Restaurant Hospitality didn't go too far out on a limb in 2008 when it named Marc Forgione a Rising Star. After all, he is the prodigy of legendary chef Larry Forgione, who revolutionized American-style cooking in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet we couldn't help but pat ourselves on the back when his eponymous New York City restaurant earned a coveted Michelin star in 2010, making him the youngest American-born chef/owner to receive the honor. And we were actually giddy when he was crowned the winner of the Next Iron Chef TV cooking competition the same year. We ran into him at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where we fired five questions at him.
Mark, do you feel that you've stepped out of the very wide shadow that your old man has cast?
That's like asking if Lou Gehrig's kids could ever step out of his shadow. Absolutely not. My dad is my dad and I'm doing my thing, and I'm proud of where I am at this point and so is he.
As your celebrity has grown, what advice has Larry given you with regards to the pitfalls of fame?
He tells me to stay humble, stay in the kitchen, cook your food. Don't let the fame turn you into something you're not.
How has Iron Chef changed your life?
It has gotten a lot busier. It has opened the doors for me in many, many ways. The restaurant is busy; my life is busy. It's all positive. I've listened to my dad. I've tried to stay humble and remember that I'm a chef, not a TV star.
Tell us something about achieving the status of Iron Chef that most people don't understand.
People don't understand all the work that goes into the battles. It's not easy having to come up with five dishes that you have to create on the spot and in 60 minutes. And you have to make them world class because you're being judged. It's not just show up and cook. You have to really push yourself.
Your fame has most likely opened more doors for you. What new things can we expect from you down the road?
I'm working on a couple restaurant projects. I just opened American Cut in Atlantic City, [N.J.], and I just signed a contract to open a new restaurant in the Meatpacking District [in New York City]. I can't discuss the name yet, but I'm hoping it will open this summer.
Restaurant Hospitality editor Michael Sanson reported live from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, Fla., Feb. 21-24. The event, now in its 12th year, attracted more than 60,000 attendees, 150 celebrated chefs, and 250 wineries and spirits producers. A component of the festival is several trade talks designed specifically for restaurant operators. Sanson’s reports from South Beach focus on those talks and interviews with top chefs attending the event.