Until Top Chef Masters 2010 season, Jonathan Waxman was like the Joe Ely of chefs. Don't know who Joe Ely is? I rest my case. Jonathan has been called “the vegetable whisperer,” and “one of America’s first celebrity chefs." He has influenced some of America's most influential chefs, and yet… nobody except the people who knew him, revered him, and called him their mentor, hero, and god, knew who he was. But that was then. I don't remember the first time I met Jonathan Waxman, though I do remember it was with his pal, my then editor at Saveur, Colman Andrews and what I remember distinctly is that restaurant people fell on their faces for him. This was before Jonathan opened Barbuto or the restaurant that came before, Washington Park and as far as I knew, he didn't even have a job. After Julian Niccolini at the Four Seasons restaurant handed Jonathan and the rest of our party flutes of champagne, got down on his knees and bowed at Jonathan’s feet, I turned to Colman and said, "Who is thi ...

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Bon Appetit magazine, posted a list on their blog, 20 Reasons We Love Italy and then asked what readers might add to their list. Having just returned from six months in Umbria, the landlocked region just east of Tuscany, I found I had my own list, which didn't coincide with theirs much, if at all. My Top Ten: 1. That five grown men can sit in a bar and talk passionately for an entire hour about what makes a good Carbonara. 2. The set-in-stone ritual of an aperitivo before dinner. And how fiercely they guard their appetites. No snacking here! Only an American would fill up on those peanuts. 3. Being personally served in a grocery store, as if I were at Tiffany, buying diamonds. 4. The absence of a "diet mentality," the innocence of which is eroding as I type. As I ran through the list of things that might be considered "bad" for you with a group of Italian friends, I got the following response. Pasta? "Pasta non fa male." (Pasta isn't bad for you.) Gelato? "Gelato non fa male." Pro ...

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Among the many things that happens when you leave the country for an extended period of time, as I did recently, is that you become nationalistic in ways you would never have guessed you had in you. I was in Italy, so I didn't spend a lot of time dreaming about American food (although I have eaten cilantro nearly all of the seven days I've been back). I found myself swelling with pride at the sound of Barack Obama's clear, debate-team diction, and his all-American athletic goodness; and also as Hillary Clinton introduced the role that America would not be playing in the war that was not being waged in Libya. But among the more surprising attachments of a girl in Italy, was to coffee. Good ol' American-style drip coffee. I love American coffee—not to be confused with caffe Americano, which is watered down espresso and no wonder they think our coffee sucks!—and without it, I find myself wandering the streets of wherever I am, in a perpetual state of under-caffeination. But, because of a ...

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