What was your first big break on TV? How were you discovered?
"Bay Cafe was the real break. I started out doing appearances on the local morning-news show, and one appearance led to another, and they started having me as a regular contributor. I did a Halloween special where I was making ghoulish-looking appetizers and entrées. One of them was a bucket of worms with maggots—actually a hollowed-out turnip poached in soy and ginger, filled with greens and ahi tuna shaped into night crawlers, with sushi-rice ’maggots’ and wasabi-sesame oil ’slime.’ Another was called ’stake through the steak’—a steak topped with sun-dried-tomato butter with a steak knife driven through it. After that the executive producer, who was working on creating new shows, invited me to audition for Bay Cafe. I auditioned and interviewed for it with a bunch of different people, and then out of the blue, they said, ’We’re just gonna let you do the show.’"
What are some tips you’ve learned from doing your show?
"Getting lobster meat out of the legs. Chef Jasper White, from Boston, was on the show doing lobster bisque, and he showed me how to remove the meat from the tiny little legs. Normally in restaurants the legs would just get thrown in the stock, or the chefs would chew on them. He lined them up on a cutting board, took a rolling pin and rolled over them, and out of the ends, like little tubes of toothpaste, came these perfect little delicate, delicious lobster legs. Pure meat. We used those as garnish for a lobster gnocchi dish instead of throwing them away.
"Also cutting corn off the cob. Most people stand it up on an end and cut straight down with the knife, but when you do that, the kernels tend to fly off the cutting board. In restaurants, prep cooks take a large metal bowl and put a small metal bowl upside down inside it. Then they put the corncob on top of the small bowl, on a towel so you’re not cutting onto metal, and they shave it and the corn flies off the cob and collects in the big bowl. This is the setup that I had for 20 years. It works fine; it’s a little cumbersome, but you manage. And then one day on Bay Cafe, a chef was making corn chowder and said, ’OK, we’re going to cut the corn off the cob,’ and he just laid the corn flat on the cutting board and dragged his knife across, and it just sat there. I was staring at this going, I’m the biggest idiot on the planet. Why have I had this ridiculous setup for 20 years when I could have just simply laid the corn down like this? It was just so neat and easy, one of those things that was just too simple to be thought of. I remember going back to the restaurant totally jazzed to show the prep cooks this new, improved way of removing corn from the cob."