New York restaurant families, like Chinese dynasties, wield power and influence over the (eating) population. And when it comes to culinary lineage, oftentimes talent and savvy is passed down to the next generation of kitchen blueblood.
We spoke with three families—both parents and progeny—about the glory and perils of working in the family biz.
Marc and Larry Forgione
In the current restaurant climate, news of a young chef opening a laid-back fine-dining restaurant dedicated to local twists on regional, seasonal American food barely registers a blip. That is, unless that chef’s father is widely held as the very godfather of regional, seasonal American food.
This past summer, Marc Forgione, son of esteemed culinary visionary Larry Forgione (An American Place), opened Forge, a rustic, earthy Tribeca space that screams “farm-to-table.” For him, carrying his father’s legacy has been a double-edged sword.
“If you’ve read any reviews that we’ve had on the restaurant, it’s usually two paragraphs about my dad, and then it goes into the article,” says Marc. “If my name was Gary Smith, I don’t think reviews would have been as brutal as they’ve been so far.” But on the other hand, he agrees the critics may not have flocked there at all.
And it’s not as though Marc turns up his nose at his father’s achievements. “[Growing up], I don’t think I really realized how important my dad was to the way Americans eat today. When I worked in his restaurant [An American Place] at 17 or 18, I just thought that’s what ingredients were. I didn’t realize how special and how unique everything was until I started working at other places.”
At restaurants like AZ and BLT Steak, Marc had to suffer through quips like “What would your father say?” whenever he messed up on the line. Eventually, Marc took off for the remote French town of Eugenie, where, he says, “nobody knew who my Dad was, and nobody could give a shit who I was either.” Marc peeled potatoes and washed vegetables for a month before anyone would even let him touch a sauté pan.
It was enough to make Larry—who’s a tough one to impress, says Marc—incredibly proud of his son. “He did it the right way,” says Larry, who’s currently working on the launch of An American Place at the Wynn Casino, in Las Vegas. “He took the right steps in working towards his goals, and hopefully he will have the success that he deserves.”
Photo by Melissa Hom