Here's the recipe.........


Here’s the recipe……

“Hey Chef, would you be willing to share your recipe for….”

“Yeah sure, no problem”

“For real? You’re just gonna give it to me/us? It’s not secret or anything?

“No it’s not a secret. No I don’t mind and yes you can have it, it’s my pleasure”

I was taught how to cook!

By my mom, Emmy (Nana), grandmothers, sisters, aunts, dad, cooks, other chefs, friends, and colleagues. Everything I know was taught to me by someone. I have used those teachings to further my career, stock my “toolbox”, and my creative process. But the basic knowledge was shared with me, so why not share it with you?! I will write them down, exactly as I make it, I won’t leave any “key” ingredients out so you are left with a mere comparison of what it is you’re trying to recreate (and by the way, I don’t get why people do this, I don’t get it at all, that’s just wrong)

I cook how I cook, you cook how you cook!

I can close my eyes and see my mama making our family’s prized meatballs. I can recall from memory, every step, ingredient, time, approach, technique to the tee and still I can’t even come close to them!

My grandma, mom, and my Emmy used to say “Es la sal an las manos bebi” rough translation “It’s the salt in your hands” it’s that bit of folklore, the food is seasoned by the hands that prepare them.

I can remember my grandmother's “Arroz con Picadillo” or “Ropa vieja” and her polenta and braised pork loin (like my Puerto Rican chef friend says- you can “googooley papi” if you don’t know what these foods are).

I have fond memories of my other grandmother’s “Arroz con coco y rabito”- coconut rice with red beans and pig tails, her beef roasts or short rib soups.

I can recall all of these meals, ingredients and all to the minute detail and yet be light years away from the original product “Es la sal y el amor” you also have to go on and add some love to that pot as well. The recipe is not the heart of the plate, I am.

I believe in progression!

I have a simple motto as a chef- progression vs repetition. If I am simply recreating the same things I’ve already done, then I am just re-hashing and not growing. My food is not evolving and that is simply sad. I hold on to nothing, I have no “sacred cows”. Therefore, if you ask me for a recipe so you can use it on your menu, I’ll give it to you because frankly, I don’t mind and chances are a year from now, I will have moved on. I have no fear of anyone taking anything I’ve created and making it their own, that’s how the wheel moves forward. At Central, we drop a new menu every 2.5 to 3 months, or seasonally, so 4 times a year we start anew, fresh and simple. There are some items on my menu that are mainstays- this is not because of me, its because our customers want it. Our diners have grown attached to, or have a sense of ownership for, certain items and I just can’t take them off. Trust me if it was up to me I wouldn’t make another single duck wonton. Does this mean that I won’t do things I’ve learned previously? NO! It just means I have no secrets! After all, it’s not all about me either!

Imitation is in fact the biggest form of flattery!

I am truly flattered when someone finds something I’ve created so good/great/scrumptious that they want to recreate and make it themselves. It gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. Chances are that very dish evolved from something. However big or small, someone taught me and it's now where it is because of that. I mean, if I ever write a cookbook, I’ll have to pick all my favorite recipes and then the whole world will have them! So why not let you have them first? If you write a cookbook and use one of my recipes, well HEY, I can brag to my hearts content that such and such is using one of my recipes and passing it of as his own…….

--Chef Leo