To win Food Network's The Next Iron Chef, Marc Forgione had to take down nine incredibly talented competitors in a series of grueling cooking challenges, the last of which had him battling chef Marco Canora in an epic Thanksgiving-themed Kitchen Stadium battle: the challenge was to create a five-course holiday meal. Forgione's cuisine reigned supreme, but even before winning the crown, the young New York-based chef had a lot to be proud of.
Forgione has cooking in his blood. As the son of esteemed chef Larry Forgione, who some have considered the "godfather of New American cuisine," he began working with his father in professional kitchens at just sixteen. But the younger Forgione is also a superstar in his own right. At just 29, his TriBeCa restaurant Marc Forgione was awarded two stars by The New York Times and recently, he received his second Michelin star in the 2011 guide, making him the youngest American-born chef and owner to receive the honor in consecutive years.
Before opening the spot with business partner Christopher Blumlo, Forgione was chef de cuisine at BLT Prime, and eventually named corporate chef for the BLT Restaurant Group. He played a key role in the openings of BLT Fish and BLT Market, as well as the Washington, D.C., San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Dallas locations of BLT Steak.
Forgione took the time to chat with me about the most difficult cooking challenge and his former dream of being a rock star.
Have you gotten used to seeing yourself on television yet? We had a big viewing party at the restaurant and I've got to say, it's still pretty uncomfortable. I don't think it's anything you could ever get used to. Before watching the series I had no idea that I had this really strong New York accent. I was like, "Where did that come from?"
You've accomplished a lot for a young chef. Where would you rank this Iron Chef win on your list of achievements? You know, it's really the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I've done a lot of hard things. I'm as proud of this, if not more so, than of anything else I've ever done. I don't think people get it; they don't understand how many things have to fall into place to win this thing. You're competing against all of these really talented chefs and everything has to be perfect. If you make one wrong move, you're out.
Which would you say was the most difficult cooking challenge and which was your favorite? Hands down the most difficult was the buffet battle. I'm not used to cooking food that has to be held for an hour. I was out of my comfort zone and worse than that, my pants ripped open in the middle of all of it. You didn't see that part on the show, but it was a wild day. They gave us three hours to make five hot and cold dishes and enough to serve 25; that should take two days.
My favorite was the challenge that had us recreating diner classics. Essentially, that's what we do at the restaurant every day. I love taking classic dishes and elevating them and tweaking them.
Which was more difficult for you: having your food critiqued by your peers or by the judges? Personally, I thought it was really cool that we got to taste each other's food. It showed you what you were up against. It let me know what I had to do to get to the next level. The judges were a different story.
While competing a lot of constraints were placed on your cooking; you had to work within certain themes and with specific ingredients and under time limitations. When you take all of that away, what do you want people to know about your food and your style of cooking? A lot of chefs cook with ego; I cook with my heart. With each dish I put out, I hope to convey that. I want to make people smile with my food. After eating a meal I've cooked, I want people to be happy.
If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing? My dad said that when I was a little kid I walked into the room and announced that I was going to be a famous rock star. Obviously, that never panned out and it's probably because I'm not very good with a guitar. While we were watching the finale at the restaurant he turned to me and said, "You didn't become a famous rock star, so a famous chef will have to do."
You're competing in your first official Iron Chef America battle on November 28 at 10 p.m. What's your strategy going in? I'm just going to do what I've done this whole time: cook my food. While on the show, I didn't concentrate on the fact that it was a competition and I didn't focus on what the judges would think. It's worked so far, so I'm going to keep with that approach.
And lastly, because it is Thanksgiving after all: what are you doing for the holiday and what's the one dish you have to have each Thanksgiving? I'll be at the restaurant cooking. We're serving a really traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the sides, but with a few twists here and there. I come from a family of chefs, so Thanksgiving usually meant cooking in a restaurant kitchen somewhere and that's still what it means for me. Every year I've gotta have our maple-whipped sweet potatoes; they're like candied yams on steroids.
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.