(ed. note: Greg Kuzia-Carmel is a talented young cook from Albany, who is following a dream to be the best chef that he can be. He is currently a stagiere at the restaurant Mugaritz in San Sebastien, Spain under the highly acclaimed chef Andoni Luis Aduriz. Mugaritz was ranked as the fourth best restaurant in the world in the most recent compilation of Restaurant Magazine. While I think it is silly giving a numerical ranking at that level of restaurant, it does serve to indicate its general level of quality and respect. Working in the kitchen of a restaurant like that is bound to leave indelible effects. I asked Greg, if he would be interested in writing an occasional piece on his experiences as he has the time and interest. This is his first submission. It isn't easy to make me blush, but he did. -JMS)
John Sconzo is a person of incredible and particular interest to me in both what I do professionally and who I am as a person (though, as I get older I find that these two areas vex over each other more and more).
You see, Doc’s passion for gastronomy on all levels and in all disciplines is unprecedented. In this day and age when it’s easy enough to pick up a copy of any of the mass distributed garbage tabloids, snatch some of the food world headline garbage, and call yourself a foodie, its wonderful to come across those few people who really know that there is more to this. Years of training, long hours, demanding clientele, cry-baby employees, fish guys who get stuck in traffic, etc., not all of us are trying to put together the best appetizer using potato chips to be a long shot for a $100k. We are interpreters of history, craftsmen, artists (per se), business people, interior designers, architects, mathematicians, scientists, athletes, and more and more it now seems, psychiatrists. It’s wonderful to follow Doc’s chronicles of the diverse human offerings in this categorically small but interesting world.
Doc interests me as well because he calls home some of the great land that I was brought up on, Upstate New York, an area I am intensely proud of and loyal to. The preface to Michel Bras’ Essential Cuisine says in short that the one of the greatest ways to show ones love of their land is through gastronomy. This is certainly a feeling that I have come to embrace, and judging by Doc’s work with the slowfood movement in Saratoga and relentless support of his surrounding markets, I’m willing to bet he’s drinking this metaphorical koolaid too…
When Doc offered to let me write a guest blog for him, I couldn’t have affirmed quick enough. It has taken me a few weeks to figure out what I want to write here, and most importantly, deliver something with substance that I think would be interesting to Doc’s substantial following. So here’s what I got, a short tale of one young man who pretty much got dropped into a High School Culinary Votech class merely to fill an empty period in his sophomore year schedule and is now the only American cooking at the fourth best restaurant in the world, and what that transformation has become.