I’m a New Yorker.
I grew up on Long Island just outside of Queens and I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. I have lived in many other states, MI, NJ, PA, FL and though there are takeaways from all, there is still no place like home.
My curiosity has taken me all over this city and where it hasn’t, my occupations surely has. Being in the building trades in NYC has given me the opportunity to see the city from vantage points that would have never happened otherwise. It could be the catacombs of the freedom tower, to the Penthouses of 432 Park avenue. Being a tradesman has allowed me to personally be involved and take pride in what it takes to build a place like NYC.
The order of operations when building anything typically follows the same steps. It starts with an idea or need, then a plan, execution, monitoring and completing. As I discovered my passion for food and cooking I realized that these same steps hold true and should be applied to all projects, particularly cooking. No matter how big or small the task is I try to approach it the same way. A two story or 42 story building, a dinner for 2 or 42, it’s all about scaling and breaking down the task, being prepared and executing to completion. As technical as that sounds it’s still an art and to create art you should be inspired.
In the streets of NYC you can find all the inspiration you need as an artist inside of one block. For a few years I lived on the corner of Bleecker and Laguardia in Greenwich Village. So imagine, I walk out of my front door and across the street was my friend Mustafa from Turkey who ran the locally famous fruit stand. Next to Mustafa was Amir from Morocco who ran the halal truck. Both sat in front of Minooks Korean restaurant, that was above The Bitter End music venue and bar which was next to Terra Blues music venue and bar. A true cultural, culinary, visual and musical collision at all times. I developed a friendship with Mustafa almost immediately after moving to the block, as most people do. In his mid 50s now, thin frame but strong as an ox, he provided most of the neighborhood with their daily produce.
After the first few times of having gone there and purchasing produce from him, on a warm spring day he offered me a seat and a cool drink. We got to talking and laughing and it wasn’t long before on my way from work that was my daily stop.The best times were when a friend of his would come back from Turkey, with olives, olive oil and cheese.
I’d be greeted with a plate accompanied by local fresh bread baked at one of your favorite and highly rated Italian restaurants. So we would sit there with a coffee cup of red wine in hand and I’d close my eyes for a second and swear I could feel the breeze coming straight off the Bosphorus strait. I’ve long since moved from Bleecker but I run into Mustafa every now and again when I am in the neighborhood and he is not on one of his many trips back home to Turkey.
His influence was part of the reason why Istanbul is a favorite destination. On my last, recent trip, I was determined to try some great Turkish Eggs (a dish I feel I have perfected over the past year). One of the first things I did when I got there was to ask my very Turkish friend, Remzi from Istanbul, where can I try the best Turkish Eggs? He looked back at me having no idea what I was talking about… go figure hahahaha.
Nevertheless, I came back with cheese, olives and olive oil to share with friends and we will still eat my Turkish eggs for breakfast on Sundays with all the fresh Aleppo pepper flakes I brought back as well. Oh and can’t forget the Baklava!