Chef & Owner, American Cut
and Restaurant Marc Forgione
Marc Forgione comes from a storied family of great chefs, so naturally he’d also be a talented figure in the space. As one of the youngest Iron Chefs competing on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, he’s also busy running Restaurant Marc Forgione in NYC. But that’s not all since he’s also running the flagship location of American Cut also in The Big Apple. It’s here that he blends the comfort of the new American steakhouse with his modern and signature take on fine dining. The chef-turned-author gives us some details on what’s been going on in his very busy schedule.
Marc Forgione began his career at the age of 16, joining his father, Larry Forgione (a culinary legend who revolutionized American-style cooking in the ‘70s and ‘80s), in the kitchen at An American Place. Marc fully embraced his father’s livelihood and has built on his unique culinary foundation to carve out an identity of his own. In 2010 Marc Forgione burst onto the TV screen when he won Season 3 of The Next Iron Chef.
The Long Island native has managed to balance his work on the line in his restaurant kitchens and continued career. Last month, he made his debut at the annual US Open Tennis Tournament with an American Cut pop up restaurant done in collaboration with LDV
Total Food Service visited with Marc Forgione to get his thoughts on how he has accomplished so much and his vision for the future.
You recently did a pop-up restaurant at the US Open with American Cut. What was that like?
All of a sudden to be in a restaurant doing a thousand covers a day presents its challenges, especially with a brand new staff. Usually we train for a month before we open and do 100 covers. But I think once everyone gets into the groove, you figure it out. That’s the funny thing when you do these types of pop ups, you figure it out as the pop-up is ending. I had my best guy cooking the steaks and we served a great product. If you came by, you got your perfectly cooked steak! We certainly figured out how to do an extremely high volume in a short amount of time, serving high-quality foods.
What was it like working with Levy, whom you had to coordinate through?
It was a great experience. Their staff was really hands-on and there everyday. Our Chef de Cuisine was a safety blanket. I also decided to be there just about every day as well. I wanted to make sure my guys were getting the support they needed.
So just out of curiosity, with a product like that do you use a combi oven and then finish the steak on a grill?
It came in waves, so it depended on the matches. My guy would sear all the steaks allotted for that time.
Let’s talk about your love for the industry. Obviously, everyone knows your Dad – he’s a legend. Do you love it because of your dad or is it due to some other reason. What was the moment where you said you wanted to do this?
I’ve definitely never been forced into it at all. If anything, I was warned about it probably. It’s hard to explain for me. Unless you have that same passion, it’s hard to explain. I just got bit by the bug. You know, I’m a lucky person.
Were you always in the kitchen when you were little?
You can ask my mother, I was always around the stove. I was making my own breakfast very early on and had an interest in cooking. I’m having my first born in a few months and I was telling my stories to my in-laws about the first time I learned to flip an egg. I’ve just always enjoyed cooking with my dad. But my mother was also a great cook. But I used to work summers in the restaurant until I was 17. From there I went to UMass Amherst to see if there was something else. But I ended up graduating with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. I stopped cooking for a bit and then when I came back from traveling in Europe with friends on August 20, 2002, I started again. I haven’t stopped since. I wasn’t planning for the future and I think it all happened naturally. Obviously, I worked for my dad in his restaurant, so I was also lucky.
What did you learn while with the BLT Market?
It got me back into the fine dining room seasonally. It just woke something up in me. For a couple of years, I was just opening steakhouses and training people – basically running around. I didn’t have my own righteousness. And then they opened it with David Malbequi, who now has a great restaurant called David’s Cafe. That confirmed in me I’m a chef.
Talk about your Restaurant Marc Forgione.
Well, it’s still running. We just had our 10-year anniversary. We got a Michelin star in 2012, but it didn’t solve anything because we were doing a small amount of covers at the time. We had to fire everybody and couldn’t get anybody new. I was literally forced to do a good portion of everything myself, which at the time was extremely difficult. But at the same time, it was beneficial because people were really getting to eat my food. The Michelin star just gave us a flashing light in the dark.
How does the business of the American Cut differ from Marc Forgione?
American Cut is a steakhouse. I really didn’t want anything over the top. You go to a steakhouse for a good piece of steak and good potatoes. I just took that concept and tried to make those things as good as I could.
How do you keep things fresh?
Everyone’s got the same issues, you know with minimum wage increasing every year. I mean, I literally don’t know how the government is not stepping in at some point and stopping these rent increases. It’s not like the restaurant gets any bigger. I don’t know how you can double someone’s rent without doubling your space. It just doesn’t make sense to me. If you agree Amazon is coming in and eating the rest of the retail world, meaning everything from clothing to whatever. Shouldn’t there be more open space. And then shouldn’t the restaurant tenant become more important than ever before? So shouldn’t the rates be fair at some point. I just don’t get it.
But back to your question on keeping it fresh. We just try not to pay attention too much on the new trends. And what I mean by that is in today’s world, when you Google anything like a recipe, you can see any picture. I think a lot of the real world is just about copying everything everywhere. It’s running down to the plating and the garnishing. Everything is similar these days. We intend to do something different and creative.
And when you build your team, do you encourage that type of creativity?
I think it takes a little time first and foremost. But I think once people understand that we don’t really have rules, they realize I’m just curious.
So do you think guests care where a product comes from? Or do they really just care about what it tastes like and what you turn it into?
I think that we’ve gotten to a point now where you know there are farmers markets everywhere. You know they care about what they’re eating. But they still want their dish to taste good.
How did the whole TV thing come about?
It just really fell in my lap. It was never something that I pursued. And TV has opened up so many different courses and relationships with the business. There have been so many positive things about it. I’ve been very blessed that all this happened to me at a young age. I’m just turning 40 this year. If you asked me 10 years ago what’s your plan, the simple answer would have been to own my own restaurant. So 10 years from now hopefully I’ve got a beautiful, happy healthy family. And then after that everything else is just gravy!
To learn more about Marc Forgione, visit his website.