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The Next Iron Chef ended its run this week, and Marc Forgione was crowned the winner. But runner-up Marco Canora still has plenty to celebrate: A Tribeca location of his East Village wine bar Terroir opened this year, and his Tuscan restaurant Hearth just celebrated its seventh anniversary this week. We called him to get the scoop on what really happens at Kitchen Stadium.
The Next Iron Chef just wrapped. What was it like being on TV?
It was surreal. It was way more work than I thought it was going to be in terms of TV production. I’ve done a lot of TV but not on that scale. It was such a shock to see how much time it takes to produce. Some of those 30-minute challenges you see actually took 16 hours. It was also really cool to be out there on my own. Being in a restaurant is all about team building and delegating to others, so putting yourself out there like that is intense and eye-opening.
What was the most difficult challenge you faced on the show?
I would have to say the three-hour buffet challenge. Cooking at 150 miles an hour for three hours is hard. Also, you’re making food that’s going to sit out on a steam table, and you know it’s going to sit for three hours before people eat it.
You went for the classic Thanksgiving route in the final episode. Would you say that you’re a traditionalist when it comes to cooking?
I’m totally a traditionalist and always have been and always will be. Now I can look back and see what they did with the editing and such. They asked us to honor the Thanksgiving tradition and I guess I took it too literally. Up until then on the show, we were given arenas to show off our creativity and skills and I really thought that this one was about honoring tradition. I could have modernized it and made it a fancy-pants dinner but I didn’t think that’s what I was being asked to do, so I thought of all the things traditionally done during a meal. But I guess that was not a good idea.
Where did you learn to cook?
I learned to cook at home growing up and then just through working in restaurants. I never went to school for it. I have a degree in international marketing. I learned at the school of hard knocks.
So do you think culinary school is a waste of time?
I think it depends on what kind of mind frame you go into it with. I think you can get a lot out of it, but a lot of people go in thinking they can be a chef the second they get out.
What are your three favorite dishes to eat?
I love simple food, and we do a ribollita soup here at Hearth that’s great. A homemade pasta with a simple sauce, though I typically like meat ragus better. And simply prepared fish, whether it’s raw or just sautéed with a bit of lemon juice.
What restaurants do you eat at on your days off?
I live in Cheslea and I like to stay local. I go to Trestle on Tenth a lot. And Motorino near Hearth. I probably get a pie once a month there. And I’m a big Japanophile so I find myself at 15 East a lot. Also Morimoto is underrated; it’s one of the best sushi spots in New York.
See part two of the interview here.
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