I was sharing a house in Provincetown one summer with a bunch of friends from high school. I was not contributing to the rent, and everybody I was living with was working in seasonal jobs at restaurants either as cooks or floor staff. One night they just said, we need a dishwasher and it’s going to be you, since you are not contributing to the rent. So I GOT STARTED AS A DISHWASHER and fell in love with the whole business and the whole subculture.
When I was 44 years old and had been working in the restaurant business for almost 30 years, I wrote an article for a free newspaper called the New York Press. The idea was to entertain other cooks and chefs. But in a moment of drunken humor, I withdrew the article and sent it to The New Yorker. Forty-eight hours after the article was published I had a book deal, Kitchen Confidential [which was published in 2000].
It is inconceivable to me that anyone who can travel wouldn’t. I AM CURIOUS ABOUT THE WORLD. I like films, I like books, to explore a different landscape, a different culture, A DIFFERENT CUISINE — that’s deeply satisfying to me in every possible way. I love nothing more than the feeling of being in a city where I don’t speak the language, can’t read the signs, don’t really know what it is that they are eating.
I love the New England Portuguese flavors, Azorean Massachusetts flavors. The first thing I’d like to do when I come back to Boston is to GO TO CRAIGIE ON MAINand do some serious drinking. I have heard really, really great things about it, and I haven’t been yet. — As told to Visi R. Tilak
This interview has been edited and condensed.