What Chefs Cooked As Kids

Clockwise from top left: Drew Nieporent, Marcus Samuelsson, Michael White, Floyd Cardoz.

Tickets to last night’s grand tasting at Pier 60 were steep (starting at $500!), but proceeds benefited Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), a nonprofit that provides high school students with training and job placement in the restaurant industry. The event honored restaurateur Drew Nieporent, but the real stars of the show were the C-CAP students, who assisted chefs from the likes of Blue Hill, Corton, and Morimoto. In the spirit of youthful experimentation, we asked some of the top chefs what they were cooking up at home as kids.

Waldy Maldouf, Executive Chef, Beacon
“My first merit badge in Boy Scouts was in cooking. I had a Lebanese and Sicilian grandmother, so I cooked some kibbe and certain lamb stews. In later years we started cooking things like psilocybin mushrooms, in meat sauce. Do you know those? They’re mushrooms that you trip on. We put ’em in the sauce. And hash brownies, too.”

Tom Colicchio, Executive Chef, Craft

“The first dish I made at home for my family was when I was 13 years old. I took a recipe from a magazine, stuffed zucchini with shrimp and eggplant. Only I didn’t read through the recipe very carefully so I didn’t realize it was just an appetizer. My mom had to get up and actually make dinner.”

Craig Koketsu, Executive Chef, Park Avenue Winter
“In high school I was known for being the guy who would cook meals for everybody. That’s when Boboli pizza was really big. I had this one pizza I called ‘The Purist.’ It was fresh-sliced tomatoes, lots of garlic, olive oil, and feta cheese and spinach. The fresh spinach sort of wilted, and all my friends loved it.”

Michael Lomonaco, Executive Chef, Porter House New York
“I’ve been a fan of Julia Child since I was 9 years old, so by the time I was in high school I was experimenting out of her cookbooks, making duck a l’orange, onion soup gratinee. I was also taking high-school French at the time so I needed something to go with it.

Floyd Cardoz, Executive Chef, Tabla
“When I was 16 I was making soufflé omelettes, and I was grilling chicken for my friends, and I was making the fish I caught, in the area, like king mackerel, sardines, mullet. I’d clean it and grill it, that was it.”

Drew Nieporent, Owner, Myriad Restaurant Group
“My mother was an actress, and the worst cook in the history of food, so that’s why I got into the food business. When I was a kid I would come home from school, turn on the TV and watch The Galloping Gourmet and then pour brandy on hamburgers and literally watch the flames consume the kitchen.”

Michael White, Executive Chef, Convivio
“On weekends in the winter when I was 10 or 11 I made goulash with my dad, and rye bread. In the summertime, it was corn, corn, and corn.”

Marcus Samuelsson, Executive Chef, Aquavit, Riingo
“When I was very young I made gingersnaps with my grandmother, but by the time I was 17, I would make things like a really nice lemon-seared mackerel with buttermilk mashed potatoes.”

John Fraser, Executive Chef, Dovetail
“I was all about macaroni and cheese. It comes in a box, and I was good at following directions.”

Marc Murphy, Executive Chef, Landmarc
“I lived in Italy for a long time and then I went to boarding school in New Hampshire. There were times I was jonesing for a good bowl of carbonara. In my dorm we had a little hot plate, so I whipped myself up carbonara. All my fellow dorm people were like, ‘What the hell?’”

Nancy Olsen, Pastry Chef, Gramercy Tavern
“When I was 12 or 13 I started two boxes of macaroni and cheese on fire — not an auspicious start to my culinary career.”

Read more posts by Carolyn Murnick

Filed Under: c-cap, drew nieporent, foodievents, tom colicchio

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