The meez Podcast

Marc Forgione of Respect Hospitality Group

May 23, 2023 Marc Forgione Season 1 Episode 11
The meez Podcast
Marc Forgione of Respect Hospitality Group
Show Notes Transcript

#11. Chef Marc Forgione, owner of Respect Hospitality Group (Peasant, Restaurant Marc Forgione, One Fifth) is renowned for his ability to reimagine historic spaces and his talent for creating a harmonious blend of playful and cerebral food. 

Being the son of renowned chef Larry Forgione, Marc had to navigate the expectations and comparisons that come with such a legacy. Plus, face additional obstacles like the financial crisis and the recent pandemic. 

Despite these setbacks, Marc shares his philosophy of embracing adversity, referring to it as "Forge luck." This mindset has allowed him to thrive and achieve success in the competitive culinary industry.

Where to find Marc Forgione: 

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

In this episode, we cover:

(0:00) The benefits of micro-dosing

(6:19) What is Forge luck?

(10:14) Putting things in perspective after Covid

(11:44) Growing up as Larry Forgione’s son

(13:30) Taking over Peasant

(16:11) Maintaining consistency across all businesses

(19:39) How have cooks changed over the years?

(24:28) Marc’s process for ideation

(26:42) Becoming a parent and decision making

(30:12) Creating and tweaking dishes

(38:11) How Marc collaborates with his team

(40:03) Earning the right to share

(42:07) Motivation and constructive feedback

(43:59) Why Marc loves historic spaces

(47:17) Walking the walk with Respect Hospitality

Marc Forgione [00:00:00] 

I find that the mushrooms held me falsely. 

Josh Sharkey  [00:00:03] 

So how long have you been doing it for? 

Josh Sharkey  [00:00:05] 

Maybe a year now. Give or take. Like, you know, I took 'em like everybody else in high school and college to like to listen to Rusted Root and dance around the backyard. And like everybody, I think I was having a little kind of PTSD from Covid.

Marc Forgione [00:00:16]:

And you know, speaking of not being able to sleep, like I'm not making this up. I didn't even know what anxiety was. If you've ever had anxiety, you know what I'm talking about. It's like you feel like you're going to kind of throw up all the time. And I had no idea what it was. I thought I was sick. I went to the doctor, she's like, it sounds like anxiety.


Have you ever seen a therapist? And I was like, no. And then I called this lady and within like five minutes, she's like, yeah, it's anxiety. I was like, okay, well what do I do? She's like, well, you talk to me first. Anyway, I do a lot of different things, meditation, you know, all that kind of stuff. Somebody introduced me to mushrooms about a year ago, and I've found that I drink less, and when I say microdose, like I don't take enough.

Josh Sharkey [00:00:52]:

Like 0.1 milligram or something?

Marc Forgione [00:00:54]:

Yeah. I mean even like, I'll just eat like a little piece of a cap. And I'll do it like when I get home, instead of drinking like a bourbon on the rocks after I get home from work. Just eat a little cap. Yeah. And I get a notebook and I start writing ideas, and I did it for about a year and a half, I guess.

Josh Sharkey [00:01:08]: 

I had capsules, so they were really sort of, you know, dialed in into the dosage, but you had to do a macro dose first to really kick in the microdose. So I did 5 grams first, like a serious full-on trip and then laddering up, like 0.1 milligrams up to 0.3, and. It was great for a long time, and then I was just like wired. And then I stopped.

Marc Forgione [00:01:27]:

It could have been the strain too. I found a beautiful strain. I mean, I feel like I'm pushing mushrooms on you, but there's a beautiful strain called Golden Teacher. 

Josh Sharkey [00:01:40]:

Yeah. I didn't realize how many different, you know, varieties there are that have different impacts. I take this thing now like twice a week. I used to take it every day and it actually was, I couldn't sleep at all. It's called Alpha Brain. It's another neurotropic. It's helped a lot. Honestly, I didn't know what stress was. Obviously running restaurants, we always have stress.

Marc Forgione [00:01:54]: 

Right? I just thought it was part of life. I didn't know it was a thing.

Josh Sharkey [00:01:56]:

Yeah. Then once, you know, I've had a couple of things throughout the years that really hit me and I was like, oh shit. Recently, even with Silicon Valley Bank, I don't know if you've heard about that crash, but we had all of our money in that. And so there was a four or five day stretch where I was like, holy shit wow.


That's my business. And the post-traumatic sort of like episode after the day after that was just like, I need to step away. I do fasting. So I used to do intermittent passing for like six years. Now, I've been trying to put on weight, but every three months I do a five day water fast. So just nothing but water for five days and it is by far, unequivocally like the best thing I've ever done for my body.


Like I finished that five day fast and I never feel better. I have so much energy. My body feels incredible. It's also just spiritually, like knowing that you can go that long without food, has all these impacts. Not just sort of physically, but mental fortitude and also just gratefulness. When you don't have food for that long, you start to be really grateful for these little things. So that's been a big help for me because I don't really drink that much anymore. 

Marc Forgione [00:02:57]: 

No, most of us don't think it's natural. Your body just kind of tells you like, look, you can either go that way or you can go this way. It's up to you.

Josh Sharkey [00:03:10]: 

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show. 


My guest today is the youngest American born chef ever to win a Michelin star and he's a New York City chef through and through. He was the winner of the Next Iron Chef competition and he's the owner of his namesake restaurant, Marc Forgione, as well as several other New York City institutions like Peasant American Cut and his newest venture, One Fifth.


Marc is an incredible chef and technician, and I always felt that his food somehow always strikes this perfect balance of playful and cerebral, while still being approachable and of course delicious. He has a soft spot for history and has a knack for taking over and re-imagining historic New York City spaces.


Something we didn't really get to talk too much about in the conversation, given his love for a Native American culture, is these vision quests that he goes on to sort of stay in touch with his inner self. Maybe next time, although we did get a chance to dig into psychedelics a little bit, so I guess that counts. I hope you enjoy the conversation.


Well anyways, welcome to the podcast, stoked to have you here, man. 

Marc Forgione [00:04:45]:

Yeah, it's been too long, dude.  I can't even remember the last time I saw you. 

Josh Sharkey [00:04:49]:

I know. Well, I was thinking, I mean, this podcast is actually a really awesome excuse for me to have conversations that I maybe wouldn't normally have with people I know and also dig in more. And, you know, we've known each other for like 15 plus years. I don't even remember how we met. I've always had tremendous respect for you as a chef. And this as a person, as, you've just always been so kind. But I think. Probably most people know you as Iron Chef Marc Forgione and the youngest kid to ever win Michelin Stars.


But I think we both know like there's been a ton of adversity that you've had to go through and I want to talk a little bit about that today in a number of ways. Because like as I was sort of digging in your career, It was like these common threads of how you have dealt with them and like some forced impulsive decisions.


I also think people probably don't really realize how much more of a challenge than a privilege it is to have Larry Forgione as your dad. I got to imagine that it was like a chip on your shoulder that you had to prove.

Marc Forgione [00:05:43]:

One day I'm going to write a book. Trust me. 


Yeah, I mean just that alone to have throughout your career. And then obviously all that happened with Forged that became Forgione because of that whole debacle and opening smack dab in the middle of the financial crisis. And then the pandemic shutting down your business. And I mean, it goes on, you know, you take over Peasant, which as a chef in New York, that's a sacred institution.


We all love that place. You've got big shoes to fill there. Riddled throughout your career, like as I was sort of digging in, There's all this almost forced adversity as well as like adversity that just came your way. I'm curious if you think your food and your business would be the same if you didn't go through all that.

Marc Forgione [00:06:19]:

A simple answer to that is I wish I didn't have to go through all of it, but it never stops. It's just my life. It's always been like that. And even before cooking my brothers and like, you know, my family, like we joke, it's not necessarily good luck or bad luck. We call it Forge luck and it kind of follows us all.


Like, not just me, but not everybody, like, doesn't have adversity, but we just have some funny stuff, you know, it's like, you know, you just talked about Peasant, like, I opened Forge and the world shut down. You know what I mean? And my restaurant was two and a half blocks from the world's financial center.


It's like, what are the chances of that happening? You know what I mean? When you go to Atlantic City, I opened my first American Cut, Atlantic City, and Sandy hit like three or four months later. You know, I took over Peasant fucking January 2020.


 It's just the way it is, man. I've always kind of dealt with it. Does that kind of affect like the food and the, and the way that I am? I think so. I mean, I'm always playing like it's the fourth quarter. Maybe that rubs some people the wrong way. I don't know, but it's just kind of how I feel like I have to do it and that the ironic thing is man, like I'm dealing with stuff right now that, you know, it's not people facing. But you know, like ‘22, I have to admit, it was probably the best year I've ever had in my life from a business standpoint. Forge crushed it. Peasant crushed it. 


We opened One Fifth and One Fifth was crushing it. And I'm not making this story up, dude. Like it was New Year's Eve. I was on vacation with my family. I like went to Anguilla. That's where I got married. But I went there during Covid because my brother-in-law had a house.


So, when they shut down the restaurants for the second time, I was like we're not staying in the city anymore. We camped out in Anguilla for three months, but I used to walk this stretch of beach during Covid. And you were just saying like you had that moment when the bank shut down.


 Like I was walking on this beach during Covid actually questioning whether I was still going to be a chef in New York City. And I was like, maybe I'll just stay down here and open a fish shack. Like I don't know what is going to happen in my life. Like I would just walk on this beach like there's nothing else to do.


And this New Year's Eve, I walked on that same beach and it was such a different emotion. I was like, holy shit, I've made it. And for the first time in like 15 years, I'm not making this up. I was like, I finally made it like, I deserve this. We deserve this. Sat on a rock and like, you know, took a moment.


And then New Year's Eve, I'm not making this up, I get a text. Gas just shut off at 7:30 in the middle service of Forge with a full dining room. Sorry, God, that gas is still off. Reade Street hasn't been open since New Year's Eve. It's just been like one thing after the other and then nevermind all that.


I don't know if you heard it, but we're moving Forge to the old Dan Ube space that was supposed to open in, you know, I think the original date was February. You know, we're still not open there. We're trying to get reopened so that we can send off Reade Street in the right way. But it went from like me, like celebrating on a rock. And it only lasted like four or five hours. 

Josh Sharkey [00:10:00]: 

Yeah. That's crazy, man. Well, I mean, it's also crazy, like, again, people have this perception of like, oh, Marc’s got all this shit figured out, and 15 years later is when you start to feel like maybe you have it figured out. And I think the only way to look at business is when good things are the anomalies. Like that anomaly is when the good shit happens. They're just problems every day. And as long as you like know, Tomorrow, something fucked ups going to happen. 

Marc Forgione [00:10:14]: 

I also think that Covid had a good way of putting things in perspective too. I don't know about you, but I deal with problems in such a different manner now where when you look at your life face-to-face, like you were just talking about, like your water meditation, when you had these real, we'll call 'em real problems, like, holy shit.


Like I don't think I'm going to be able to live in my house. Like, I don't think I'm going to be able to feed my family. Like, like those are real problems. Not, we only did 80 covers tonight and we wanted to do a hundred. You know what I mean? It kind of puts it in perspective of like, what's a real problem?


What's not? And then it's like, you know what? We'll get the extra 20 covers. We'll figure it out. Let's all take a deep breath. Where I think maybe before Covid would be a little more drastic to figure out how we're going to get those 20 covers. Now it's like, let's take a deep breath. We'll get it. Don't worry about it.


Hey, like you know, like somebody broke a window last night. All right, let's get it fixed. Josh didn't show up for work today. Okay. Somebody else will work the station. Like, don't worry about it. 

Josh Sharkey [00:11:14]:

Yeah. You know, I don't know about you. Like I always find like the little things that happen more often throughout the week, the month, those are the ones that actually irk me the most, that affects me the most.


But whatever, like the real shit hits the fan. That's actually like where I thrive. You have no choice but to just step back and be like, okay. What's essential, what actually matters right now because at any given time all this could crumble.  It's funny cuz that's how I sort of looking through all the shit that happened in your career and continues to happen.It's sort of built these callouses for you. 

Marc Forgione [00:11:44]:

I think from the outside looking in, it seems like, because I'm Larry Forgione’s son, that we probably grew up in a mansion surrounded by a farm, fresh ingredients and. I eat cedar plank salmon with caviar sauce for dinner every night, which couldn't be farther from the truth.


Trust me, I grew up in a very humble house in the suburbs of Long Island. Like it wasn't like anything fancy by any means. And then I think, again, from the outside looking in, it seems like it was just like destined. And it was my dad who probably opened this restaurant for me and he gave me the money. Again, men couldn't be farther from the truth. 

Josh Sharkey [00:12:21]:

You signed the lease with no money, right? Like you didn't even have any money.

Marc Forgione [00:12:25]:

I think we had like a hundred grand in the bank. 

Josh Sharkey [00:12:27]:

That's ballsy. I could never do that. 

Marc Forgione [00:12:29]:

So trust me, man. I'm telling you, it was hard. You can ask anybody that was there. It was not the way that it may have looked from the outside and even like the Michelin star and the Iron Chef stuff, like, it was just like crazy out-of-body kind of experiences that weren't scripted.


They just happened. And you know, you also mentioned the kind of seat of the pants moments you had to grab, I think a big reason that we got the star was. Probably one of the few restaurants that didn't kind of succumb to serving quote unquote bistro kind of food just to serve the masses.


And I got into a lot of fights with my partner at the time. You know, I just said, look, I'd rather close than do that. Like I've worked too hard to finally open my own place, which was a crazy decision, but it ended up working the next Iron Chef. I didn't cook Turkey for Battle Thanksgiving. Again, on the outside looking in, it seems like pretty crazy to not do that and ended up working and.


Taking over Peasant, like you said, man, that's big. You know, and I'm not like complimenting myself and if it sounds like I am, I'm not. But not a lot of people can handle taking over a restaurant like that now. If you could have seen the people that came in the first month or two, like the regulars, I mean. They were like, I want the mushroom risotto. I was like, I don't know how Frank made the mushroom risotto, man. I'm sorry, but I'll give you this. 

Josh Sharkey [00:14:00]:

That was pretty impulsive, or like a forced impulsive decision too, right? 

Marc Forgione [00:14:03]:

It was insanity. I hosted an event for the New York Food & Wine Festival at Peasant because I loved Peasant. It was one of my favorite restaurants. I just gave a speech to the crowd, like when we gave a toast before the event started, about how much I love Peasant, how much I love Frank. Frank is like every chef's spirit animal. I mean, he works the station every night. He's 58 years old. He doesn't give a shit.


I don't think he has Instagram, you know what I mean? Like, you know, he is not on tv. He's just a chef, and the food is great, and this restaurant couldn't be more beautiful. And he designed it himself like it was bare hands. Anyway, after I gave this speech, he pulled me aside. He was like, I'm retiring.


Nobody knows. And I was like, holy shit. And then he called me like three or four months later and he was just, he asked me did I really mean everything I said during the speech? And I was like, well, yeah, of course. I meant it in his own roundabout way. He just basically asked me if I'd be interested in Peasant and I had to stop him for a second.


I thought he wanted me to cook there for like a week towards the end or like to be part of like the farewell. And then I just had to ask him point blank. I'm like, are you asking me if I want Peasant? And he's like, yeah, what the fuck does it sound like I'm saying?


And we did a handshake deal in September and I opened in January, which in itself, that three months was crazy. I mean, we opened the restaurant in three months. It was bananas. Yeah, that was a big deal. 

Josh Sharkey [00:15:22]:

I remember when all that was going on. So you're scaling all these restaurants now. You have a bunch of different businesses. But a lot like Frank, you're in the kitchen all the time. You love being in the kitchen. Are you familiar with the zone of genius? There's like these four zones, the zone of genius, the zone of excellence, the zone of competence, and the zone of incompetence and incompetence is probably obvious and so is competence, but the zone of excellence is doing the thing that you're really good at.


Maybe not necessarily that you love it, but that you're good at. And the zone of genius is doing the thing that you are really good at and that you really love. And that seems to also be something that is a thread throughout your career. You love cooking, almost like you have to have a business because you want to cook food, otherwise maybe you wouldn't even have one.


And your food is very cerebral and it's playful, but it's also really approachable. My mom still talks about the hamachi crudo when I took her there. But it's really technical, like it's not easy to execute all the time because there's a lot of technique and you are in the kitchen all the time, but you have a lot of kitchens now. So I'm curious, how do you sort of cultivate that same culture of technical proficiency and execution, and how do you maintain consistency as you have all these growing businesses? 

Marc Forgione [00:16:33]:

I think a simple answer to that and I don't know if I do it on purpose or if it just happens, but I try to continuously show everybody that works not just in the kitchen, but in the front of the house, how much I do actually care, not just for the food, but how much I care for them.


You know what I mean? Like the first thing I say when we're opening, like, you know, we just did One Fifth, so it's fresh on my mind. In August, the first thing I said to the entire staff. I'm going to respect you guys, and you guys are going to respect us, and we're going to care about each other, and it's a family.


And I know it sounds cliche because every corporate meeting you ever go to you'll hear the same thing. And I think you can even see that sometimes when I say that to the group, but after like a couple weeks or a month, one by one, like people will just come up to me every once in a while and just be like, you know, a lot of people say it, but they don't really do it.


This is great. I've never worked anywhere where people actually have each other's back instead of sabotaging. And when it comes to my chefs, I'm really blessed. I have three really great chefs right now, but I think that's not just the technical cooking part. I try to show them the emotional attachment that I need them to have to what they're doing. 


Like there's the best technical guys in the world and I've had some of the best technical guys in my kitchens, and that doesn't necessarily mean they're the best chef in there. It really truly doesn't. I don't know. I'm sure you can kind of understand what I'm saying there.

[00:18:10] And the guys that I have, maybe they're not the most technical three star Michelin chefs in the world, but like my guy at Peasant, Greg, he will jump in front of a train to make sure Peasant is doing what it should be doing. You know what I mean? And he's down there and like last night I was at Peasant.


During service, you know, he knew I was there. He is like, I just got to bang out a few things, you know? And I go downstairs and he's got 20 pounds of short ribs in three different hotel pans. He's got the pasta wrapped ready on the wood board ready to roll out. As soon as he is done cooking the short ribs.


He's laying some branzino. And you know, like most executive chefs, if the owner is there expediting, like they get a little kind of free time, right? They get to like going down, maybe going to the office maybe. Come up and expo a little bit like he was down there with his sleeves rolled up and I didn't ask him to do that.


 And I think that's what I'm trying to get at. Like he's drank that Kool-Aid, I'm going to do everything I can because I care. Connor, same thing, at Forge. I didn't know if he was going to be able to do it when he got the promotion and typical like worked his way up kind of story. And he was in there with a drill taking the seats off of all the chairs that needed to get reupholstered. It's the executive chef for the restaurant. 


It sounds like it's more important that they understand why they're there. They care. I'll take somebody that cares and teach 'em how to make a beautiful pot of pho than somebody that knows how to make a pot of pho but doesn't really care when I leave. You know what I mean? 

Josh Sharkey [00:19:39]:

Yeah. I don't want to go down this rabbit hole too much because it turns into the wrong conversation, but do you think cooks have changed over the years?

Marc Forgione [00:19:46]:

Yes, but not just cooks. I think I can touch upon this. I'm scared for the next generation. I know you are, but at the same time, our parents were scared for us too, and probably their parents too.


And it seems really scary. I hate to say it's not the kids' fault, but it's these 22, 23 year old kids who were raised in a cradle. And a cradle that was taught to them by adults. Oh, you don't know how to do something? Well, I don't know. Ask your phone. I hate to say it's not their fault, but it's not their fault.


They don't think it's, it's wrong to put one earphone in while they're prepping for service that night and listening to, whether it's a podcast or a movie or a fucking song, I don't even know. Like I just look at them with like face like this, like, do you think it's okay? With me standing right there, like, you know what I mean?


That's the part that I think is the funniest part. It's like they're not hiding it. Like they'll have the soccer game on, you know, and you know what I do. In a weird way, you almost don't even want to get involved with telling them they can't do it because they'll fucking shut down. They'll go into an emotional cave.

Josh Sharkey [00:21:02]: 

I agree with you. I don't think it's their fault. It's, and it's the, it's the wrong way to look at them, to sort of villainize them. They were taught that you can do anything and you don't have to conform. And a lot of that is great and a lot of that, especially as it relates to craft, like cooking, can be dangerous.


So I don't want to be the ones as well. This next generation isn't going to have the same proficiency as the previous one. I do worry about techniques not really carrying over if you skip the 10 years of learning to just go right to being the boss. 

Marc Forgione [00:21:27]:

Yeah man, you know it's not going to go away. I do think that with those same kids, if you can try to just teach that emotional caring about what they're doing is the best way that you can do it, instead of telling them what they're doing is wrong all the time.


But I think one of the things that has not just hurt young cooks, but also restaurants, is it's so hard now to hate to be different, but to be unique because it's just so easy to download anything, you know what I mean? Like what do you want to make? You look it up online and there's 20 different recipes, 20 different pictures from 20 different chefs.


Some of them are amazing, some of them not. So it's like, I don't know about you, but, and I still do it. I did it last night. I didn't have a plan for this razor clam dish. Like I showed up and Greg told me he had razor clams. And I find that my best kind of work usually comes unscripted and. I went in the walk-in and like, we had pickled ramps and you know, there was green garlic that just came in, the first batch of green garlic.


And I saw oregano and I was like, ah, you know what we'll do, we'll do like a, a cool, fun play on clams oreganata, but I didn't pick up my phone and Google clams oreganata. I didn't look up images, I didn't like look up ratios. Like I just kind of grabbed some stuff and it took three or four tries. Wasn't like we just put stuff together, threw it in the oven and it was there.


But took us like, I don't know, a couple hours, two or three tries, and we came up with an amazing dish that now you're eating clams oreganata and using the razor clam shell as the spoon. Which was nowhere near where we started with that dish. And I think that is something that's getting lost in cooking, and I see it like when I ask somebody to make me a blank, the first thing they do is they pick up their phone and they, which again, it's okay.


It's not like at the end of the day, it's like the new age cookbook. You know, you and we went into cookbooks, right? I mean, so I have 300 of them in my house. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do research. I think that there was something a little, like you had to work harder with the cookbook, and you had to kind of read into the recipe as to why maybe something works and why it didn't, and now it's just kind of like swipe right, swipe left.


I think the personal touches abusing, for example, the razor clam shell as the spoon. I don't know if we would've gotten to that point, if we had just looked up razor clam oreganata. You know what I mean? 

Josh Sharkey [00:24:01]: 

Yeah. In the long term, you can't really fake intent, and that comes through in the food. Whether a guest knows it or not, they can feel when something was birthed from the chef in the kitchen and the, and like their sort of iteration of that. I don't think that you can fake that at least over time. Maybe one night, one week, one month, you can sort of get some buzz from it. And also no matter what, they have to come back. Right? So you have to make something delicious no matter what.


I definitely want to dig into your process of ideation, but you know, to wrap up the new generation, I do think, look, there's still going to be, obviously, a lot of incredible cooks. My one worry, and this might just be unfounded, is that some of my closest friends in the world that I would like jump in front of a bus for, that I've known for 20 years, are the ones that I was in the trenches with you know, in the kitchens working, you know, 12, 15, 16 hour days, six days doubles, and there's a bond that comes from that. You can't really replace that, and I wonder if that's now just. Gone. I don't know because I haven't been a cook in so long, but I wonder if that's gone.

Marc Forgione [00:25:12]: 

Well, that's a great point cuz obviously you can't even do that with kids now you get arrested. I never really thought about that. Like my guys, you know, like pet, you know, Chef Akira now, Ed Cotton now doing really well, actually, you know, like the names that I'm thinking of. Christian Loma to your point, those are the guys, you know, Gavin Portsmouth, that those six days, sometimes seven days, back then it was, you know, you did a hundred and plus for lunch and you did, you know, 200 for dinner and you prepped everything.


It's hard to actually imagine how you did it. Like I take a step back and look now, because you know, my guys get in at three and they have prep cooks, prep cooks prep it, and then they show up. Like, I wonder when I look at these guys, could this kid actually do a lunch and a dinner service and be responsible for his prep and I don't know. I mean, I think it'd be hard for me to imagine.

Josh Sharkey [00:25:56]: 

Are you familiar with Parkinson's Loft? So potentially if originally avoids the gas, a gas will fill the size of the room that it's in, but it then sort of started being used to pick business and productivity. Basically the premise is, the more time you have, the more time you will use to complete the same amount of work that you would with less time.


And you're a parent now. So, you know, like we have less time in the day, but we still have to get the same amount of things done. And that premise, I think, carries into a lot of how business changes over the years. And look, I'm not saying it's wrong by any means to have like a 40 hour work week or to have, you know, the breaks and things like that, but you're going to get the amount of work done in the time that you have. And unless you realize that you can get more done, you probably won't. 

Marc Forgione [00:26:42]: 

You know, it's funny you just said that. So my family is away, I think for the first time. He's my, my son is four, so it's probably the first time in four years that I am living in my apartment without my wife and my son. A wish man, listen, they left on Saturday and I will fully admit I was kind of lost.


Sorry, I take that back. Saturday. Felt like this was awesome, like the NCAA was on. I cooked myself a steak dinner. I played my electric guitar with the amp, which I haven't done in forever. Like it was like a guy's day, you know what I mean? Like great. Yeah. Sunday, not so much like I missed them a lot. 


There's going to be a point here. I'll get to it. But Monday I woke up and like, you know, you know as well as I do, there's breakfast time when you wake up with the kids, right? 6:00 AM you come out, you know, you're in your robe, you pour your coffee, whatever it is, you feed your kid, you do the whole thing, you get 'em cleaned up, you take 'em to school, and you look up and it's fucking, you know, 9:30, and now you're ready to start your day.


So Monday I kind of came out and I was like, what the hell do I do now? Like this is nuts. So today's Wednesday and I can't tell you how much stuff I got accomplished yesterday. I actually worked for the first time in a long time, a 12 hour day. I got to work at nine o'clock cause I had a nine o'clock meeting.


I got home last night at 10:30. You know, like I was just saying, I made a new dish at Peasant, like I had meetings at One Fifth. Like I couldn't believe it. Everything that I got done. And then this morning, you know what I mean? Before I even talked to you, like, you know, I sent out a couple of different things.


I wrote down recipes that needed to get done. I went to the gym. You know what I mean? Like to your point, like when you have the kid, I. You still have to get it done somehow. But now that I don't have the kid, it's like, ah, you know what? I’ve got plenty of time. Nice. This is three hours that I didn't used to have in my day.

Josh Sharkey [00:28:36]: 

I know, man. You know, it's tough. I keep waking up earlier and earlier to try to sort of go for a run in the morning, but now I have to get up at like 5:00 AM now. But I find it's, you have to try and figure out how to get more done. And I think one of the other blessings of having kids is that you're forced to prioritize. Okay. I know I can only get this much done, so what isn't getting done today? And that helps too, because otherwise you're like, yeah, you can crank everything out. But when you have to decide what not to do, that's a harder decision.

Marc Forgione [00:28:59] 

And you keep the things that you should get done, I think. Yeah. And it kind of happens like matchstick collection owners.

Josh Sharkey [00:29:16]:

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I'm going to jump around a little bit cause you were talking about creating dishes. You just created a new plate yesterday. I want to maybe sort of dig into your process of iteration, because you have like all these very classic dishes, chili lobster, chicken in a brick, hamachi crudo. I mean, it can go on.


There's a ton of them and I actually, I don't know anybody that has as many sort of classic dishes as you do, but like, when does something feel done to you and like, how often are you like tweaking something as you're iterating at it? 

Marc Forgione [00:30:43]: 

You know, again, if it sounds like I'm complimenting myself, I'm not. It's more just like a kind of an explanation. I've never had an issue. I mean, even to this day with coming up with dishes to flip it. Like, you know how some people can write music? Like, I wish I could be a musician. I wish I could write songs. I try, my songs suck. Like I read them after a week and I'm like, I crumble 'em up and I throw 'em away.


And you know, some people can write music, you know, some people can draw. It is what it is, right. I have notebooks and notebooks of dishes that, not like I've made all of them, but they are just ideas. So like that kind of creative part of it has been something that has been kind of natural. But when I start to actually make them and cook them, I think the ones that I guess become classic.


I used to do this weird thing at Forge where I would stand, you know how there's like that open door in the kitchen? I would kind of stand there and there's like certain nooks that you could stand at and watch people eat without them knowing that you're watching the meat, for example, like the chili lobster, like it's not just the dish.


I would watch people eat it and some of them would look confused when they got it. Well, I don't know how to eat this. You know what I mean? Then you'd watch the server come over and explain it, and then they, again, some would smile, some would make a face, but I loved that it was creating this moment of, you know, we just talked about it, like there's not a lot of places that you go to in Manhattan that you have to pick up a lobster in its shell with your bare fingers in a fancy restaurant, quote unquote, you know what I mean?


And poke the meat through the thing. But I used to watch this and it just got me so juiced. I knew that this was something special. You know, and it's kind of the same thing, like with the Hiramasa and the tartare. And like, when you give people that szechuan button, like there's just something that happens to people.


Like you said that, I think you said your mom still kind of talks about it. I hate to say stupid chicken, but the stupid chicken is the same kind of thing. Like there's nothing really crazy about it that when it comes to the table, the people's eyes light up. Like every time, every single time. I don't care if you've had the chicken a hundred times when it comes to the table and you get excited, like you're going on a rollercoaster.


But I didn't create any of those dishes with the thought that they were going to become classic dishes. Like the whole mantra of Forge was, we're going to change the menu as I see fit, like we're just going to change and change and change and change. The ones that stuck the most are the ones that people got.


You know, you better put that back on, or we're not coming back. And over the years, and it's funny, we're talking about this because we're getting ready to reopen, Forge, we hope soon I'll send it to you. But I just wrote little snippets on, there's like 10 of 'em on the dishes and where they came from and how they were created.


Going through that was like, it was kind of like a meditation of going through your mind, but I promise you not one of the dishes that is on like the quote unquote classics list, did I look at somebody and say, this dish is going to crush people like the chili lobster came on because I was hungover and working brunch, and most people don't realize this.


I ate chili crab in Singapore, but that was hungover and I wanted to make a spicy special. I think it was more for me to eat than it was to actually serve. And the first chili lobster was chili lobster with an à la minute pan sauce, which we definitely don't do anymore and put over scrambled eggs with toast. 


People liked the scrambled eggs and the spicy lobster, and then it was like, oh, well, you know what? We'll do this for dinner, and it just kind of turned into its own little animal. And the chicken True story man, it was leftover from a lamb shank special that my sous chef ran on my day off. He had keeper shallot butter.


You know, a note. Remember the old notes that you'd leave in the low west? You know, there was a note that said, Hey chef, I ran a lamb special with rosemary roasted potatoes and keeper shallot butter came out really good. But you know, we didn't have any more lamb, so I tasted everything and I wanted to do this brick chicken. And like, that's how the chicken started. It wasn't this like this chicken is going to change the world. You know what I mean? 

Josh Sharkey [00:35:18]: 

And it sounds like things stick around when you see that, that sort of ephemeral reaction. 

Marc Forgione [00:35:18]: 

That's why I was telling those stories about like the ones that, there's just something about it. And I will, on the flip side to this, I don't know if you've found this as a chef, Not all the time, but I would say probably more than not the times that I think I have created a dish that is going to blow people away. People are like, that's good. And you're like, what? Yeah. What are you talking about? Just taste again?

Josh Sharkey [00:35:41]: 

Yeah. It's infuriating, man. Why do you have notebooks and notebooks of ideas, because you never know which one. It reminds me of Little Wayne, someone asked him like, oh, what do you have like 80, 90 songs in your backlog? He's like, no, I have like thousands. I recorded 53 last night. And you know, that's that zone of genius. So that's the thing that you do, is you just keep pumping them out and you never know. Yeah, you never know. 

Marc Forgione [00:35:58]: 

That's what I said too about like, you know, the musician stuff, you know, I play the guitar. I would say that 95% of the greatest songs of all time are the simplest songs to play. That you've ever imagined. You know what I mean? It's like e a g, like it's all, it's, you know what I mean? And it's just beautiful words, you know, sung in a beautiful way. 

Josh Sharkey [00:36:15]: 

Yeah. And probably influenced by somebody before them too. So it sounds like you have a lot of ways in which you come up with ideas. I know the ingredients for sure. Like you have a forger, I'm pretty sure, right? Don't you have a forager that works for your company?  


I don't think I answered that. Maybe. The right way, but like I get inspired by anything. It could be from McDonald's to a three star meal that I had to maybe something I saw on TV to, you know, as well as I just, sometimes you go to somebody else's restaurant. It's just a matter of then, no pun intended. Like forging it into your own voice. 

Josh Sharkey [00:36:52]: 

Yeah. We had Lior on the podcast a week or so ago, and I didn't realize that you actually started La Boite spices with him. He wasn't really doing spices, and then you and Laurent were like, Hey, can you start doing some spice blends? I imagine that there's a bunch of inspo that comes from that too. 

Marc Forgione [00:37:14]: 

I think Pierre Poivre was the first one. I think for the BLT market and we wanted to do a Steak au Poivre.

Josh Sharkey [00:37:21]: 

Or Cancale? I have to look back in my notes. 

Marc Forgione [00:37:23]: 

I love Leor. I think he's such a pure soul. I mean, you want to talk about somebody working in the zone that they should be working in. Like he's just an amazing human being, you know, an amazing dad and amazing husband, and he's the best dude. And he's honestly, like, he's probably in like don't know, put a percentage on it, but if I have nine classic dishes, he's probably in four or five of them. 

Josh Sharkey [00:37:31]: 

Yeah, it's so cool to see his approach to thinking about spices and spice blends that's so, I don't know the word you would never think about like different textures in a spice blend, you know, that's not something you think about. I love the guy as well. You know, we're talking about the process of iteration. And you've certainly created this culture as well in your kitchens of how this food is getting created.


Wiley, who you actually just did a, you did a partnership a while back with Peasant. You said something that I really like. Part of creating that culture is creating a culture where it's okay to talk shit to the chef. And, which I thought was awesome, but how do you think about bringing your team into these dishes that you create and what does that sort of push and pull like?

Marc Forgione [00:38:36]:  

You know, it's like 50/50 with that, you know, as well as I do, you've been in this business long enough, right? Some people can create, some people can't. It doesn't make you a good or a bad cook slash chef. Not everybody has that kind of gene. I will try as much as I can. Again, not to hate on young cooks these days, but it's tough with the younger cooks. Again, kind of for the reasons we already talked about.


Like, you know, they get in at three, service starts at five. They're kind of just like service people at this point, which is sad when it comes to creating with the chefs, like the sous chefs and the chefs. Again, I try as much as I possibly can, but I'll be the first one to admit.


I might send an email, for example, that says, and I'm kind of doing it right now, like we're putting spring stuff on at one shift and you know, I'll give them a day or two. And you know, if I come in and they have ideas like, you know, we start to go with it. But if they don't, then I just kind of say, all right, well then we're going to go this way.


But I think an easy way to answer that is, I welcome as much collaboration as possible. I think the best way to answer that, is not as like, quote unquote, free flowing or easy too. I mean, listen, the chefs get pulled in a lot of different directions now too, right? I mean, there's a lot of technology stuff.


So like, people create recipes, they have to put stuff into the computer and they're weighing stuff out. And I think sometimes that kind of gets bogged down. And I also think that I'm like a quote unquote safety net too. Like they know, like, okay, well if we have a couple ideas, like Chef will come in and we'll figure it out and it'll be, you know, we'll figure it out. And I say that to them. You know, I want you guys to come up with stuff. Here's some ideas that I have. If not, just have this stuff prepped. I'll be in at two o'clock. 

Josh Sharkey [00:40:03]: 

I'm curious how you think about, and this is going to sound bad, earning the right to share ideas. I think, you know, back in the day, and I hate saying that back in the day. You know, when we were growing up, I, you know, I remember I would go in, I would, even though I had a 12 hour day, I would come in early to butcher fish to learn, and I would stay late to learn how to bake bread. And I had to have my station set. And if I wanted the chef to like show me how to do something.


I remember Rick Boland yelling at me because he was showing me how to make this emulsion with red peppers, and I didn't have all the mise en place set up for him. He's walked away. That was the day I realized, okay, it's on us as a cook. If we want to learn, if we want to share, if we want to do things, then first we have to have all our shit together and earn the right to share. And I don't know if that's a harsh way to look at it, but I'm curious how you think about that sort of paradigm. 

Marc Forgione [00:40:55]: 

Yeah, I mean, again, I hate to keep talking about pre-Covid. But I think the pre-Covid, there was a little more pressure in that way where I might ask somebody to have something and if they didn't, you know, I might kind of slam something.


Now it's uh, definitely a little more free flowing where I'll just kind of suggest maybe to somebody, Hey, you know, try this that way and you know, this is what I'm looking for and I might come in the next day and he is still not doing it. It's kind of. More like you just said, you have to earn it. Like I'll kind of look at them and say something along the lines of like, if you want to be on this level with me, like you're going to have to have this ready the next time, man.


Like, I can't do this. You know? And I think that kind of hits them home a little more than the slamming of the pot or the thing, you know, again, To use your term, like back in the day it was a little different. And in a weird way, I don't know if the kids really care that much about impressing. It's like they just want to get through the day. I know that that's depressing.

Josh Sharkey [00:42:00]:

Maybe the motivations have changed a bit. 

Marc Forgione [00:42:04]:

I can't figure it out. Like I look at the line, I love them all to death, but it's like I don't know. I just don't know. 

Josh Sharkey [00:42:07]:

It's also not to say I think that screaming is any more effective. You know, I remember Eric Rupert walking up to me when I was cutting chives for a dish of his, and he just walked up to me in my ear and he said, those aren't right. Can you please make them over in the nicest tone ever? And I was crushed. He didn't have to scream or yell or anything, and it was like, like the most polite way to tell me, and it was way more effective than screaming or throwing something. 

Marc Forgione [00:42:26]:

My dad was like that. My dad was a silent, like, he would kind of say things like, if you were cutting the chives the wrong way, and like he'd come up behind you and say something along the lines of like, If you were sitting at the table and you saw those chives, paying the amount of money that would charge people to eat at this restaurant, would you eat at this restaurant? God damn it.

Josh Sharkey [00:43:00]: 

And I don't know if that's more effective than I remember getting plates thrown at me and why do you even come to work every day? And things like that. And that also motivated me. 

Marc Forgione [00:43:14]: 

I think it depends on the person, depends on the situation and yeah. You know, to your point, I mean, I used to yell. I don't yell anymore. I can't even tell you the last time I yelled at somebody. I do the disappointed thing now. But even then, it doesn't really happen that often. It's like I don't let myself get disappointed. And again, I'm very lucky I got these three guys that are really running the kitchens in, in a good way. 

Josh Sharkey [00:43:25]: 

Well, you talk about all the ways in which you get inspired by a dish, but another thing I see, and this is probably just common in New York, because New York is always rebuilding itself every space with something else before. But all of your restaurants have pretty cool backgrounds. And a lot of 'em, I mean, I worked in Tribeca, you know, 15, 20 years ago and I remember what Duane Park before it was Kia and I think Forge was like The deck or something like that, or American Cut was Cinque terre all your spaces now One fifth, which is, that's been like a restaurant since like World War I or something. Is there like some sort of affinity that you have for historic spaces and does that play into how you think about food? 

Marc Forgione [00:43:59]: 

Yes. Again, kind of going back to like when it's like a classic dish, like I don't think I set out purposely, at least not in the beginning, I think it hasn't kind of, you know, when I was getting interviewed like, you know, you're taking over again. Like, why? And, and I started to like to explain, and I wasn't bullshitting and I'm not bullshitting. It was very important to me that a place like Peasant doesn't turn into anything other than a restaurant. And in today's world, like, you know as well as I do, I mean, how many restaurant spaces are just gone and whether they're a bank or a cell phone store, whatever it is, you know what I mean?


So whether it was a coincidence or not, I don't know, but I think maybe that planted a seed in my own head. And then when I saw that the One Fifth space was available, again, to me it's like another one of those iconic spaces that if that was to turn into anything other than a restaurant, like we're doing it such a disservice.


Now Danube, I mean, it's the same thing, like that's such a beautiful, are you keeping any of the red or any of that? Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, you have to see, like we stripped it down to its bones and. I dunno if you remember those gorgeous pillars that were in there. They're black with the gold top. Again, it just has such beautiful bones and these giant windows and these like 25 foot ceilings.


And, but again, that could easily be what Bouley is now, another bank. And it's like, it is crazy and it's sad, dude. And so I'm not going to say I'm on a mission to save restaurant spaces, but if I see a space that has that kind of clout, it makes it a hell of a lot more attractive and I'll do what I can to kind of keep going. Not to sound cheesy, but you know, there's something about the soul of a restaurant and that's why it makes me so sad that I'm leaving Reade Street.


But it's just like there's nothing I can do with my landlord's situation. It's such a sad shame and I hope he gets smart and lowers the rent to where it's supposed to be, and somebody can come in and keep that place going. 

Josh Sharkey [00:46:18]: 

It's unfortunate, but it, it definitely seems like it's becoming a part of your brand and, and what you do, which makes sense honestly, because you, you had a legacy to carry on and redefine with your dad, and I don't know how much, you know, that that subconsciously has played into this, but you seem to have this sort of desire to rebuild and redefine.

Marc Forgione [00:46:38]: 

Well, I care about the New York City restaurant scene. I do. I love it. And I always have. And as the next generation, you got to take the baton. And I'm trying, man. It's ours, you know, and I'm doing everything that I can to help pass the baton on to the next guy. 

Josh Sharkey [00:46:49]: 

Maybe you don't think about this yet, or maybe you do, but I mean, it's been doing this for a very long time. And now that you have the name Forgione, you don't mean something. And not just anymore because of your dad, but because of what you've done. Like what do you hope is like your lasting impact on the industry, your whole umbrella of what you're doing? 

Marc Forgione [00:47:17]: 

Well, to kind of touch upon things that we've talked about. You know, I just started a hospitality group. It's called Respect Hospitality. And I hope that, you know, when it's all said and done, talk about taking the baton, right? I mean, listen, you know as well, I did it. It can't be the old days and I'm, I'm really trying to like to start this group. When I told my business partners I wanted to name it, respect hospitality, they were like, you know, that puts a lot of pressure.


You got to really walk that walk if you're calling us to Respect Hospitality. And I kind of looked at them and I said, I know like that's the point. We're going to make sure that people. You know, respect is a word. I mean, especially in the restaurant industry, it doesn't stop. Like there's, there's nowhere. The word respect stops whether you're respecting the ingredients or respecting being of time, or respecting the guests that come in, or respecting the person that answers the phone, you know, respecting the way the bar looks like, like it just, it doesn't stop it's respect.

Josh Sharkey [00:48:07]:

The space that you took over a hundred percent and the history that it had. 

Marc Forgione [00:48:09]:

I hope that when it's all said and done that we have. A bunch of Respect Hospitality, restaurants, and people understand why I decided to name it, Respect Hospitality, and, you know, I don't run from my dad's name obviously.vIt's in the forefront of everything I do and I always will be. But I do hope that when it's all said and done, there's people who understand Marc Forgione and not just Larry Forgione’s kid. You know what I mean? Because trust me, I still walk into a room and they're like, oh, you're Marc’s kid.

Josh Sharkey [00:48:44]: 

Or maybe he'll be a musician and he'll have a thousand songs to have a thousand food ideas. So Marc, this was awesome, man. We could probably talk for another three hours, but I know you're busy, so thanks for coming and chatting with me. It's been way too long. 

Marc Forgione [00:49:04]: 

Of course, brother, and congrats on everything, man. I know. You're always out there, you're always pushing, you're always hustling, you're always, thank you. Coming up with something new, and not to be funny here, but I respect everything that you do and keep pushing and anything you ever need or want from me, you just let me know.

Josh Sharkey [00:49:21]:

I appreciate that, man.


Thanks for tuning into The meez Podcast. The music from the show is a remix of the Song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more, visit That's G E T M E E Z dot com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with your fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Keep innovating. Don't settle. Make today a little better than yesterday. And remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.