A Taste of the Holidays
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Interview with Marc Magro, Chef and Director of Design & Build
Last week, I had the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee (well over Microsoft Teams anyway) with my colleague, Marc Margo. Marc is the Director of Design & Build at elite|studio e, but that’s not at all what we discussed. I really wanted to hear about what it’s like during the holidays with two chefs in the house, but we just let the conversation go wherever the caffeine took it. There were lots of laughs, and, in my opinion, the results we’re pretty awesome.
Marc grew up in a typical suburban family grounded by their Italian customs and their not-so-typical gastronomy. Many American families eat Italian food but the Magros celebrate it. Marc’s dad, Paul Magro, recently retired from a 20+ year career as a food and wine instructor at the Barry Tech Culinary Center on Long Island, and is author of the cookbook Cooking, Dreaming, Dining. Marc’s Mom, Terrie, was a nurse and physician liaison who can barely make a cup of coffee. “We have a mutual understanding that she just stays out of the kitchen and Mom’s happy that way. Growing up we would joke that if dad wasn’t home, where were we getting takeout from,” said Marc.
With two chefs in their home, I had this vision of the Magro kitchen looking like something out of an episode of Top Chef during the holidays. You know with food flying, a stir fry show and all that jazz? Marc swears to me it's not like that at all and the actual experience of Christmas Eve is probably no different than everyone else’s with a lot of family, people talking over each other and asking uncomfortable questions you don’t want to answer. However, we did get a chuckle at his description of the meal, “We eat the traditional seven fishes, but because we’re Italian everything is overboard and it’s more like 12.”
Where things do differ in the Magro house in the preparation for those 12 fishes. I almost wish we had a camera following Marc and Paul around to see this in action. Marc explained that they prepare for days in advance of the holiday. “My dad doesn’t believe in the grocery store. He has to visit the fish purveyor, the produce guy, and then there’s the all-day escapade to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. My dad loves Biancardi’s Meat Market there. In high school, he worked on Arthur Avenue, so he has to visit everyone. He goes to the pasta shop, the importer, several bakeries and stops at Roberto’s for lunch.”
Growing up with that experience, it's no wonder that Marc wound up with a knack for the kitchen. His career in the industry began when he was 15 working with an offsite caterer. The position involved everything from the food prep to serving and the job became an introduction to almost everything in the culinary world. In high school, Magro also worked in on-premise catering at the Melville Marriot with Chef Dan Dardy.
However, when it came time to looking at colleges and pursuing a degree, Marc had his eye on being a civil engineer. After an insane college tour with his parents, Marc didn’t get a great feel from any of them. He recalls, “On one of our visits we were near the Culinary Institute of America and we decided to go to dinner there. It was nostalgic for my dad, but I fell in love with it.”
After graduating from the CIA, Magro worked at Marea, a two MICHELIN star seafood restaurant in Central Park South. He worked for Chef Michael White and loved the experience, however, as Magro put it, “At some point in this industry you come to a harsh reality that you might wind up being a 40-year old line cook with no health insurance.”
As a result of this thought process, Marc went back to school and attended Drexel University in Philadelphia for Hospitality Management. He shared the following story:
I became friendly with a few of the department heads because, lets face it, I talk to everyone. A few of them had committed to catering an event at the eleventh hour and it wasn’t going to happen. They asked me if I could pull it off and I did. But why am I telling you this? When I graduated, I needed a job … who doesn’t? I had a business minor, a degree in hospitality management and a culinary degree, in my head I thought I was going to be a General Manager at a hotel or something along those lines. I reached out to one of those department heads (now director) for a reference and he was happy to do so. However, he also suggested I look at Korman Communities, which ultimately became my job prior to elite|studio e.
The position at Korman Communities allowed Marc to combine his hospitality experience and continued fascination with architecture and engineering. The company manages long term housing and hotels, and Marc’s position was a combination of elite|studio e’s Project Coordinator and Project Manager positions, handling budgets, being onsite, etc. Marc travelled a lot, opening hotels in Washington, D.C., New York City; and managing renovations in Philadelphia, PA, and Beverly Hills, CA.
Since joining elite|studio e Marc enjoys a career that fosters his love for food and the commercial kitchen with his desire to design. However, I was curious … how often does my colleague cook these days. “I do tons of cooking especially during the quarantine. I still love to cook. The passion is always there and the thing about cooking is that you get to try things that may not work. It’s edgy and fun. And fostering a dish to completion is a process – we’re all perfectionists,” he said.
And, of course, I could not get through a conversation with Marc without asking him about some of his favorites. So here goes:
Favorite Thing to Cook Seafood dishes. It’s sort of my niche.
Favorite Food That’s a tough one. Honestly, I have no idea. You’re asking me to condense something I love to one answer. Let’s say it changes based on my mood. When it’s cold outside I want steamy, hot ramen noodles. If it’s hot out, I want to be on the beach with a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc and fried fish.
Favorite Christmas Dish
On Christmas Eve, we make a red wine braised baby octopus, brushed with a herbed oil and finished over a charcoal grill.
On that note, whatever it is you're eating this holiday we hope you enjoy it. As the Italian say, "Mangia," (eat up!).