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January 29, 2020 64 mins

Host Michael Ruhlman speaks with Chef Jonathan Waxman about his restaurant Barbuto, home cooking tips, and preparing a perfect roast chicken.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Yeah, Welcome to a special bonus episode of From Scratch.

I'm your host, Michael Ruhlman. While we developed season two,
we wanted to release some unused material. During our reporting
and interviews for this show, We've gathered great material that
we've had to cut. Here we're sharing complete interviews of
some of our amazing guests, some chefs, some from outside
the professional kitchen. In this extended interview, I sit down

with Jonathan Waxman, one of the country's pre eminent chefs,
a creator of the new American cuisine as the chef
at Michael's in Santa Monica, California in the late seventies
and most recently Jams in Manhattan and the erstwhile Barbudo
soon to reopen in the West Village. I pray cheff.
Waxman talks about roasting cast iron pants, Shepherd's Pie, and more.

See you here soon when we launch season two of
From Scratch. First of all, I love talking to you
because you have been at the front of the American
restaurants scene from its beginning. You could have gone any
which way you wanted. You could have done anything. You
could have done high end, medium and low end. But

you went super simple with Barbuda. You know when I
opened Barbuda was two thousand and four. Well, the conception
thereof was two thousand three, and I was fifty two
fifty three years old at that time. And I, you know,
I tried a lot of things, through a lot of
ship against the wall through less something stuck, some things

fell off, some things imploded, some things um actually self ignited. UM.
And you know, I told myself that I really wanted
to make a lot of money for one simple reason.
I had three hungry kids, I had a mortgage, I
had daughter in private school. I had all these things
that that needed real cash to make things flow. And

I realized that a lot of times I had done things,
perhaps for more ulterior motives or more intellectually motivated reasons,
and I didn't really do something that was really a
sort of a base value economic decision. But I didn't
want to compromise. So how did that work? So I

decided that I would strip away all pretense. I'd have
one fork, one knife in one spoon. I'd have one
wine glass, one water glass, no table claws, one napkin
that wasn't a nice napkin, but not too nice, a napkin.
I didn't want to have a point of sale. I
didn't have a major D, I didn't have UM, a GM,

I didn't have of I just had people doing stuff
and multitasking everywhere, and I wanted the menu to be
stripped down, to be so simple, simple that it was
kind of like the way I cook at home. You know.
It would be a piece of fish that was purchased
from the fishmonger, lightly grill, put it on a plate
with olive oil, lemon parsley, called a day. And when

we opened in two thousands four, Barbuto was stuck with
that sort of thematic line. Some things didn't work, like
the fact that not having a GM was a really
stupid idea. Not having a point to say it was
another really dumb, you know, idea in my part. But
the other things, the other streamlined things actually worked remarkably well.

And now there was no I didn't have any model
for this, so this is really kind of something really
out of the the seat of my pants. I didn't
know if it was gonna work. UM, I didn't know
people saluted. I didn't know any thing except that I
felt in my gut that's what I wanted to do,
and thankfully it worked. Yeah, but you know it, Michael, Honestly,

it was a real um, it was a real experiment.
It was it was something that could have seriously backfired.
I mean, no one could have come people say like,
oh I need it. Also made a conscious decision not
to have anything over nineteen dollars of the menu at
the beginning, and that pissed everybody off because they said,
you know, what are you doing. You know, you've got
from you know, a six million dollar wine cellar and

all the stuff at Washington Park and you know this
beautiful plates and gorgeous uh you know, chairs and Onyx
bar to this very simplistic scenario. And then I realized that,
you know, people don't look at any of those things.
They don't really care about that stuff. No one looks
at a fancy ceiling or a fancy floor. People don't
care what kind of lights are on the wall. People

don't care what kind of artism that People don't care
about that stuff. People care about three things I care about,
UM what I call the baseball you know vision. It's
with a strike zone. They look at things that they
can see really kind of from people's eyebrows, down to
people's waists. That's about it. That's all people look at
because they look at each other. The second thing was

that people are there to socialize. And the third thing,
which sort of evolved in my thinking about what restaurants
really are, is that what is a restaurant? What what
is exactly a restaurant? And so I started looking at
the word restaurant and getting people's definitions of what it meant.
And at the end of the day, when I realized
that restaurant means to restore one spirit. That's what people
are restaurants for. They're there to get sustenance for the

body that they're getting alcohol maybe, but more importantly, they
were there to forget the day to day woes of
their lives or the day to day travis or they
were there to celebrate, to engage in conversation. Whether it
was there their teacher, their friends, their lover, what didn't matter.

I wanted to environe where people felt that they could escape,
escape the rigors or the you know, the difficulties of
the day to day dementia. And I think that that
kind of worked. That kind of worked in a in
a strange way, and it was a conscious decision on
my part to really make people feel like they were

eating my house. That was that was that was really
the most important part of the decision. I know I did. Um,
all those things worked for me. You know, I fell
in love again at Barbuda. That kind of place, Well,
it was funny, and I think that it was partly
I was a little broken when I opened Barbara for
a lot of reasons. Um, I had done Washington Park,

which it was my first restaurant in ten years. I
had left New York and after Jam's Clothes and I
went on sort of this kind of quest of of
a family and different stuff. When Washington Park, I realized
I was kind of going backwards some time. I was
not looking forward. I didn't I was plumbing the past
rather than imagining the future. And I think for any business,

regardless of it's you're a doctor, you're a lawyer, you're
a you know, a guy working in the gas station,
doesn't matter. If you stay the same, you'll you'll you'll
bore yourself to death, and you have to move forward.
You have to change. And I realized that was Barbuda
was my sort of seminal kind of thinking on that
that I really wanted to make that quantum leap to

another another, another level, and I was hoping that people
go along with the other thing, and they did so
it kind of worked out, but it was it's you know,
with the closing of Barbuda, I think that this sort
of show that maybe I was kind of right. Oh,
you're definitely right. Look at the Popularitist, an iconic restaurant

in New York City. I want to get back to
the closing of Buddo on a little bit, but first
I want to talk about that simplicity of cooking. You're,
like you said, it's home cooking, but you do it
at a masterful level. What do you have to offer
the home cook about home cooking? You know, I think
the thing I noticed about when I go to people's
houses and they cook for me. I watched people cook,

is that there's a timidity that happens in people's homes
because you're a chef and they're a lot about me.
But I watched them in their own kitchens. Nives are
never sharp. Ever that that that I think. I imagine
all these severed limbs lying on the floor people's kitchen.
People are afraid of their they're death. They are afraid

of opening it. They're afraid it's going anywhere near. They
think it's gonna blow up or something weird it's gonna happen.
They don't know how to use the flame on their stove.
And I understand this. These are things that when I
was a young cook, I was afraid of as well.
I knew I was scared of sawteing something. When I
saw somebody flip something in the pan the first time,

I was like, wow, that was like Houdini's greatest trick.
I think what I tell people at home is that
it's great to have a repertory of things that your
comfort your comfort zone foods. But at one point in
life you need to push that out. You need to
push that away and go after new items. So I

always admonished people to to think food first, cookbook second.
In other words, recipes are should always be pushed away.
Go to your supermarket and look around and see what
inspires you. Go to a farmer's market, go down the
dock and look at you know, the fisherman bringing stuff in.

Go to the butcher anywhere do you find food that's
fresh and well presented. You can get inspired and you
can also get things that you've never heard of, and
let me try that, like lamb shanks. Lamb shanks are
something that people at home have no clue about, but
they're the easiest thing in the world to make. They're

really delicious. They're almost bulletproof. It's hard to screw them up. Um.
But you go into the supermarket, there's all the beautiful
New York steaks and sausages and pork chops, and that's
everybody gravitates story and the poor little little lamb shake
on the side is not getting love. Go out of
your comfort zone. Go to the lamb shake, go have
a conversation with him and see if he if he's

if he's somebody you want to meet, and learn how
to cook, and then take it home, open a recipe
book up and start cooking. And I think that's really
um what I sort of try to get people to do.
The second thing I can try to get people to
do is learning knife skills. Nice skills to me and
the most important thing to learn. So I do a
lot of you know, these demonstrations at music at food

and wine festivals all over the country. I do a
lot of TV stuff and one of the first things
I tell people how to hold a knife, and and
it's simply you could do this. Let's do over over
the podcast because I think people can totally understand it.
You hold a knife on either side of the very
bottom of the with the steel meets the meets the handle,

the very bottom where that point is. And if your
right hand, you put your thumb on one side and
you put your index finger to the other and you
just hold the knife straight up and down and see
if you're comfortable doing that, hold it for a little bit,
move it back and forth, and then wrap your three
fingers around the handle. And that's the proper way holding
a knife. It's a beautiful description. You know, you don't

get simple. It's very simple. And then you have it.
And then and then the second part of the puzzle
is that if you hold your hand whether your left
hand and right hand doesn't matter, um with your thumb
behind your fingers. And the thing I really want people
understand that you don't be uptight, don't don't like like

grass your your fingers like they're you know, like they're gonna,
you know, something bad's gonna happen. Keep it loosen and relax.
But your thumb behind your fingers. And then take your
knife and hold it against your middle finger of your
opposite hand. And what you find is that the angle
of your middle finger will be about eight. In other words,

the knife will be angled perfectly away from your hand.
You'll never hurt yourself unless it's a dull knife. Well,
even with a dull knife, you're still you're not gonna
keep it away from your fingers. But um, and then
on the subject of sharp knife, UM, don't be cheap.
Go I'll buy a new knife. They're cheap. You can
buy a good knife for bucks. I'm sorry, but you can. Um.

And you know, if you're afraid of sharpening it, there
are sharpeners all over the planet. You can pike it
back to the place you bought it. There's little guys
in the corner that do it. Um your hardware store,
I can do it for you. And if you really
don't want to sharpen knife, give it away and buy
another way. And you know, I think so. I think

nice skills are so important. But learning how to cook
in a pan is the the other thing that people
need to understand how that works. And number one, get
a great pan, buy a PAM. Don't buy a cheap PAM.
I'm a huge fan of cast iron I think they're cheap.
I think they're utilitarium. They look good, they never wear out, UM,

and you get them in different sizes. They're they're wonderful
to work at. Here's a nice thing about um cast
iron pants. They fit on the stove nicely. They don't
move around, they don't. They're they're stable. They're stable things.
They're they're one of the most stable things in life.
Sit on the burner and they don't move around, and

they retain heat well. They heat up fairly quickly. UM.
But they're very tolerant of mistakes. In other words, if
you go to saute uh, let's say asparagus, and you've
chopped it up in little pieces of you're very perfectly
sharp knife, and you put a little olive oil and
a little tiny bit of butter in the pan. You

turn it onto medium, and when the olive oil and
butter scissing, you gently put your asparagus in. But here's
a trick. Tilt the pan away from you as you
do it, because you know what the butter and olive
oil to splatter back towards you and you put it there,
and there's two things you can do. One is you
get to stare at it and watch a cook. Well.

The second thing is you can take a nice wooden spoon, woulden,
not plastic, not steel, nice wooden spoon, and you could
gently stir around that asparagus. And as you're doing that,
magic happens because you're cooking and you're enjoying cooking, because
you and asparagus in the cast iron are one. You're
not doing anything else but cooking asparagus. You're not putting
else anything else there maybe a little salt, pepper, but

you cook the asparagus and you turn the turn the
burner off when they're done, and you wait and you
look at it goes I'm gonna eat that now. And
that's a beautiful thing. I love the simplicity of I
could describe it, and I think, Michael, I think that's
what people. People get too excited about complication. They everybody
wants to razzle dazzle their guests. They all want to
have the most beautiful dishes. And you see there's a

lot of these under kinds now on, you know, Gordon
Ramsey's cooking show for kids. I've done could kids, uh
competition shows and there's twelve ye old kids that cooked
better than my, my chest, my restaurant. But that's not
the point. The point is to have fun cooking. It's
not a contest, it's not a it's not a race.

It's going back to the reason why restaurants works. There
were a story of spirit. Cooking at home does that
tenfold When you cook for in your in your home
for other people, that's the greatest thing you could do.
That's the greatest love you can show people. And it's
something that um, I learned from my parents many years ago,

and I didn't I didn't get it when my uh,
when my mother cooked and she served a meal, there
was no pomp and circumstance. There wasn't a lot of drama,
real drama in otherwise, but there wasn't a lot of
um like, look what I did, it was get the
food of the table and we ate it. If you
took apart her actions and her intent and her all

that stuff, it's pretty magical. It's pretty special. And we
don't I don't think we appreciate it in a way
that makes a lot of sense. And I want that's
the one thing I want people to when you cook
at home, you are doing something special. So go out
and buy the best ingredients you can. They don't have
to be expensive ingredients, but trying to buy the best
things you can. Um, whether it's the best vegetables, the

best fruit, and you don't need a lot of it.
I think people buy way too much stuff. I think
people fill up the refrigerators with so much junk that
they get confused. UM. I think the thing about professional
chefs that separate us from you know, home cooks, because
we know how to edit ourselves. We know how to
walk into a farmer's market and walk around and pick

out the things we want to cook that day. Some
other people, like at home, they go to the market
and they buy saying things all the time, it's it's hysterical. Um,
I like sort of, I'm the wandering jew. I I
wander around the the farmer's market and they'll be like,
we're there last Wednesday and there were eight guys selling asparagus.
So I went to eight of those guys three It's

it's hysterical. I'm the so c D. And and then
and I finally, like my chef Ginger from Jams, because
we just pick one of these asparagus. I said, no,
you do it. I'm I'm flammis. I can't do it.
And you know, and that's my world, Michael. It's kind
of weird. It's it's a weird, funny, quirky, strange, delightful world, folks.

Is why I love Jonathan Waxman, and it's because he
thinks this way about food. He recognizes how how spiritually
rewarding it is in addition to nourishing. When we come back,
Jonathan Waxman talks about the basics, the very basics of
home cooking equipment, your oven thermometers, as well as the

cooking of a shepherd's pie and of course the complete
discussion on that favorite dish, a virtual PhD dissertation on
how to roast and serve a chicken. You talked about

ste what about inside the oven? What about roast? So
inside the oven? Now, I always tell people to get
the best kitchen myths or gloves you can possibly get.
What works. Wonders. You go to the hardware start and
you buy cheap welders gloves, and you don't buy the
short ones. You're one of the ones that really go
up to that to your almost your elbow, and then

you're protected. You can never get hurt with those things.
That's one thing to do. Um. The second thing to
do is to buy it a thermometer for your oven,
because all ovens at home don't read the right temperature.
They're all what we call non calibrated. Now you can
get your local gas company or electric company to calibrate

them for you, but they don't stay calibrated. They're just
not built the way commercial ovens are built. Um. Thus,
those two things you can do. The other thing you
can do, which I think is important, is don't have
too many racks in the oven. I find that at
home the manufacturers send you out with four racks or
three recks. You really only need two racks in your oven,
and I think just two is fine. You don't need

more than that. And the bottom one can stay fairly
close to the bottom when you want to roast turkeys
and big items, and the and the second one can
be in the middle. Um. And then if you really
are doing a lot of cookies, I suppose you could
put another third in it, But how many cookies can
want cook at one time? At home? So too, I
think it's fine. Um. And then the other thing is

to make sure that oven light works. That's a big one.
You know, it's good to be able to see what's
what's going on in the oven, see what your dishes doing.
And then also the broiler is your best friend, especially
when you're in a pinch. Broiler can do anything. Um.
There's a famous um. John Hersey wrote a book on

bluefish and one of his recipes just love it is.
It is a blue fish filet with helmets, mayonnaise lathern
on top, cooked in the broiler for five minutes. And
that's a dish, beautiful perfect, you know. To me, it's like,
so the broiler is a great friend. But so let's

take the most straightforward thing one can cook. So I
love cooking pies at home. Pies are the greatest thing
to make. I believe in in in home cookery. Um.
And you can make savery pies, you can make fruit pies,
you can make the pies are there's they run the
gamut of life. Pies, um. And one of the pies,

so let's take a savory pipe. Um. And one of
the greatest things I love is is shepherd's pipe. And
so you have left over leg of lamb, and you've
got leftover mashed potatoes, and you've got carrots, peas and onions,
and you've got the lamb stock. So that's you got
all the you've got all the fixings. You put your
obit on the three seventy five. Not everybody says, well,

I'm gonna turn it up really high so I can
cook a fast Wrong, don't do it too low, don't
do it too high. Three soventy five is a nice
what I call a gentle heat. It's something you can
cook almost everything in three seventy five. And um, what
you cook the shepherd's pint is is super important. Um,
I'm always scared of pirates. I'm sorry, but I just am.

I just think it's gonna I think they're gonna break.
They say they don't, but I so I like getting
a heavy casserole pan and something that's enamel covered, or
you can use cast iron pans. Cast iron pives are great.
So let's let's stick with our cast iron pan. And
so what I like doing, and this is kind of

a fun way of doing it, is, uh, you chop
your leg of lamb and you and you see it
in the pan with a little bit of olive oil
or butter, whatever you wanna do, get it crispy um.
And then you add some onions and garlic, and you
add the stock back end, and you cook it just
till it's starting to get tasty. You add the vegetables

for the night before or fresh vegetables, it doesn't matter,
and you let it cool for about half an hour.
Go have a cigarette or a cocktail, or go watch
the you know, the the tennis match. Come back, and
then you have your cold mashed potatoes and it's pointing
out the cold ones and not rim temperature. I don't
know if people get that, but cold mashtos is better
for this dish. And you take a overspatch and you

smear the mashed potatoes on top because you want it
to hold a form. It's like concrete. If it's too soft,
it's gonna go downside of the stew. Okay, so you
smear it on top. And some people like putting a
cheese on top. I don't. Some people like getting a
really crisps exterior. I just like it to like it
to cook, and you put it in the three s

five degree oven. How long? Well, no, it's got to
really be cooked so this is where this is where
there's tools that you can one can use. One is
to actually just pull the thing out of the oven
and taste it. You know, pull a pizza out and
then you ruin the top of the pie. So that's
not good. Um. I like these simple little thermometers that

they sell their ten fifteen dollars. Um. You stick it
inside and at one you're not you're not there yet,
You're onre there you cooked up. The outside is bubbling,
the top is kind of golden brown, and you take
it out. And what's the second most important thing about roasting?

Letting things rest? Because the oven works by convective heat,
it shows very hot heat at the objects in the oven,
so the outside gets super hot quickly, but the inside
is waiting to get hot. So as though as it's
waiting getting hot, there's a there's some transferreds of of

heat energy, but it's not perfect. So when you take
out of the oven, the outside it's still in sindry hot.
The inside is one sit on top of stoves, sit
for fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. It all comes together at
one seventy degrees. It holds together when you scoop it out,

it's not too hot, known burns their tongue. And that's
the best thing about So roasting really is about the
right temperature, testing for duneness and resting. But it's and
it's that that way for a cherry pie. It's that
way for an apple pie. It's that way for a
shepherd's pie. Any kind of pie works the same way.

But it's also the same thing for um doing brisket,
a whole chicken, a leg of lamb. They all work
basically by the same technique. So you're famous fans for
their chicken you had, have you had a fabulous oven
cooked particularly well, if you're roasting chicken at home, what
do you recommend people do? So that's here's the rub.

There is no perfect way, and so there's a lot
of things that have to happen, Michael. So it's really goofy.
It's goofy. It's not difficult. It's goofy. It's really goofy.
Number one is how big is it a chicken? A
chicken is not a chicken. There are two pound chickens,
there are eight pound chickens. There's capons. The size that
I use is three point five to three point seven five.

Why because the chicken is at the maturation level where
the legs and the legs, thighs and breasts are have
grown to the sort of a perfect proportion. I call
it perfect triangle. You know, so when they're roasting in
the oven, the legs don't get overcooked, the breast gets undercooked.
You know. It's it's anything works perfectly together, so the

right size. The secondarily is if you take a chicken
from a cold refrigerator put it into a hot oven,
what do you think is gonna happen? It's it's not.
It's not really good idea. Not really good idea. Secondarily,
so you have to get the chicken up to temperatures.
So sit outside for an hour. You're not gonna die
in salmonella. Trust me. Um, you're not gonna You don't

have to call the hospital, and and you're not killing
your guests. Let the chicken sit out for an hour. Also,
get it out of the plastic bag the night before,
and let's sit in the refrigerator without the plastic bag
on it. That's a super important thing because you want
to get rid of all that crazy stuff that happens
inside the plastic bag and side side the the supermarket
um and then seasoning the chicken is equally as important

as everything else. And when season you need to not
put salt and pepper on a raw chicken. That doesn't work,
It just falls right off. So you have to rub
the chicken. And that's where gloves come in. Handy or
a basting brush, and you want to baste the chicken
or rub it with olive oil. And then with your
opposite hand sprinkle what I call broadcast from very high height,

like a foot and a half by the chicken. Sprinkled chicken,
the chicken with salt, so the chickens evenly coated. Now
people are really super lazy. I'm sorry, but everybody's very
salts one part of the chicken and they don't flip
it over because they're already get in the oven. So
take a breath, turn it over. Salt and pepper every
part of it. Now the other part of the chicken

that a lot of people say, well, why don't you
trust the chicken? And when I was in France, when
I was in cooking school, I never noticed a trusting
because it seemed to do two weird things. One it
compressed the legs and kind of almost a market as
sade fattion and they look weird. Um. But also I
thought that it hampered the cooking ability of the oven

to penetrate the chicken at all levels and get the
all the crispy. So when you tuck the leg close
to the body, you're missing that inner skin, so that
that remains sort of flaccid, sort of so chicken free,
the Berkeley style free chicken legs up in the air. Um,
I do bend the wings back on themselves. I just

like doing that. I don't know why. And then temperature
of the oven to me, the optimum temperature if your
oven is if you've got a thermometer, there is four
hundred degrees for chicken, not three seventy five, three seventy
five for turkeys, four hundred for chicken degrees higher. And
here's the deal. You want your chicken to be in

a pan that is fairly low in profile. You don't
want to have it the sides. You know, you want
to cook it in a Dutch oven. Yeah you are.
Cast iron skill is pretty good again, and it's it's
a it's a good vehicle. And you also want to
oil the pan, and you want to make sure before
you put the chicken in the oven, that you can
slide the chicken back and forth. You want to make

sure it could skate. Everybody sticks the chicken in the pan.
It's not a horrible thing, but it's not a really
good thing either, because you want every part to get crispy.
So when you put this chicken in affording degree of him,
you let it sit for now. He's salt peppered it,
you got oil on it, and it's got your undivided attention.
And then on this on the top of the stove,
I put a little sauce pan with a spoon and

a ladle and a half cup of water. Okay, get
to that in a second, all right, So the chicken
in the oven and it's hanging out. It's been about
eight to ten minutes now, and all that sub containeous
fat underneath the chicken skin is starting to cook. And
when it happens, when it cooks, it literally starts to boil.

And while it's boiling and all this stuff's happening, it
tries to get out. It wants to get out, so
it wants to get out and create. And that's what
the blistering of the chicken happens, and that's where I
think a lot of the magic is. So once it
does that, a lot of some of the fat actually
does does escape. So after about eight or ten minutes

open the oven door. The heat will not escape forever.
It'll It'll be fine. Pull the whole um rack out.
Don't pull the pan out, super important. Pull the rack
out so you have a stable surface to to do
some work here. You got your wellders glove on your
left hand if you're white handed, the opposite hand, if

you're left handed, and you tilt the pan, remember tilting
it away from yourself, not towards yourself, and you'll collect
about maybe a tablespoon of chicken fat. Schmaltz. Got your
spoon on the top of the stove. Take your spoon out,
and you take that fat and you baste the chicken.

You're big pastings everything, basting his life. What's happening, what's happen.
We've talked about this before. What's happened. What's happening is
that you got this hot fat from the pan, and
it is hot because remember it's of one of degrees,
and you're basting the chicken which has got fat. That's
bubbling beneath the surface of the skin, and you've got

this hot liquored so you've got hot on the outside
of the skin and hot starting to happen underneath, and
the little fat unerneath goes thank you for basting me,
because then then the skin becomes more resilient and more
ready to accept what's going on underneath. So you're actually

preparing the skin on top for what's going on underneath.
So you put back the chicken, and you shake the
pan to make sure the chicken slides around, and you
turn the chicken. Now, what is that Is that like
some weird, you know, satanic kind of thing situ. I
shouldn't know the reason you turn in ninety because your
oven sucks, and you want to make sure that the

chicken is getting love at every angle because some angles
in the in the in your oven are cold spots.
So when you turn the chicken ninety degrees, you're giving
a giving the chicken opportunity equal opportunity. You want you
get your side by the cold spot out, So you
do it, and then literally every eight five d eight
minutes you baste the chicken. Now you've got a little

bit of water on top. Remember the water you kept
up there a little later. Um, just think about that,
keep it keeping in your range, okay, because it's gonna
come in handy soon. And as you're basting, you're gonna
get more and more fat, okay, more and more fat. Um.
At one point, you're gonna have quite amount of fat. Now,
there's a couple ways you could approach this. If you

if you're a purist and you just want to cook
the chicken and just have chicken with a salad, I'm all,
that's the perfect meal. But let's say you want to
have some roast vegetables. So the chicken will take and
this is the other part of the puzzle. At four degrees,
how long do you think of chicken will take three
point three point seven five, So it's will actually cook

in eleven and twe minutes of pound all the way through.
It will actually do that, but it won't be ready,
but it will be. We'll cook in that type. So
if let's call it let's call it four pounds, and
so we'll cook it literally forty four to forty eight
minutes fifty minutes of max. So if you're basing from
eight minutes out every five minutes, you're you're probably you

can based at least six to eight times in that
time period. As the fact that's there, you could actually
have pre poached some diced carrots, some diced potatoes, some
raw zucchini, whatever you want. And at the minute mark
after you started, you can put those vegetables in the

pam with the chicken, not before because they'll they'll disintegrate.
They won't they won't be happy. And once you get
when you put them in there, they become to roast
in that schmaltz. And that's an amazing thing. Okay. There
also another thing happens to is they absorb a little
of the schmaltz's part of their flavoring agent. But their
camelzation is what it's beautiful about it because remember the

pants of four degrees, the fats of one degrees. The
chickens getting up to four degrees, but the vegetables go
in and they're ready to go. They're gonna become fourrees
almost instantaneously, so they start to caramelize the um the
sugars inside the vegetables. The sugars actually will start to
caramelize or you know, turn golden, and that's the magical

part there. So you've got lots of things go ahead.
You know your chickens roasting, You spun it nine degrees
about six different times. You've got your vegetables roasting, You're
you're you're basting all this stuff. And then at one
point you've got to figure out the chicken stead Remember
that little pro we talked about with a temper spy,

that's your best friend. So you bring that little pro
about you pull the chicken out, take a big breath,
and plunge it in the thickest part of the breast
and let it sit there for a minimum of thirty seconds,
and then pulled out and look at the temperature. Now,
invariably it will be probably about a hundred fifty two

hundred and fifty five degrees at that point inside the chicken.
But if you put the probe in the very exterior
the chicken, it will probably read so there's gonna be
a discrepancy of almost twenty degrees. It's kind of crazy.
Do you had to chicken out at that point? Some
people do. You can't actually do that, um, nothing bad

will happen. In fact, some people prefer doing that. I
like getting right up to one sixty at that point.
And you also can test right at where the thigh
meets the leg. That's another good point. So you put
it back in, you based it again, and then you
you pulled out five minutes later tested. It's my optoon.

You pull the whole thing out of the oven, put
on the stove top, and then you gently, with with
a very heavy spatula and a kitchen fork, put the
chicken into a platter that you have next to you. Okay,
you take a slotted spoon and you scoop up the
vegetables and put it in the same platter. And what
do you have in the pan? You some fat? You
have fat, but you have protein. Caramelizes the bottom of

the pan. So using your glove, you gently pour off
a little bit of the excess schmaltz, but don't throw
it away. Pour it, put it a little a little
cup to save for later. Remember the water where the
water is there, Now the water goes in. So the
water goes into the pan, and you're creating the sauce
and you're what you're getting all the caramelization all that.

And if your chicken stuck there and you little skin there,
that will help with the sauce as well, all those
different things. And don't turn on the burden. It just
let the natural heat of the oven to create this
sauce on top of the thing, top of the stove,
and if you want to, you can scrape it up
with a whisk or a spoon or whatever what have you.

And if you want to, you can add things like
a little tear gunto there. You can add some crushed garlic,
You can add in some whatever you want. At that point,
you know, Bob's your uncle. You can put in butter,
you could put in uh, yogurt whatever whatever. It floats
your boat. Um, I barely put butter in. My wife
wrinkles a dose to that. But you know that's okay.

And you scrape it all up and then it's Remember
the pan is heavy, so you got to be careful
and using two hands. You have a little sauce. I
have a little cow sauceboats kind of key to home.
So I poured it into the little cow sauceboat. Now
why are you doing this? Time is passing you by, right,
Time is passing you by, So what's happening? The chicken

is resting next to you. We're talking about the whole
resting thing. So it took you probably eight to twelve
minutes to create the sauce. And that point, the chicken
is so happy you're doing that because you've nor the chicken.
Don't don't look at me. Don't look at me, don't
look at me. Rest I'm resting. I'm sleeping, taking nap.
And then somebody said, well the chicken is getting cold. Okay, fine,

the oven still on, right, dude, So you take the
platter of the chickens on and make sure it's an
ovenproof platter, of course, and you open your oven up,
put the platter inside of the oven. You might have
turned the oven off by the end, so that's fine.
There was the temperature be fine to be two degrees
at that point. You let it in there, stay in
there for four to five minutes. You bring it to
the table, put on the table, say okay, dinner time.

Everybody comes to the table. By that point, the chicken
has rested in one manner another for a minimum of
twenty minutes. So the cooking time was forty five minutes
to an hour, depending on the size of the bird.
I'm gonna say forty eight minutes. But it rested for
a minimum of twenty minutes, so it's forty eight plus twenty.
So you really cook the bird an hour, hour, eight

minutes even though it wasn't in the oven the whole time,
because the cooking process really is the time you put
the chicken in the oven to the time you serve it,
because the chicken is still cooking and people have to
understand that that's what's going on. Um, that's why people
all cook things because they might have taken out of
the oven right with the time when they thought it
was perfect and they got the table, why is it

all stringy? And because you're cooked it. You you you
went past the point. You gotta you gotta get that
one sixty degree point, which is super important. You gotta
let it sit on this on the side. And also
the tenderness thing happens with resting. There's a weird thing
that happens with this molecular thing that happens in the
inside the chicken with resting that I don't understand whatsoever,

but I know it. It operates that way. It happens
with fish, it happens and meat happens in with vegetables.
So you bring it the table you put the table,
you got your vegetables on the side. You bring a
little cow cow of over. You actually skim a little
bit of the smalls off because it rides the top.
And how do you carve a chicken? Chicken? Carb and
chicken is what everybody's afraid of? Okay, So here here's

the easy way to do it when no one's looking.
You put gloves on, and you rip the breasts off,
and you rip the legs off, and you cut it
up and don't say anything to anybody. That's the easiest way.
I've never heard of that method before. That's the easiest
way of doing it. If you want to be a
showman and and and show off to your folks at
the table that you you know what the hell you're doing.

You take a very sharp knife and using a kitchen fork,
which is a two punk for you put the chicken
so it's perpendicular to you, so it's right here, right,
you know, the chicken is legs are to the to
your right and the breast or to your left. And
you stick the kitchen fork right at the top where

the wing joint hits the breast, and you take your
knife and you cut right on top of the fork
straight into the breast all the way through. Let's take apart. Okay,
so you made that beautiful lateral cut. Then you turn
the chicken forty five degrees and holding the fork on
the very outside of the breast, you cut straight down
towards your cut, and the breast meat will fall off perfectly.

It works every time. There's no issues with it, and
I guaranteed will work. It doesn't both sides equally. And
then the legs, the legs um. You take the leg
and you push the leg down with the kitchen fork,
and you wiggle a little bit to find out where
the with the drumstick and the thigh meat, and you'll

see it. And you take your and your knife and
knife is sharp, and you gently push down and the
leg will pop art off. Then the hardest part is
then you turn the chicken on its side to get
the thigh off, and you have your fork in one
hand and your knife and the other and this time
you use the fork and the fork will push the

thigh off and you don't want to slice it off
unless you actually need to. And then you repeat on
the other side. It's not so hard. I kind of
like you're ripping it off with cloves. That's a good
retire It's a good In fact, I learned that many
years ago when I worked for a chef friend chef,

and he showed me how to do it, and I
was we had to do a banquet for a lot
of people. We will all the chickens anytime, and they're
just sitting on this rack, and I said, how are
we gonna do all this is? Come over here, and
he just starts pulling them up. I was so shocked
by the simplicity and the audacity of it, and it
was I just started laughing. It was like the coolest
thing I ever saw. Jonathan. It's an extraordinary disquisition on

the roast chicks. I've never heard it described so precisely, elegantly,
hitting all the important spots. So thank you for that.
You're welcome. Has such a description of how to roast
a chicken ever been recorded? I don't think so. When
we come back, I talked to Chef Waxman about Barbudo

It's West Village neighborhood and what makes a good restaurant.
H I want to talk now about bur Buddha, And

first of all, I really sad I really miss it.
It was one of my favorite spots of all of
New York City. I live across the street. It was
it was, as you say, a place to restore yourself,
place to socialize, a place to have a great bourbon
with a giant ice cube at the end of the evening. Um,
it was, I think, the perfect restaurant. Well that's that's

how I praise. I don't know if I deserve that,
but thank you. Um. You know what's funny, Michael I.
I was talking to Danny Meyer, who was a big
fan of bar Buddh and I'm a big fan of his.
And he came for one of the last meal and
he looked at me and goes the last night of
Unice Square cafe. He walked out, started and started crying,
and he says, just wait, it never happened for me. No, no,

it didn't happen at all. You know. And I could
be sentimental, might you know? I find that hard to believe.
I could be sentimental certain things. My daughter dis graduated
from Princeton, very sentimental about that. Well, how did you
feel about the last good about it? I felt damn good.
I feel I felt like I accomplished something and Jennifer

Davidson is my GM too. Was smarter than anybody and
more I think intuitive than anybody described it as you know,
we left on a high note. We didn't wait for
our career to get stale and weird and bizarre. We
left when we need to leave. And whether there's another
Barbuda in the future or a different iteration, whatever, wherever

it is, it it leaves a good taste in people's
mind that, yeah, they were smart enough to get out
while the going was good. They didn't wait for things
to get stay and stupid. And I think, Michael, everything
has to change, everything does um m f K. Fisher.
I was a huge fan of reading her books about

going to France in the thirties, and there's one time
she talks about going into this restaurant in Dijon, which
was her favorite restaurant in the world, and this favorite
waiter and and this meal that she had described previously
in the book, and she she went back to revisit
it and the restaurant was still there. The waiter was there,
but he was a lot older. They sat down and

he was past his prime. The meal was pasted his
probably the restaurant was past his prime, and there was
a melancholy sadness about that. UM, and I think we
all have to evolve, we all have to change. Nothing
stays the same. And I think it's important, especially for
young chefs, to understand that you gotta remember you've got

to reinvent yourself. You can't if you don't change your diet,
You're just never gonna be successful. And that's why I
think people don't get it. I think anything, any creative process,
unless that restaurants are are a creative enterprise. They have
to be. And I work for shaping it, which is
probably the most creative enterprise of any restaurant in the world,
I believe. And UM, I think that Alice understood that,

you know that things have to move forward now. Her
idea of moving forward was going backwards in time, looking
back to the nineteenth century, in the eighteenth century and
the seventeenth century, because she felt that looking back to
how people grew vegetables or cultivated poultry or raised livestock
was more it was a better way of doing it
than the way we do now. That was important to her,

and that was that was evolution for her. My evolution.
I think UM might go another direction, but I'm not
sure what it is. I have to sort of let
it go. And I think that that's where creativity really
is important. You can come up with a great, fantastic dish,
but I think having a successful restaurant is more important
having long legs. You know, Um, River Cafe in in

in Brooklyn has been there since seventy whatever has been
there since seventy one. Canvas has been there since the
early sixties in Seattle. You look at these icon restaurants
and what are they doing? Right? You have to go
study them and so what how are they evolving? If
they don't seem to be evolving. You find out that

Canvas went and remodel the entire restaurant and and got
a new chef and and restructure things. Um. The owners
of the restaurant care, They really care, and they know
that they have to do things to to move forward.
And I think that that's great. That's what we have
to do. If we rely on the tried and true,

it just doesn't work. But in this case, you didn't. Um,
it wasn't really your choice. No, it wasn't my choice. Um,
but UM, I anticipate it happening. And we had this
sort of damnically as kind of over our heads for
for a long for almost eight years, UM, and so
I was prepared, you know, I'd had a lot of
scares new owners. I had three new owners in less

than ten years. Um. They rent kept going up because
the guys paid more money. I understand. I'm not I'm
not resentful of that whatsoever. The neighborhood changed. My friend
Scott there was a slightly dangerous neighborhood. Um. In fact,
I lived there in eighty three, it was even more dangerous.
Who knew that it would become one of the most
expensive place to live in in the world. I think

I was a little bit of part of the evolution
of the neighborhood. And I think the high Line was huge,
the standard hotel was huge. Um. I think other people
opening up around me. Kurt at Falls, it's an amazing
restaurateorys to three blocks from me. John George has Perry Street,
There's there's it's an amazing little neighborhoo for restaurants. I think,

you know, Bobby says up the street for me, there's
there's untitled, there's there's lots of great little spots just
in the neighborhood. Um, but it's still the village and
the village is a magical place. And I'm I've always
been a big fan of I read about Marlon Brando
in the early fifties had an Indian motorcycle and he

lived in not too far from Barbarada was and he
left the the Indian in the street with the keys
in it. In those days, no one would ever think
about stealing it, you know. So that's the village. Mimi Sherton,
who has lived on the on twelve Street probably god
probably maybe fifty years. I think UM is a big

help to me too, for me to understand the history
of that street and what I was on and and
I think the history of that was important for me
to embrace because it was important for me to be
cognizant of where I was and that part of that
part of the world. And I think, you know, there's
a lot of weird things happened, Like Sandy was a

weird thing that happened that was kind of a big
shake up. We had other things that that occurred, the
water coming up almost into the restaurant, and we did
have restaurant water the restaurant. But what I think Michael
the most. The best thing about my restaurant, absolutely best
thing besides my employees, are my customers. I think I

don't know how I did it or how what I
did right, But I gathered up some of the greatest
of you know, restaurant goers in the planet, and some
of them were like you when they came all the time.
They used it as their you know, they're they're little
um their cheers, you know, bar um. Some people came
from far away, some people had never gone there. But

I think, um, my customers just got it, they understood it. Um.
We had the least amount of complaints, the least amount
of you know, can I have this with this? Can
I have that with that? Um? Because I hate rules
and I don't I don't like to impose things on people.
The menu was small, so I always thought that we

would only have a certain segment of population that actually
even liked Barbarado. But I think we over the years.
What happened was when Barbara closed, it showed me that
I had this huge fan base that I didn't know
really existed. Um. I just I just went along my
merry way, trying to keep a restaurant going for fifteen years. Um,

we only closed one day a year, which was Christmas.
When year I opened for Christmas and Jen wanted to
shoot me. Um. But you know that does take a
toll on you as well. Being opened three sixty four
days a year, you know for fifteen years, you know,
to every lunch and dinner every day. That takes its toll, Um,

I think, Um, And that's why when we closed, I
think we all had a collect a sigh of relief
that we get we get a break. And how long
that break will lost who knows. But um, we were
all tired. And the other part of the people should understand.
I'll be totally transparent here is that restaurants fall apart.

Barbara was never designed to do the manic covers we
were doing. I mean, we made it happen. We managed
it to the best of our abilities. But the infrastructure,
Bobby Flay told me once when he closed By American, Um,
they got an Espen to repair all the air conditioning
and plumbing and electrical system. And it costs as much

as the restaurant costs when he first moved in there
just to do that stuff. So everything was broken at
the end. Um, everything was on its last little legs.
So it was a sign. I think that you know
that it's time for us to move on, and we'll
see what happens. I look forward to seeing what happens. Um,
you are going to stay in the restaurant business. I

hope you. I hope you're gonna be I hope you're
still going to be training cooks. You know. It's funny.
Michael Simon has obviously a good friend of both of ours.
And you know, I always say that he's a he's
an old stage and a young man's body. Um that
he says, wax, I don't know how long we can
do this for, you know, but it's it's a little
bit like a heroin addiction. You you're never you know,

you're never really going to get over it. And I
think that the addiction is a good addiction. It's it's
something that powers went on. I often compare having a
restaurant a little bit like being, you know, a painter
or a musician or someone else who whose careers just
go on and on. Physicists, for instance, live long, wonderful lives.

Novelists sometimes live long, wonderful lives. Um. I think that, Um,
if you love what you do. You live a great life,
you know, and I think that you have people that
that around you, that supports you, and you have you know,
you have customers that that boil you up every day.
And it's Michael, it's a nice thing in the world
when people say this is a great meal. There's nothing

there's nothing better than those words, um. Or like, you know,
I came here from Orlando, Florida just to eat here.
That that's not a bad thing. Um. And that happened
so much to me. I never took it for granted,
by the way, but it was just kind of amazing
to me every time people those words were uttered by somebody, Like,

I looked at it. Are they talking to me? You know?
It was somebody else that you know. Um. Yeah, It's
incredibly edifying in lots of ways. UM. But the last
part of the puzzle is that, you know, it's not
about me. It's really about my staff. It's about Jen
Davison and Michael, Michael Kelly and all the people, all
the cooks that have gone through the kitchen, all the

waiters that have you know, waited in the in the restaurant.
But it's the dishwashers that have the hardest job, and
I have to deal with the thousands that played some
dirty plates every day and all that stuff. Those are
the people that make the restaurant work. Yeah, dishwashing is
the most important station the kitchen. If they don't do that,
if they don't get there work done, you can't serve
the food. No. I think that, Um, we try to
treat people pretty fairly. It doesn't always work, and god knows,

I make mistakes, but at the end of the day,
I think that you know that old adage about treating
people the way you want to be treated is a
good marching paradigm. Um. And then the other part of
the puzzle is that be honest with yourself. If you
screw up a dish a minute something, you know what,
that dish wasn't great, Let me take it off your bill.
Didn't let that wine the other wine sucked. I didn't

make it, but I assert it to you. So you
have to listen to customers. You have to be you
can't be tone deaf with them. I think that a
lot of people just say it's my way of the
highway kind of thing, and I think that's kind of
a it's an arrogant behavior. That I think does. I mean,
maybe it's just some people. Well, I don't know. But
you know, hospitality is a very difficult word for Americans.

We're not good with it. We're not good at saying
hi to people. Were not friendly in that sense. With
certain parts of the country are more friendly others. I
think that it's hard for us to shake people's hands
a lot people in the eye. It's hard for us
to let ourselves go. It's hard for us to be
good salesman in that respect. And in Europe, what I
learned was how to become a salesperson, how to give hospitality,

how to become selfless in that respect. I think I'm
heard Michael Chow from Michael from Child's Miss Child always
says he loved to have Chinese cooks in kitchen because
they cook better than anybody in Italian waiters, because they
get the best service, you know, So I always that
was kind of funny, But that joke is kind of
true that, you know. I think hospitality is not something

that's inbred in US, and you have to learn. But
I think we all have it. We all have empathy
for others, we all have passion for others, we all
have a love of ourselves. Sometimes it's not readily apparent,
and you have to get that out of people. And
I think that's one thing that we've been very good about.
I have one waitress that came to me the most
timid person to planet. You know, she was like a

little mouse, And she'll tell you eight years or nine
years later that she's a different person because we forced her.
We didn't care that she said she was shy. She
wasn't gonna be shy with us. She was going to
learn how to to be a people person, a customer person, arrest.
She was become a restaurateur, and she was going to
learn the wineless. She was learned the menu, she was

going to learn how to look people a lie. But
I didn't want robotics. I didn't want people to recite
the Barbudo way to people. I wanted people to interpret
the experience in their own voice. And I think that's
really important. How to you know, how to how to
learn to use your voice in the restaurant um. And
I think that serves me well because I don't have,

you know, I have everybody into sort of interpreting what
I do with an overlying philosophy about how to do things,
which is kind of do things simply. So it's pretty
so so the formula, you know, um, it's pretty straightforward.
I think. Um, there's not a lot of crazy magic involved.
Um we start pretty good chicken, we start pretty good potatoes.

We're pretty good mealk key, pretty good kale salad. And
we have a knife, fork and spilling the table and
one wine glass and one water glass, which that philosophy
hasn't changed since day one. And you had servers who
made the guests feel good that they were part of
the party. So we tell people, especially the hosts, and
there are a lot of these are from the drama
Department of n y U. So there they know how

to act and they know how to you know, do
a role. We said, look, it's your party, so what
are you talking about my party? So when people walk
in the door, do you say what do you want?
He said, you're in my house, You're you're here for
a party. Can you get your cocktail? Kind of get
your table? What can I do for you? And that
I think it's a different sort of behavioral model than

other restaurants, Like they come in on a Saturday night
and the places heaving and it's raining outside and there's
there's no tables. They walk in. Can I get a table? No?
I don't want to tell people know. So what's what
can we make happen? What? What magic can we happen?
But do me a fair giv me yourself a number.
I'll call you back in an hour's and see if
something is available. Hang out the bar. I got your number. Well,

we'll try and find squeezee in or instead of the bar.
And the bar is the greatest place in the restaurant
to eat. The bartenders are incredibly intentive, they're very knowledgeable,
they're funny as hell, and you'll have a great time
at the bar. So I guess I what I did
was I took all the things I didn't like about
restaurants and I made those the rules, that's what not

to do. And then all things I loved about restaurants
where the things to do. And it went from three
star experiences two holes in the wall and in in Mexico,
or you know, a diner in Des Moines or wherever
was where I had a great experience, and I took
something away from that. There is I remember Sendy Bryant's

in now Dallas Texas Great Barbecue plays the owner at
one at one o'clock in the afternoon, goes up the
cash register, takes all the cash out and goes home,
and any other dollar goes into the cash register after
one o'clock goes to the employees. Wow. So you know
there's generosity in our business that has to if you're parsimonious,

I think people they get it. They feel it. They
feel it, they feel it in a very Germaine way, um,
and they feel that they're getting ripped off. People don't
mind spending a lot of money for for a rest
are experience, but it has to be really special. So
all these experiences like like I went to this one
restaurant once when I was a cooking school I went
to this restaurant called Bullier in in in Ren's, the

Champagne region, and I was kind of an idiot. I
was twenty six years old. I was anyway, I'm just
taking this little Austrian girl. She had a car and
she would jove out from Paris and we arrived Sunday
afternoon this restaurant, and Sunday afternoon is a big time
in France. You don't drive at a restaurant without a reservation.
So she was a two star restaurant and walked in
and the woman of the front didn't bat an eye,

and she goes, let me see what I can do.
She obviously got some table from from a closet somewhere
stuck in front of the closet dust and I'll put
a tablecloth on it, and we had lunch. And that
was an amazing lesson for me to learn because she
didn't do it in averageous money grubbing way. She do
because she knew that we wanted to eat there. She

obviously had enough servers and food in the in the
back to defeat us. And I remember this dish I had, Michael,
is the crazy thing. It was one of the greatest
dish ever had in my life. It was the wintertime
and right it was right about I think April, I
think the end of April, beating mate. And it was
mash lettuce with olive oil and sliced paragord truffles on top.

And that is that beautiful. It was perfect. And so
those kind of things, I think, they stick with you
and they form They form the narrative, They formed the story,
They form the inspiration that informs you and therefore informs
your restaurant, and they come back to you all the time.
They never leave you. These kind of things. That's the
richness of a restaurateur's life. We have to eat a

free times a day. We can't help it, you know.
If we don't, we perish um. So you might as
well make it good. You might aso make it special. Now,
does that be glorious every time? No? Sometimes a toast
and butter can be glorious, you know, Studs, Just a
cup of coffee could be glorious. You don't have to
eat at, you know, a three star restaurant every day
of your life. Some people do, actually, but I don't

know how that works. But I think I find pleasure
in the mundane as well as the sublive, and I
think that's I'm pretty lucky that way. Jonathan, thank you
so much for talking. This has been fabulous. You have
a way of articulating the essentials of whatever you're talking about,
and I'm very grateful for that. Thank you very much.
Thank you. You know, when you can have a conversation

with a chef restaurateur like Jonathan Waxman, it feels pretty lucky.
Cast Iron Skillet the most stable object on the planet
that's both practical and philosophical, which is part of why
we love him. But it's that spirit of generosity and
magic and the restoration of the soul that's what I
love most. That ultimately is what food and cooking is

all about. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back in
two weeks with another bonus interview while we put together
season two of From Scratch with Me, your host, Michael Ruhlman,

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