Platelist: Andrew Carmellini's Music for the Tongue

"You know, now, I spoke at graduation at my, CIA, about a year back. And there was a big difference in the students that were there -- kind of more higher-end background, and I think that it was very blue-collar when I went to school. I think that the TV thing really changed that. Because here, it became glamorous, it became you know, 'Hey! I am really cool and I wear a funky chef jacket and a hat, and you know, act stupid. And I kind of cook a little bit, but I really just act stupid.'

"And that really changed, it changed it a lot with young culinary students, with the perception of the business."

In other words, being a chef isn't always glamorous?

"Well, [not] if you want to do it right. It's cliche, because a lot of people talk about this, but you know, to be a great -- there's a difference between being like a chef and then kind of an entertainment personality. And there's some great chefs that are on TV now, but there's, it's different. Being a chef you have to know a lot about the business, you have to know a lot about people. And no one shows you this stuff, really, you just learn it along the way. Experience, I mean you still learn every single day, about cooking and about people. I will never figure out that one."

The one way he unplugs, Carmellini said, is to take to his home studio and cut some tracks.

"You know, everyone has their thing outside what they do every day, and mine is music. Whether I am good or not -- I have no idea. But I just like it because it's a way to, you know, concentrate on something and do something that makes me happy. I spent a lot of money, I have a little studio in my house, and I can -- when I get home, four or five nights a week -- I can put on headphones ... and play music, and concentrate on something that has nothing to do with cooking, or reservation sheets, or anything, and just completely get lost in it. So that's kind of the way I disconnect a little bit."

For as far as he can draw out the analogy between cooking and music, the similarity breaks down in the inherent chaos of the kitchen, Carmellini explained.

"I really wish a restaurant was like making a great song, and I could spend one month trying to make the perfect song -- and you record it, you get the vocals where you want to be, the bass is perfect, drums sound great, and you put it on a CD and everytime you want to hear that song you just put it in a CD player and it's the same every single time. The restaurant business changes every single day. Which is the great dynamic of it, but I think it's also kind of crazy, too. The customers change, fish delivery changes. The temperature of the dining room changes, you know, my mood changes. Eighty employees, their moods change, every day there's always a million variations on what can go great, and what can go wrong."

In the end, Carmellini said, he takes his own feelings as a barometer to what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.

"I don't have a particular philosophy. Professionally I kind of do, like the way we work, but as far as the food is concerned, it's very emotional for me. Kind of like the way I feel.

"So, six years ago, when I was doing very refined, high-end, kind of French fusion cooking, [it] was really the way I felt then about how I wanted to cook. You know, now we have a big bustling corner, which has really robust cooking, served at a great price, and it's busy and it's loud and it's fun. And that's kind of how I feel now."

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