I remember cooking with my grandmother at a really young age. We would get fresh eggs and cheese and go back to the kitchen and prepare them. At just 8 years old, that really resonated with me; I was always so excited to go back to grandma’s because it meant we got to cook.
If I hadn’t been a diabetic, I don’t know if I would have gone down that path of nutritional discovery.
Cooking with grandma turned into flipping pizzas and washing dishes at 14 and 15. By 16, I was a full-time prep cook at Dean & Deluca, and at 17, I bought a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, which I basically slept with for the next few years. I used it as a reference and a guide and that was the jumping-off point for my career.
Diabetes has also had an enormous impact on my career. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 12 years old, and it has made me aware of everything that goes into my body. I know nutrition labels in and out; it’s become an important science in my life, almost a hobby. If I hadn’t been a diabetic, I don’t know if I would have gone down that path of nutritional discovery, and I wouldn’t have been able to share this understanding through my food and restaurants.
While I’ve opened restaurants around the New York area many times before, I’m particularly excited for my latest, St. Balmain, which will be a bit different than restaurants I’ve done in the past. Rather than taking the mentality of “the bigger, the better,” I believe we are in a new era. People really appreciate food and they really appreciate where it’s coming from and who’s handling it. St. Balmain will have just 25 seats and an open kitchen in the heart of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. The smaller setting will be the perfect atmosphere for its American bistro fare, made from ingredients sourced locally.
As I put the finishing touches on St. Balmain, I’m also celebrating the holidays with Kitchen Daily as its Guest Editor! Come see me here throughout the week for recipes, tips, tricks and secrets to make your holiday season happy, healthy and delicious.