Larry Forgione was part of the Culinary Institute of America’s first graduating class in Hyde Park, New York, in 1974, so it’s fitting that his biggest impact is on elevating American classics. During stints in kitchens in London and Paris in the 1970s, he was constantly amazed by the variety and breadth of ingredients available in Europe that couldn’t be found in the U.S. — black chanterelles, all kinds of seafood, even the classic French vegetable haricots vert.
Returning to America, Forgione befriended James Beard and embarked on the difficult task of celebrating, and elevating, American food. Americans, the native Long Islander realized, cooked for convenience, and needed to rediscover the beauty and wonder that fresh, flavorful foods could bring. At Beard’s suggestion, Forgione named his first restaurant An American Place, with the idea of rediscovering the bounty of America — of apples grown in the northwest, of fruit ripened by the warmth of the southern sun.
The fact that many of the ingredients Forgione thought exotic back then are now easily found here in the States is a credit to the influence he has had on American dining. “I wanted the great ingredients, and I began to believe that to give American cooking a place in the future, we have to reach back to the integrity of yesterday.”
IF I WERE TO DIE TOMORROW, I’D WANT TO EAT TODAY: “A 21-course meal prepared by the Chefs in [The James Beard Foundation's Best of the Best].”
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