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By Aline Reynolds | Marc Forgione won the Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef” competition last year and has gained a strong reputation in Tribeca for his acclaimed restaurant at 134 Reade St. He discusses his motivation to become a chef, experience on the show and his love of Tribeca.
What motivated you to become a chef?
My dad’s a cook, so when I got to about 18 or 19, I actually didn’t want to be a chef. Those were kind of the rebellious years… but, in the end, nothing felt as natural or as much fun as cooking. I just loved it, even as a little kid. I used to get in trouble for being too close to the stove. I remember how accomplished I felt when I could crack an egg into a pan with one hand. And the day I learned to flip a hamburger (I was 8 or 9), I flipped it 50 times in the next half hour.
What’s the most important culinary lesson you learned from your father, culinary legend Larry Forgione?
I learned a couple of things from my old man: take pride in what you do, and ingredients first in the restaurant. When I say, take pride in what you do, it’s not just take pride in the dish you’re making… it’s, take pride in the way you look, the way your service staff is prepared, the menu, the silverware… and all the other things will fall into place. You follow those two rules, and you’ll be all right. Sounds pretty simple, right?
So what was your experience as a constestant on the reality TV show, “The Next Iron Chef”?
As far as the competition, I loved it. I got to meet some very talented chefs. We’re all friends now. I had a blast doing it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was definitely the most stressful experience you could possibly imagine. The whole time you’re in this competition, all you’re doing is thinking about what [dish] you’re making next. It was a nonstop siege. When it was finally over, I just kind of like decompressed for three days.
What’s it like owning a restaurant in Tribeca? What types of diners do you attract?
Tribeca’s its own little island. I think it’s the most beautiful neighborhood in Manhattan. We get a huge mix of people here. It’s like a giant melting pot — you name it, they come here. Neighborhood families are kind of like our bread-and-butter… a lot of the local kids come here for brunch, and we’re great friends with many couples in the neighborhood. One of our most loyal customers is our next door neighbor — they come in every Sunday night.
What do you like to do in the neighborhood when you’re not at work?
As of late, I’ve been going to the New York Sports Club across the street. I’ve also raised somewhere around $15,000 or $16,000 in [cooking] auctions for the schools down here. I don’t have too many work breaks, though. Once I’m here, I’m here!
What did you think of the 2011 Taste of Tribeca festival? How did this year’s compare to the ones in years past?
People were lined up 100 deep just to get a taste of what we were doing. It was a little overwhelming, but it was pretty cool. We put our heads down and [grilled] buffalo rib eye until we were out. In years past, it was more relaxed and slower-paced.
What’s the future of Tribeca’s culinary culture, in your opinion?
It certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere but up — just in the years I’ve been down here, I’ve seen Locanda Verde, Plein Sud, Brushstroke, Ward III and others open. And I’m very proud to be a part of it.