The Cap­tain’s Word

At The Beatrice Inn in New York City, chefowner Angie Mar reimag­ines the tra­di­tional Amer­i­can chop­house as an un­apolo­get­i­cally deca­dent, over-the-top fan­tas­ti­cal car­ni­vore’s par­adise. Her cook­book Butcher + Beast is out this month

Thailand Tatler - - October - BY ANGIE MAR

In ex­cerpts from her new cook­book, Butcher + Beast: Mas­ter­ing the Art of Meat, restau­ra­teur Angie Mar, owner of The Beatrice Inn in New York, re­calls the in­flu­ence of her beloved fa­ther on her life and ca­reer

My mother is from Taipei but grew up part of the time in Ox­ford, Eng­land, so be­tween her and my Chi­nese-Amer­i­can fa­ther, our din­ner table was a mixed bag of East meets West. One night we would have steamed bass with scal­lions and soy or chicken hearts with black bean sauce, and the next it would be shep­herd’s pie, a T-bone steak or, on week­ends, prime rib. But no mat­ter what, there was al­ways some­thing steamed.

My fa­ther is one of the big­gest in­flu­ences in my life. He was kind and thought­ful, and fierce in his love for his chil­dren and his fam­ily. He came up in the kitchen, work­ing in my aun­tie’s res­tau­rant, the inim­itable Ruby Chow’s. He washed dishes along­side Bruce Lee and shook hands with War­ren Mag­nu­son, Frank Si­na­tra, Sid­ney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr. He un­der­stood the long hours, the mi­nus­cule pay, the glitz and glory that are por­trayed when the cur­tain goes up, and the grit and gusto it takes back­stage to make it hap­pen. He be­came a fa­ther fig­ure to many of the peo­ple who knew him over the years, whether fam­ily or not—help­ing them stay in school, teach­ing them how to drive, coach­ing their bas­ket­ball teams and bail­ing them out when they were in a bind. My fa­ther was such a strate­gist that I didn’t even re­alise that he played the long game un­til I was

much older—when I could recog­nise it and learn from it my­self. He’d of­ten sit at the din­ner table and tease one of us mer­ci­lessly un­til the other sib­lings joined in, but just when you thought you could tease your lit­tle brother with­out reper­cus­sion, he’d turn the ta­bles on you in­stead, laugh­ing end­lessly at his own joke. It taught us to be quick­wit­ted and on our toes, as he seemed to al­ways get the bet­ter of us.

My brothers, Con­rad and Chad, are every­thing to me, and God help any woman who crosses ei­ther of them. We grew up with such a sense of loy­alty that some­times I won­der if those teach­ings back­fired on my mother and fa­ther, as we’d sooner die than rat each other out. Even to­day, we are in each other’s cor­ner—they de­signed my web­site, menus and busi­ness cards, prac­tis­ing what my fa­ther preached to us so long ago. They come to my events when I am trav­el­ling and are al­ways the first to cheer me on—and to put me in my place. When peo­ple ask me what I made as a young cook, they never hes­i­tate to put me on blast and tease me about the time I made a smoked salmon dip the colour of Pepto-Bis­mol. Our par­ents sep­a­rated when I was 14; it was an in­cred­i­bly hard time for the three of us. We un­der­stood why it was hap­pen­ing, but we all felt a bit lost in the shuffle. I took on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of rais­ing my brothers, and much of the ba­sis for my cook­ing was to take care of them when my par­ents were go­ing through their di­vorce. We stuck to­gether through thick and thin, just as we had been taught. Al­though the three of us now live in dif­fer­ent cities, we are closer than ever.

My fa­ther al­ways en­cour­aged me to fol­low my dreams, even if my dreams were mis­guided, and that meant he

was bail­ing me out of trou­ble of­ten through­out my teens and well into my 20s. He never asked for a thank-you— he only tut­ted in dis­ap­proval, then would sigh, tell me he loved me, and warn me that I bet­ter not fuck up again (which we both knew that I in­evitably would).

I didn’t ac­tu­ally get my shit to­gether un­til I moved to New York at the end of 2008. I was mak­ing min­i­mum wage as a line cook and in culi­nary school full time. I couldn’t af­ford to take the sub­way, let alone eat, and I hon­estly think that’s when my fa­ther truly got be­hind my ca­reer choice.

It has only oc­curred to me in ret­ro­spect that al­though my fa­ther some­times wor­ried about me, when I de­cided to be­come a chef he found a new re­spect for who I am. I was no longer the girl fuck­ing up and call­ing him to help get her out of trou­ble. I was bail­ing my­self out, as I had fi­nally cho­sen a dis­tinct path, and was work­ing to at­tain some­thing. I was do­ing what he and his sib­lings had done—start­ing from the bot­tom and work­ing my way up.

Be­gin­ning in 2015, ev­ery Oc­to­ber he vis­ited New York like clock­work for my an­nual James Beard din­ner. He al­ways re­quested Pat LaFrieda’s beef and a reser­va­tion at Car­bone: his two favourite things in New York. The year I bought the Beatrice, I made the mis­take of want­ing him to eat at the res­tau­rant ev­ery night and can­celed the reser­va­tion at Car­bone. He was out­raged.

“What do you mean we’re eat­ing your food again?” he bel­lowed. “I love Car­bone—you know that, An­gela! I’ve been eat­ing your food all your life, and here I was ex­cited to go to Car­bone and have the lamb chops,” he com­plained, while eat­ing caviar from the best table at the Beatrice.

I did not make the same mis­take the fol­low­ing year. When we re­turned to Car­bone, he was greeted with mul­ti­ple de­canters of Brunello and hugs from the en­tire staff. “Doc­tor Mar, it’s so good to see you back here,” said their GM. “We al­ready have your lamb chops on the way.”

“Well, you know, she tried to keep me away from here last year,” my fa­ther replied, point­ing to me with his dry, teas­ing-but-ac­tu­ally-se­ri­ous smile.

My fa­ther brought laugh­ter and light to ev­ery­one he en­coun­tered, and most of all to his fam­ily. I trea­sure the time he spent in New York, even when it was against his doc­tor’s or­ders, be­cause his choles­terol was high, and he shouldn’t have eaten with such gusto. My brothers and I would poke fun at him for how he’d try to fool the car­di­ol­o­gist by mov­ing his ap­point­ments around, ly­ing about what he ate on his trips here, and binge­ing on let­tuce to at­tempt to coun­ter­act the ef­fects of a long, steak­laden week­end. He never lost his love for life and for liv­ing.

We lost my fa­ther in the spring of 2018 while I was in the midst of writ­ing this book. I’ve in­cluded cer­tain recipes as a trib­ute to him and the won­der­ful love of food that he gave to his chil­dren. And I’ve omit­ted oth­ers be­cause I want them to re­main mine and mine alone. I know he is still with me in spirit be­cause his fin­ger­prints are all over the Beatrice and his in­flu­ence floods the pages of this book. The Sun­day sup­pers of my child­hood are here, in the prime rib, the rab­bit stews and the roasted hens, and that first dish that started it all for me, the milk-braised pork shoulder. My fa­ther’s birth year is rep­re­sented in the res­tau­rant’s Madeira col­lec­tion, and those bot­tles are some of the last of their kind in the world, in­clud­ing one from 1927 that con­tains a nearly ex­tinct grape. But he is best rep­re­sented in the way we cul­ti­vate the fam­ily housed un­der our roof.

My fa­ther was a naval of­fi­cer in his early 20s and nei­ther the men­tal­ity nor the dis­ci­pline ever left him. The week be­fore I opened the Beatrice, I was walk­ing through Por­to­bello Road in Lon­don when I found the brass sign that hangs over our kitchen. It reads: “The Cap­tain’s Word Is Law.” Many peo­ple think it refers to my ab­so­lute au­thor­ity within our house, but the truth is that it’s there in my fa­ther’s hon­our. What I have tried to do ev­ery day is to fol­low his words of guid­ance, his ex­am­ples of kind­ness and his in­nate de­sire to bring our fam­ily up the right way, so we could not only be good peo­ple, but truly pros­per to­gether.

Reprinted with per­mis­sion from Butcher + Beast: Mas­ter­ing the Art of Meat by Angie Mar with Jamie Feld­mar, copy­right © 2019. Pub­lished by Clark­son Pot­ter/ Pub­lish­ers, an im­print of Pen­guin Ran­dom House

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