FOOD & COOKING
I've always enjoyed cooking because I've always enjoyed eating. And when I was a kid, my mother encouraged me to experiment in the kitchen (with food and cooking, that is; not with things like chemicals, taxidermy, explosives, etc.). So I learned a lot, mainly by mistakes I made -- and I think our failures probably teach us more than our successes.
I started playing music professionally in my early teens, and I started playing music full-time in my late teens. And when you play rock or folk "full-time," that usually means that you need a full-time job, so that you can actually continue to be a full-time musician.
So I worked in restaurant kitchens, a hospital kitchen, catering companies, gourmet delis, and other situations where food was prepared and served. Plus, a lot of music gigs take place in restaurants, and early in my music career, I hung out in the restaurants' kitchens when I wasn't performing. As a result of all that, I accidentally learned how to make everything.
Then when I became a writer, in the mid-'80s, one of the areas I concentrated on was food -- cooking, restaurant reviews, and other aspects of the field.
Besides writing food-related magazine and newspaper articles, I also edited a bi-annual regional restaurant publication, Northern Ohio Live magazine's Gourmet Guide, for several issues, and for more than 10 years, wrote about 20 capsule reviews a year of the restaurants that appeared in it. I then became the editor of AOL Digital Cities' restaurant guide for the Cleveland area, and wrote another 200 capsule restaurant reviews for it.
In 2010, shortly after I signed a contract to write a book that is partially about food, friends of mine opened a market and gourmet deli in Cleveland's Little Italy -- the Murray Hill Market -- and I started working there. I cook in the morning and then I go and write (or whatever ...) for the rest of the day. I create dishes and recipes every day I'm there.
So, here I am again, back to experimenting in the kitchen (with food, that is). It's like what I said to my son once: We were driving down a mountain in Arizona on a one-lane dirt road with a two-mile drop right next to the road.
A pickup truck came up behind us and desperately wanted us to go faster than the posted 20 miles per hour. I stayed at 20 mph and hoped to find a pull-off, so these guys could pass us. My son, who was about 10, looked back at them and said, "You should speed up." I looked at how far the car could potentially tumble and said, "This is not the place to experiment. The place to experiment is in the kitchen."
So that's what I do: I experiment in the kitchen, wherever I'm cooking -- at home, or at the Murray Hill Market, or at one of my (relatively rare) private catering projects. (For example, for the past two years, I have served as the chef for the world-class musicians from all around the country who have participated in the annual two-week ChamberFest Cleveland series -- breakfast, lunch, afternoon stuff, and an occasional dinner, for 14 consecutive days.)