Mentor Letters: Joshua McFadden, Ava Gene's
To Whom it May Concern.
April 14, 2016
Joshua McFadden is definitely that dude who doesn't forget anyone in his Oscar speech.
Last year, a group of chefs came together at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont to cook, drink, and reflect on those key figures who helped define their careers. The unabridged letters originally appeared in the pages of limited-edition print magazine, Bill of Fare, and we've republished them here for your enjoyment. McFadden, as you shall see, nails it. States, people, places — everybody gets some love.
[Dear Mentor,] To Whom It May Concern
The idea of this “letter to my mentor” is to thank more than just one person. This letter is all about the sum of the parts. First, to my grandmother, whose garden taught me what a tomato should taste like on a warm summer’s day. To Burger King, for employing me for two days and then firing me. You showed me what efficiency looks like and what not to do. And to Whole Foods for showing me to look for real ingredients and to practice sustainable ethics as a young employee.
Once I entered the “real” restaurant world, things became more exciting, days got longer and the stakes much higher. Working with Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter at Roxanne’s taught me to start thinking about vegetables in new ways. Thank you to Bruce Sherman for teaching me [that things can be less complicated, less angry and more fun. Thank you for teaching me the true importance of a day crew, it really does help with the success of a restaurant.
To NYC for all of it. To Andrew Feinberg for really rounding it all out and helping me understand the 3-ingredient dish, reestablishing seasonal eating and letting me play with fire. To Mark Ladner for pushing me, teaching me the art of saucing pasta and how to look at things from a new perspective while still focusing on simplicity. To David Chang, for being brilliantly in the right place at the right time and shaking up everything. To Dan Barber for being absolutely obsessed and positively focused on flavor.
To Maine, the way life should be, thank you for slowing me down. Thank you Eliot Coleman for letting me play farmer. It was an invaluable experience of life, change, and camp fires. Vegetables never tasted so good.
To Rome and Italy for teaching me the art of the table, that seasonality is truly the most important thing, and that the noodle is king!
To Portland for embracing my vegetable-focused version of Italian food. And lastly to all the farmers. Working with food would be impossible without all of your hard work, passion and sheer crazy zest for life.
Breed for flavor and eat in season. Joshua McFadden