I grew up in a Greek bubble on Long Island, nurtured by immigrant parents who raised their kids as though they had never left the homeland. Through a tumultuous adolescence and into young adulthood, writing was one of the few outlets I had to express my emotions. It was a valuable part of my life. As I got older, though, and eventually found that my true passion was cooking, the written word faded into the background. It wasn't just that running restaurants and being a chef didn't provide much time to read and write; it was also that my creative medium had become food. Over the years, I have realized that the dishes I've created, especially those for my restaurants, are as much a representation of my thoughts, feelings and experiences as the words I used to write. That is, cooking has allowed me to express myself artistically; food is my art. It defines me as a chef, but also—and more importantly—as a man.
When my father died, I struggled with the loss, naturally, but also with the sacrifice I've made for my art. As any chef will tell you, countless hours are spent realizing our dreams—and this is time that we are away from our families. Perhaps for that reason, cooking wasn't what I turned to when coping with loss; instead, I sought refuge in the written word. This time, though, I was writing with a purpose: to capture my memories of my father, to try to understand what I learned from him and everything he gave me. I quickly realized that food was the foundation of many of my fondest memories with him. Often they weren't about cooking, but rather the lessons he conveyed through food. Now a father myself, I realized that those lessons had truly shaped my life in a way that I hadn't seen until that point.
This is the reason I chose to write my first book—to honor these lessons and my father. The stories that I share in How to Roast a Lamb are all essentially what I've come to refer to as “defining moments,” instances that changed my perception of life. These stories are my father's legacy. They impart lessons that had been passed from his father to him before he shared them with me, and now they are the building blocks for how I'm educating my son, Gabriel.
In writing this book, I discovered that what my father taught me ignited my passion for cooking—or at least the joy that I receive from the gift of food. The greatest pleasure that I derive as a chef comes from sharing the dishes I've created. My father used to say that a man's life is judged not by how much he has individually achieved but by the number of people he has touched. My gift to him is this book; I hope that readers enjoy the stories, cook the recipes, gather their families and friends for delicious meals and thus continue my father's legacy.
|Michael Psilakis, who has earned a Michelin star and a James Beard Award, is the author of How to Roast a Lamb (Little, Brown).|