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Marco’s in Brooklyn holds a special place in my heart. Not only because it was the original Franny’s, the restaurant that ignited my love of cooking more than any other, but also because the food and flavors continue to refine my own culinary journey — I always leave inspired, educated & eager to create! And, yes, I admit I do take notes as I’m eating.
Danny Amend is the executive chef at Marco’s, and was the chef at Franny’s when I first frequented it eight years ago. He was recently named best new chef of 2014 by Food & Wine magazine — quite the honor and greatly deserved. Danny’s culinary pedigree is a perfect mélange of his West coast upbringing — where, at a young age, he picked veggies from his family’s garden — with his now-East-coast, Brooklyn style of creating unfussy homespun Italian dishes with local ingredients. And, he makes masterful, super-delicious dishes appear oh-so-easy to create.
So, it was a a great privilege for me to step inside the kitchen with Danny recently, the same kitchen I have snooped into on countless occasions to peek at what the master was creating.
Marco’s menu is at once elegant and rustic. The flavors are fresh, vibrant, modern, refined and classic — and somehow, Danny’s approach to cooking and building flavors remains simple. There is certainly a play on some classic Italian dishes, but updated with Danny’s unique palette. This is a man who knows exactly the flavors and final result he wishes to achieve. To that end, he often works backwards, envisioning an exact final taste and building back from that point — particularly with salting his meals in a progression to reach that final stage. And, I’d say, he nails it every time. His food is fantastic and simple. More than anything, the ingredients are the star — Danny just makes them appear brighter!
Danny and I created a salad of octopus and fresh summer veggies over crunchy bread, all made on “The Plancha” (really a fancy word for a super hot griddle, heehee). I will admit I had no idea what that meant when he shared the dish with me, but that that’s exactly how I like it. I want to learn and expand my understanding and techniques in the food space — and this day, I got to do just that, in the kitchen & garden with a chef I have the utmost respect and regard for —so, lets get cookin’!