When I was 9, I started playing around in the kitchen at Lafayette, my father’s first New York restaurant, and by the time I was 14 I had decided to train to become a chef. My father said, “Are you sure? Why don’t you become a doctor or a lawyer—get a real job?” But I liked cooking. It’s a skill you can learn that is also extremely creative.
My father was becoming very popular at the time, and I didn’t want to get an apprenticeship because of him, so I lied about my last name. But when I wanted to work with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, there was a three-year waiting list to apprentice there, so for this I used my real last name.
My father and I are both persnickety. We don’t like noise in the kitchen, and a few grains of salt on a tablecloth make us shiver. There are similarities in our cooking styles, but Jean-Georges is a big spring guy—he likes asparagus and fava beans, and he keeps things very clean, using juices and oils instead of butter. I like fall produce, and I must admit I use a little more butter. He will be coming to Perry St. in a couple of weeks to taste new dishes we’ve been working on. He rarely says that he dislikes a dish, but he does give advice on how to improve it.