My first cooking memory was one Thanksgiving when I was about six. My mother handed me a lump of dough to keep me quiet, and the next thing she knew I had rolled out three pie crusts, crimped edges and all. I guess I had watched her enough times to just do it. It was the process of cooking that fascinated me – taking raw ingredients and making something memorable and flavorful from them.
I trained at the River Café under Charlie Palmer and worked my way up in the competitive New York City restaurant scene, my wife Claudia and I returned to my hometown to open our dream restaurant, the North Fork Table & Inn. I felt like I’d made it: I had a beautiful, talented wife and the number one Zagat rated restaurant on Long Island. Then, in 2011, I was diagnosed with ALS.
Now, I can no longer use my hands. This disease has taken everything from me—not just my muscles, it’s taken my livelihood. I couldn’t go for a walk with Claudia on Thanksgiving morning, and I couldn’t cook a meal—or pies—with my family.
Even though I’m now unable to cook, I can still pour my passion into something that matters to me. That’s why I support Project A.L.S.: I’m determined to make a difference in this disease, and they’re directing research that I think might make a difference for me and others with ALS.