When it comes to cooking and eating, I always try to preach that life is about moderation. Even if I'm having beef for dinner, it's probably going to be a 3-4 ounce portion with heaps and heaps of vegetables.
Every lesson I learned as a kid was at the dinner table. Being Greek, Sicilian and Ruthenian - we are an emotional bunch. It is where we laughed, cried and yelled - but most importantly, where we bonded and connected.
I was lucky enough to have great mentors both in the culinary world and in the world of chefs who became celebrities. Bobby Flay is one of my dearest friends and a tremendous mentor for me. Mario Batali is the same way. They began doing TV a little before me and they showed me the way.
My restaurants are never opened on Thanksgiving; I want my staff to spend time with their family if they can. My feeling is, if I can't figure out how to make money the rest of the year so that my workers can enjoy the holidays, then I don't deserve to be an owner.
Sitting down for dinner not only helps you learn, but also teaches you how to listen - which I feel is the most important skill to have. I remember as a kid going around the table listening to everyone's day. It was hard to have the manners not to interrupt back then.
I don't think any other holiday embraces the food of the Midwest quite like Thanksgiving. There's roasted meat and mashed potatoes. But being here is also about heritage. Cleveland is really a giant melting pot - not only is my family a melting pot, but so is the city.
I always tell my employees, the busier it gets, the slower you should cook. When you run around like a crazy person, that's when things go wrong.
I make no bones about it. I have no understanding of pastry.
Recipes are important but only to a point. What's more important than recipes is how we think about food, and a good cookbook should open up a new way of doing just that.
For the longest time, chefs and restaurateurs were able to get products home cooks couldn't get, but that's not the case anymore.
My goal in 'Live to Cook' is to make great food more approachable for home cooks.
Because I'm so known as a meat-chef, when I talk about Meatless Monday some people look at me like I've lost my mind. I'm like, look, I'm not saying beef and pork is bad, I love it and I eat it six days a week.
Go to the grocery store and buy better things. Buy quality, buy organic, buy natural, go to the farmers market. Immediately that's going to increase the quality of the food you make.
It's not always possible to sit down and eat at home in this day and age of fast-paced living, but if you are going to eat out, do so as a family and support all the great local places in your areas. I'll still eat at the same diner I did as a kid with my parents.
If you salt a chicken the day before cooking, it starts to break down the cell structure of the meat and allows it to take on more flavor and actually helps it to stay more moist. Same goes for a steak, a pork chop. A lot of people brine; we preseason.
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