Leaving Brooklyn was a decision brought about by layered indecision. Up until the day I left for Italy I remained inspired by New York’s abundant and localized flavors of food and culture. I had a contagious rhythm here; a circle of likeminded friends and colleagues, mediums of expression, and a carefully constructed professional reputation. But that comfort zone had to be shaken and I needed to feel the power of the world’s libido, less sympathetic than my own. Maybe I was too proud of my Brooklyn upbringing or my still green career highlights. I knew strategically that I needed to substantiate my exponential obsession with food, but that I had to do it on my terms and with the same social skillset that inked my marketing plate for further editions.
The industry I left behind was a smartly constructed assemblage of tastemaker culture: marketing, seeding, customized sneakers, product placement, cross-promotion, mix-tapes, bag inclusions, open bars and guest lists. I was given the professional responsibility of defining, re-defining, pre-empting and constructing culture; an increasingly limiting rather than liberating social responsibility. My Italian reality: the combined weight of unfamiliarity, an evolving in real time trajectory, heavy lifting, professional cooking and no prior knowledge of Italian nuance. My departure engendered the vision of an arrogant boy about to realize the limitations of the industry he left behind.
With vantage I can say my decision was not only rash, but maybe even stupid. Had I been an amateur chef who spoke fluent Italian that would have been one thing? Had I been a professional chef who spoke niente it would have been another?
Palermo, Salerno, Amalfi, Naples, Milano, Lecce, Otranto, Ugento, Gallipoli, Martina Franca, Roma, Bologna, Lucca, Montalcino and Firenze. My rebellious route north through uncharted foodie enclaves positioned me back in the subculture comfort of my Brooklyn upbringing. Shifts in my quality of life and in temperature, dialect and regional food characteristics discoursed “endurance” and grounded me. I’m the same dude, but I now speak Italian and can handle being yelled at by seasoned Chefs, angry Dinner Ladies and Restaurateurs. I can accept wild animals as neighbors, justify afternoon naps, have wine with lunch, piecemeal outfits famously with limited garments and most importantly I can succeed.
Italy was a new beginning…the story continues.