute that I had to suddenly cancel my son’s weekly tennis lesson to accommodate, then insist that the show’s booker let me bring the family along to make it up to them. She couldn’t have been nicer about it, sending a car to bring us in from Brooklyn, then letting the kids romp around the studio before, during, and after my camera time. To be honest, I loved every minute of it–nothing will keep you from taking things too seriously like having your son try to crack you up over the shoulder of a Today Show producer.

    I have no idea who else is being interviewed for the story, or how many more legs this thing has, but it’s been an interesting week for anybody who engages in the craft of collaboration. Will be keen to see how long this particular beach ball keeps getting batted back up into the air.

    - Andrew

    Published in Commentary, Writing Life
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