Interview with Chef Rozanne Gold

1996

PG: What inspired you to write this book?

RG: There are 1-2-3 answers.........I have been very aware of trends. First, I knew that for the home cook that the number of ingredients has a been an obstacle. I know even for myself that I would just flip the pages until I saw a short ingredient list. So much the case that woman's magazines weren't using more than three ingredients. They were calling them "food ideas". So, I thought it would be a good way to get people back into the kitchen. People were not cooking. I wanted to find a way to get them interested again. Secondly, I hate to shop. Even for clothes. The idea that you could make a four course dinner for six people and still go through the express line of a supermarket.......I think is really keen. Thirdly, on a more professional level, I am appealing to two audiences. Being a culinary director for Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Company (a restaurant consulting firm), I was in pursuit of perfect cooking as opposed to 'how many ingredients can I get in this dish'.

PG: That makes sense. Which brings me to the old Bauhaus question..... Why is less more in cooking?

RG: It's not always this way........but very often it is. Less is more because fresh ingredients already have a wonderful texture. My rule is that you need to use very fresh ingredients. Open markets have come such a long way, they are very accessible. It makes it easier. And the way we actually taste is 70% smell. So.......for example, if you were roasting something and don't have many ingredients to mask it, then the true flavor really comes out. It has been said that a great chef only needs a few ingredients. Everything is so fused today. It's confusing to the palate.

PG: Is the concept of cooking with three ingredients considered minimalist cuisine?

RG: No, to me minimalist cuisine is synonymous with nouvelle. It refers to precious food and leaving the table hungry. This is anything but......this is about feeding your family

PG: Is this concept using fewer ingredients a new one?

RG: There is one other book. But it is of a different quality. But, yes, this is totally new cooking.

PG: Do you think that this is the future of American cuisine?

RG: I'm hoping to a certain extent it will begin a new movement. I think we'll hear a lot of home cooks and chefs following suit. Daring to be simple. Le Bernardin has been cooking like this for a long time. There, it was always the pursuit of perfect cooking. I think chefs are going to like this. Food is not very forgiving when it's naked. It's pretty exposed. What a challenge.

PG: What are the basic staples one should have in the pantry?

RG: I have to be very careful with this. I asked some friends and came up with a list that I thought was politically correct. Sun Dried Tomatoes in olive oil Black Olive Puree Roasted Red Peppers ( a really good brand) Flavored oil and vinegar (although I prefer making my own) Chicken Stock Frozen Puff Pastry (even very good chefs use this) Prepared Pesto-when itÕs out of season The rest has to do with very good quality ingredients. Like a good quality olive oil. I've been experimenting with Spanish olive oil lately. There are some very good brands out there that people should try.

PG: I know that you are the Culinary Counselor to Dunnewood Vineyards in California.
And you have some wonderful recommendations in your book. How do you decide which wines go with each dish?

RG: I've been a student of wine for 20 years. It is something I lecture about. In fact, Dunnewood asked me to write on the back of their labels for their consumer where I give specific food & wine pairings. If you peel off the back you can send it in to get one of our recipes.

But, to answer your question, for food pairings I call the solution....... again 1-2-3. It is all about flavor, texture and weight. It's very important to match flavor, texture and weight in both food AND wine. We feel more comfortable doing this with food. But it is important with wine as well. Some people like contrasting and some people like complementary tastes but I think it is important to give people guidelines. Wine has gone through an amazing metamorphosis in recent years. The concept of white wine with fish and red wine with meat has changed. I had a great bottle of white wine the other night with meat ....but it was a BIG white.

PG: Your list of accomplishments is astounding (see bio) Professionally, what are you most proud of?

RG: I think being the first at many things makes me most proud, I was the first executive chef at Mayor Wagner's law firm. I was 22 at the time. Then I was the first female executive chef in the country that worked for a corporation, Lord & Taylor where I was responsible for the change in their restaurant concepts nationwide. I helped create American Spoon Foods with Larry Forgione. I was the first to coin the phrase, "Med-Rim" cuisine. I invented "Hudson River Cuisine" for the Hudson River Club. I created the position of first executive chef at Gracie Mansion for Mayor Koch.

PG: Yes, you were the youngest/first chef 23 years old in Gracie Mansion
for former Mayor Ed Koch, what was it like?

RG: It was mind blowing. I was so young. I lived in the basement. There were not many women at the time that were chefs. My idea was that Gracie Mansion should be known for serving New York State wines and food. We had the first New York State wine list. I always felt that the Hudson Valley should be like Napa Valley. I got to know a lot of farmers and cheese makers. It was all very exciting.

PG: You are the consulting chef to the Rainbow Room and the newly re-opened Windows on the World, what inspires you?

RG: This time unlike other times, it is a real team project..... but before the team was on board, what inspired us was the potential of a food project that comprised world views.......... but not all on one plate. The core will be a spectacular dish from a whole variety of countries and will probably change often. It's important to note that it's not a theme restaurant....... we're trying to do it without being obvious.

PG: You've cooked for many dignitaries in your career, what has been a highlight for you?

RG: Well, I know the answer to that........it was something that changed my life. It was when the Begins came to stay at Gracie Mansion. They were wonderful. Prime Minister Begin's secretary and close friend invited me to Israel in 1980. I became an unofficial spokesperson for Israel's food & wine industry. I've helped market their products here. I became very close to Mrs. Begin, she would call me when she came to town and we'd go shopping.

PG: How exciting and rewarding. Now I have a very practical question...... since three is the magic number, what three tips do have for our audience to make cooking easier?

RG: Well, first, I cook when I wake up in the morning before I go to work. I make a pot of coffee and start preparing. It's relaxing for me and I have something ready for us when I come home. Second, one should put aside at least one or two days a week to cook. Everyone is so busy. It's important to find the time and set it aside. Third, try the book Recipes 1-2-3.