Chef Larry Forgione of Conservatory for American Food Studies - Biography

St. Helena, CA

September 2015

A lot of people might refer to themselves as “the godfather” of one cultural phenomenon or other. For Larry Forgione, “Godfather of American Cuisine,” the title has real meaning. And there’s history to prove it.

Born on Long Island in 1952, Forgione graduated from the Culinary Institute in 1974. He began his long career under Chef Michel Bourdin at the Connaught Hotel in London, England, becoming the first American chef to be awarded a “Mention of Honor from Prix Pierre Tattinger” in Paris.  He was also a silver medalist in the British Culinary Olympics. An extremely promising start, which fueled Forgione as he returned to the U.S. in 1997 and turned his focus to American cuisine. Forgione worked as executive chef at New York’s El Morocco, Regine’s, and The River Café. In 1982, well before “farm-to-table” had become buzzwords, Forgione and Justin Ruskin founded American Spoon Foods in Petosky, Michigan, to produce fresh produce for Chef Forgione’s menu—largely unprecedented in professional American cooking at the time.

In 1983, Forgione opened what would become the iconic restaurant of his career, An American Place, which was not only featured heavily in the influential “Great Chefs” series, but earned Forgione the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Best Chef” award and the CIA’s “Chef of the Year” title (all in the same year, 1993). But even getting those pinnacle accolades didn’t slow Forgione, who became a founding trustee of the James Beard Foundation, the CIA’s externship program, a founder of Fresh Start, and the Annual American Chefs tribute to James Beard and Citymeals-on-wheels. Business also kept rapid pace, with continued expansion through Forgione’s An American Restaurant Group and consultant work with major hotels and retail outlets. 

Most recently, and appropriately, the Godfather of American Cuisine finds himself at the helm of the CIA’s American Food Studies: Farm-to-Table Cooking curriculum. Forgione is both co-founder and culinary director, leading students through their farm-to-table studies and guiding their hands-on experience at The Conservatory at Greystone, a student-led restaurant open to the public.