Cooking is a very personal thing for me. I have always had a curiosity about the role each ingredient plays in a recipe and how one item can affect the balance of the dish. I tend to create with balance in mind. If something is salty, then something sweet is needed and so forth.
I can recall early memories when I wasn't even able to reach the counter tops. I would hoist myself up over the cabinets in order to reach the toaster, my first kitchenette. At age five, I could tell you ten different ways to cook a grilled cheese sandwich. This early culinary curiosity would grow over the years.
At the age of 14, I stepped into my first professional kitchen and learned the art of short-order cooking. The location was a contract kitchen my father ran at Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, across the water from Manhattan. It served as a long-term shelter for those who could not afford more. Not only did I encounter many truly unique characters, I discovered firsthand the complexity, insanity and rush of a kitchen. Moment to moment, things changed. And it was this buzz of ever-changing energy that hooked me in.
During high school I always had a part-time job in restaurants, both in front of house and kitchen roles. While studying at SUNY Buffalo, I continued my kitchen work at the Buffalo Brew Pub. The menu featured many dishes cooked with beer. Clearly I had to taste these beers to ensure my finished product was up to snuff and a love for craft beers was born.
After graduation and 8 plus years in the kitchen, I decided I wanted to explore the corporate world. I dove into the beginnings of the Internet bubble and rode the wave for many exciting years. But after 10 years in successful roles at leading companies such as Gartner Group, The Weather Channel and Yahoo!, a change was in the cards. I craved the interaction and energy of the restaurant world and started to plot my future.
It was at this very time that a close friend, Chris Evans, was looking for a change as well. We both quit our jobs and started having daily meetings that would help shape the first incarnation of Press 195.
Ten years after leaving the restaurant industry, we opened the doors to the flagship Press 195 restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn on June 17th 2002. Chris was front of house and I was back in the kitchen, trading a desk and computer for a sandwich press. The freedom, flexibility and departure from the daily grind reignited the passion and pleasure I derived from the heat of the kitchen and I felt I was back on the correct path.
Looking back, the stories I have could fill volumes. These tall tales shape my far-from-usual life. In juggling three restaurants, a family and two dogs, I often need to remind myself that the balance I strive for in my cooking is also a key to stability in my life.