NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chef Gabriel Thompson serves a generous helping of brash New York City attitude along with recipes from his New York restaurants in his first cookbook “Downtown Italian.”
The executive chef of dell’anima, L’Artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio restaurants, co-wrote the book along with his wife, the eateries’ head pastry chef Katherine, and executive beverage director Joe Campanale.
The 41-year-old, who was born in San Antonio, Texas, and started his career in Colorado and Oregon, spoke to Reuters about how he became a chef, cooking Italian his way and working with his wife.
Q: What makes your Italian cooking ‘downtown’?
A: It’s just our New York take on Italian (food). All our places are laid back and relaxed. We try to have fun with the food. We want people to feel they are welcome. (The restaurants) are a home away from home. That’s our idea of downtown as opposed to uptown, where it’s uptight and more polished maybe.
Q: In the book, you wrote that you have a love/hate relationship with Italian food. Why?
A: Italians have a lot of rules that they are stubborn about, like when you should have cappuccino and when you shouldn’t drink cappuccino, for example. There is no reason why you can’t do what you want to do and make food taste good.
Q: Do you have an approach to changing an Italian dish?
A: I just let things flow. A lot of things that we would do are more an American thing and we try to make it more Italian-y. Or we take a traditional dish like osso buco and make that in a pasta sauce, as opposed to putting it over a risotto.
Q: Why did you become a chef?
A: I have never been much of a student. I worked at a spaghetti warehouse and my two front teeth were knocked out in a fight. Later being trained as a busboy, I felt awkward for being toothless. I asked to move to the kitchen. When I started working there, I was like I could make a career out of it.
Q: You opened up four restaurants with your now wife. How do you keep the harmony?
A: I rely on her for important ideas and putting stuff on the menu. She does the same thing with me. We complement each other well on that front.
Q: What is your comfort food?
A: Having Katherine make dinner.