Am I the Father of Fusion Cooking?

When I resided in the lovely section Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, my set liked to think of itself as trendy. Little did we know that the Brooklyn we had then discovered for "gentrification" (to me it seemed mostly to be about stripping interior home woodwork) would evolve to become ground zero in present times for all things gonzo-hip and über-trendy.

Back then, shopping at Sahadi Imports on Atlantic Avenue for Mid-Eastern specialties was trendy. Now, its smoked truffle sea salt encrusted . . . whatever . . . at our favorite, still undiscovered, micro-brewery cum patisserie cum small batch eau de vie distillery using locally sourced hipster farmer grown organic ingredients from only certain favorite locales in the tri-state region, and preferably from the Borough of Brooklyn.


Time marches on. When we relocated back to the NYC area not that long ago, I drove from New Jersey to Brooklyn to nose around a bit. Where once when we first came to Park Slope a certain major street looked like a war zone — boarded up dilapidated storefronts everywhere — now there's a baby boutique on every other block and plenty of choices to get your Latte on. Twice the number of people too. You can't go home again.


And, speaking of home, the Brownstone we bought in the mid-1970s for $60,000 had sold for $3+ million a few years back. And I did see it recently listed for a million more. WTF! I don't think they would even let me in the door now.


In any event, my group of friends liked to entertain and get together over good food. I was a contender myself in the culinary department. We had Omelette rivalries. Progressive dinners.


My friend Stanley Mongin had a big restaurant grade Garland stove at his house. (Now my #1 Daughter designs kitchens with such swell stoves as the usual.) Somehow we got the idea to do some catering. Stan even had some commercial enameled long pans we used for platters.[Martha Stewart got the same catering/food prep idea around that time, but she persevered. (Now, we persevere with her.)] He also  had some contacts with the then newly developing Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and we got some gigs catering after-show parties there. One post performance visiting ballet troupe cast party at BAM Director Harvey Weinstein's home in Manhattan. My friends encouraged me to try out for the job of running the concession serving drinks and snacks during show intermissions at BAM. I demurred. Other fish to fry it turns out.


We also had a fair share of other events. A swell Manhattan penthouse wedding reception, a Bar Mitzvah, an Italian American community group gathering. It was at that last event where we branched out into the world of fusion. Tempura chicken and vegetables, Chinese Cold Sesame Noodles, Sweet and Sour Meat Balls. Baba Ganoush dip with assorted raw vegetables.


At that last mentioned gig one Brooklyn Itralian type fellow in characteristic Brooklyn in your face style insistingly asked, "Where's the spaghetti?" I just as directly told him that he would like our food. Try it. In fact, he came back later and paid compliments.


We called ourselves the Polish Pavilion. Stanley and I are of Polish descent. And, the "pavilion" thing was going around in NYC. The Irish Pavilion. The Spanish Pavilion. So, you get how I came up with that idea.


Admittedly, we were nowhere near the level of innovation and complication to match the culinary stuntifications that diners in the Big Apple and other key world cities seem to expect now as a matter of course. Our efforts had more to do with introducing little known, but staple foods from distant cultures. And, combining them on the buffet table spread. Stuffed Vine Leaves from the Middle East. Baba Ganoush as a dip for Crudités. Meat Balls  à la  Orientale. Tempura Vegetables ... Chicken.


So, am I the father of Fusion Cuisine? I say ... Yes! Decide for yourself.


PS Stanley Mongin has gone on to his greater reward. His own #1 Daughter is a Chef. Now at the acclaimed restaurant Paradiso on the Emerald Isle.







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