Knowing who makes your food, where it comes from, is very important. In this globalized, beyond fast, beyond immediate trans-modified world, it is nice to know the food we eat has been made by hand following time-honored methods handed down from generation to generation.
My love affair with food started at an early age, my granny used to take me to street fairs, festive carnivals, and local markets. I was around seven years old. I vividly remember to this day the bright red color of cinnamon icicle, the smell of roasted piglet Porchetta with its hints of rosemary and garlic, the smells and sounds and colors. Everything I remember from that time seems of course larger than life.
Later, as the son of a US diplomat, I traveled the world and got exposed to many different cuisines and traditions. My safe haven was the kitchen, where I would observe the cooks prepare local dishes for themselves and at the direction of my mother execute Haute Cuisine for presidents ministers and dignitaries. Along the way, no matter where I was, what continent, what country, what language, the kitchen was the equalizer. The place where sounds and smells all too familiar threaded a common element between otherwise new and strange cultures. The kitchen was always the warm place.
Photography became my craft and passion, and as a fashion photographer I continued to travel around the international fashion circuit, New York, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and beyond. Later by means of fate I entered the world of model management and as the international director of Urban Model Agency in Tokyo my job was to travel the world looking for models. I must have circled the globe a couple dozen times in a ten-year span, sometimes in big cities like Paris or Prague, sometimes in small remote villages and off the beaten path places.
This is the period I really became engaged in local cuisines of the world. Regional local ingredients made by locals for locals. This would eventually be the founding stone of my culinary style. From roadside trattorias in Tuscany, to gypsy tapas ‘tablaos’ in Seville, to secular restaurants in Asakusa, outdoor cafés in Budapest and Cajun shacks in the Louisiana Bayou, my travels allowed me to experience firsthand wonderful food and meet the people who made it.
I left the model industry in 1999, went to Brazil, found a shack in the islands, and began the pursuit of a lifelong calling. It started with a fish shack by the beach, developed into a calzone tavern and ended with a trattoria. When all was said and done, ten years later, I had been a fisherman in an eight man whaler dropping nets for mullet and anchovies, an oyster farmer, a charcutier, a pizzaiolo, a chef-restaurateur and a food activist.
As one of the leaders introducing the Slow Food movement into southern Brazil, helped organize local fishermen’s wives into cooperative efforts to avoid the extinction of the ‘Berbigao’ clam from the waters of the southern Atlantic. Partnered with university agriculture initiatives to export Acai berry and founded a movement to protect stingless meliponine bees, market their honey and revert the proceeds towards expansion.
In 2007 came back to the USA. Wandering through the New York Fancy Food Show of that year I came across black garlic. This encounter as it turned out shaped the next years of my career. I became one of the first importers of black garlic in North America, produced the largest website on the matter in the English language, created Black Pearl Garlic, a single clove black garlic made of unique garlic only found at the foothills of the Himalaya mountains and became a black garlic authority.
In 2009 I started my quest to build a business trading artisanal food and food related items, small batch production, single source products, farmstead, homestead, local seasonal organic and hard to find ingredients.
I traveled to Europe looking for products to bring to America. That is when I fell in love with cheese. It was head over feet. Impossible to describe. Walking through French and Italian street markets and sampling oowie goowie stinking cheese tasting like heaven displayed out in the open, I knew where life was taking me. I had to bring this whole concept home. I brought my first humble batch of artisanal handmade cheese. In 2009. I started showcasing and selling cheeses at farmers markets in Florida.
Eventually I became an “affineur” French term for the guy who ages and sells cheeses. Not to say that I do not make a killer sausage, and can hand slice a Spanish Jamon paper thin, this practice allowed me to travel and share my products with patrons North and South. In 2017 I started Forks and Corks. A chef guided small group boutique gastronomic travel service. The idea being to take people to places like Toscana, Bordeaux, Seville, Provence, Napa and yes Uyuni! after many successful adventures, I put a halt to travel after this terrible affliction of COVID – 19. but it shall pass.
It is 2020.
And here I am on the road again… It feels like home.