It’s been a while since we unveiled a new SALT Blog contributor. Let’s change that.
Michael J Cirino fuels his creativity with home-cooked food. See how he got started.
A few summers after I graduated from university, I found myself in Brooklyn, NY with a collection of amazing friends and a strong desire to have a couple of glasses of wine from time to time.
These friends and I played bocce together every Sunday, and it became instantaneously obvious that 15-20 sun-soaked, slightly inebriated, bocce-worn amigos cannot easily find a dinner reservation together in New York City. So my friend and business partner, Daniel Castaño, and I began inviting everyone back to one of our homes to cook dinner together. The most important word of that last sentence is together. We quickly became a team.
Daniel was already an accomplished chef at the time, and I had been cooking with my family since I was a child—so the meals were outstanding. But we didn’t cook for our guests, we cooked with them; all of us together.
USING FOOD TO FUEL CREATIVITY AND LEARNING
We provided the space, and the group took turns creating dishes, chopping vegetables, roasting meats, making pasta, working the grill, and drinking cold beverages. We often spent those nights continuing conversations that started in the park.
We were always asking each other questions about everything—our lives, what music we liked, what new art we’d discovered, and the people we were meeting. All the while collaborating on new techniques, new dishes, or just lamenting on how gross raw clams can be.
Over the course of these casual meals, we started pushing the boundaries of what was possible in a home kitchen. Casual meals became more complex. The questions we asked of ourselves progressed. We went from learning new dishes or working with new ingredients to discussions about the possibility of using our newfound skills to bring our brand of social and educational interactions to a larger audience.
In 2008, we invited guests to Cold Brook Hunts, a farm and hunting preserve in Homer, NY to illustrate our very definition of a culinary experience. It was a huge success. With the new realization that we were able to pull this off, we began to find additional ways to expand the outward performance or theatrical context for the meals. Now we do things like this.
I am lucky enough to be an artist, making a living and paying off my college debts by spinning absurd ideas into a reality that people can touch, smell, interact with, watch, and eat. I hope to create a space on the SALT Blog where I can show you how to create unique culinary experiences with your friends at an affordable price—and show you how to use food to help foster growth and change.
I thank you all for your time, and I look forward to cooking with you.
(Photo: Steph Goralnick, © 2011)