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eGullet Q&A with Chef Marco Canora

Jason Perlow

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When Marco Canora signed on to be the chef at Craft, he firmly believed that cooking should not be treated as a fussy art form but that ingredients should be allowed to speak for themselves. He knew this would require the highest quality ingredients and impeccable execution. What he did not know was that he was developing a concept which would influence a new trend in dining.

The early buzz on Craft was encouraging and went on to surpass all expectations when William Grimes of The New York Times awarded it three stars and wrote: "[Craft] is a vision of food heaven, a land of strong, pure flavors and back-to-basics cooking techniques." More positive reviews followed leading USA Today to proclaim, "Chef Marco Canora's food has won near universal praise." In the wake of such praise, Craft won the 2002 James Beard Best New Restaurant Award. Soon the international press began taking notice and Cuisine magazine of Australia hailed Craft as "the most serious and important new restaurant to open its doors in Manhattan in more than a decade." Even internet pundits started to speculate about what made Craft so unique. "Informing Colicchio and Canora's approach at Craft," wrote Steven A. Shaw, founder of Fat-Guy.Com, "is an intellectually rigorous understanding of food and flavor that is the secret ingredient in every dish."

Although Canora's involvement in Craft represented a big step forward in his culinary career, he had received accolades for his talents in the kitchen since the late 1990s. As the executive chef and owner of La Cucina, a 60-seat restaurant on Martha's Vineyard, Canora was something of a local celebrity cooking for then-President Bill Clinton and his friends, and cooking food that was widely known as the best on the island. As Canora's role as chef at Craft continues to expand, he keeps La Cucina up and running and meeting his high standards.

As a testament to Canora's energy and vision, Colicchio gave him full reign over Craftbar, Craft's more casual sibling. At Craftbar Canora translated his family recipes into contemporary classics. Jonathan Reynolds of The New York Times Magazine noted that "Canora's clever adaptation of vitello tonnato to sandwich status brings a pleasing summer casualness to a classic" and Maura Egan writing for the same publication called "the duck-ham-taleggio-cheese-and-mushroom panini at Craftbar the culinary world's unsung hero."

Marco learned to approach cooking with both passion and resourcefulness by observing and working alongside his Tuscan mother and aunt. It was in their kitchens that Canora began to pay close attention to the use of seasonal ingredients and how vegetables and herbs from his aunts garden could be translated into a wide variety of dishes. Years later, while he was a sous chef at Gramercy Tavern, Canora decided to learn more about the roots of his family's cuisine and traveled to Florence, Italy, where he apprenticed at Fabbio Picchi's renowned Cibreo.

With fifteen years of cooking and management experience now under his belt, Canora says his goal at Hearth restaurant "is to create beautifully composed dishes with an emphasis on quality and simplicity."


About Hearth

Building upon his apprenticeship in Florence and in some of New York's finest eateries, Marco Canora's menu features classical dishes that have been given a contemporary spin. Whether exotic or familiar, the ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves in an uncontrived manner.

The menu changes approximately 4 times a year, to correspond to the seasons. The dishes are composed and some involve variations on a single ingredient.

Another common thread at Hearth is the use of true Italian cooking techniques (predominantly soffrito, a classic Italian flavoring-base of slow-cooked vegetables and olive oil), which are often sacrificed in modern restaurants in favor of easy fixes and culinary shortcuts. There are also homemade pastas and risottos available, as well as some classic Italian combinations: lamb shoulder with borlotti beans and escarole and roasted cod with baccala mantecato.

Click here to participate in the Marco Canora Q&A

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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