Yesterday, we caught up with Maialino’s executive chef, Nick Anderer, about the restaurant’s signature suckling pig, and the masculinity of Roman food.
Today, in the second half of the interview, we talk about Anderer’s earliest food memory, the trials and tribulations of swiss chard stems, eccentric diners, and the contents of his home refrigerator.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Probably meatloaf, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes. Straight-out-of-the-can creamed corn. I still ask for it on my birthday, when my mom asks what I want.
Biggest mistake you ever made in the kitchen?
Probably overcooking swiss chard stems. I know it sounds crazy. But at Gramercy Tavern we had braised swiss chard stems, and it would take hours and hours to cut them, and only a few minutes to cook them. If braised just a minute too long, you’d have to start all over and do it again.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a diner?
I’ve had people say they want nothing green–nothing the color green. We get special requests all the time, they come a dime a dozen, and I just let it roll off my back. I’ve had people order the braised lamb, but they want it medium rare.
Which is impossible. So what do you do in that case?
I say yes, and we do our best to find a piece that’s rosier than the rest and hope they like it. Or I’ll suggest something else, like the lamb chop. But if they say: No, I really want that braised lamb…
What would you like to see more of in New York restaurants?
I’d like to see more home cooking, a retreat to grandma’s food. You’re starting to see more of that now. At Maialino too: Our dishes are something that you would get at home, in a Roman home. There are a lot of great restaurants that do very precise, well-executed food, but I think especially now, people are craving something more accessible and heart-warming.
What would you like to see less of in New York restaurants?
Useless molecular gastronomy. I like molecular gastronomy, and I think there’s a place for it. When executed well, there’s good use for it. We use it, we don’t advertise it, but we use it. I think when it’s advertised it’s a little bit obnoxious, it’s in people’s faces. The concept comes before the flavor. I would like to see the flavor come before the concept.
What’s the last book you read or movie you saw?
This sounds really obnoxious, but the last movie was Food Inc. I thought it was a little bit preachy, but it opened up a lot people’s eyes to issues that chefs are aware of and not many consumers are. A lot of it was for shock value, but I think it was a useful wake-up call for the average consumer in America.
And the last book I read was Seabiscuit. I thought it was awesome. I liked it a lot better than the movie. I’m an animal lover.
What’s in your refrigerator at home?
Heineken beer, kimchi, coconut water, and a leftover Baoguette sandwich.