“You can’t create a tradition,” Giuliano Hazan replied when I asked him if the United States had caught up to Italy in its cooking, a topic on which he is uniquely qualified to remark. Hazan was raised between New York and Italy, with a fair measure of travel, thanks to his mother, the beloved cookbook author Marcella Hazan. While it’s true that history can’t be summoned up on, in a way I think we come to Giuliano for his hand on the tap of tradition. His mother is a woman whose books taught us all to cook Italian food. Real Italian food. Though we may feel like we know her because of the sweet intimacy of that exchange, Giuliano knows her much better. A part of his allure is that he is the lucky one who had that spot next to Marcella’s elbow.
Giuliano didn’t just read or watch his mother, he was there, in the kitchen, in the aura of Marcella. But Giuliano is his own cook.
“Even with a simple dish of just four ingredients, it will always taste a little different when someone else is cooking it,” he says. Giuliano has continued his mother’s work of imparting the spirit of Italian cuisine—the connection to place and to time—but adds his own unique palate and timing. As will you, when you cook from any of his five books or take one his classes (Risotto in a Venetian villa, anyone?). And so a dish develops, slowly over generations, like anything worth keeping does.
A charming and funny man, Giuliano enjoys teaching most of all. He instigated the Hazan family pilgrimage to Sarasota after hearing about the town from a neighbor on a flight. Through his classes is Sarasota, and in Italy (in both Tuscany and near Verona) and in appearances on television and in his five cookbooks, he is moved by the effect that food can have on people’s lives. Giuliano attributes his mother’s passion for mastery to her desire to spark his father’s loving enthusiasm when he tasted something he liked. A woman recently wrote to thank him because her life was so improved by his class. It was her husband who had taken the class, naturalmente.
What was the first meal you made that you were proud of?
A Bolognese lasagna I made for my class while on a weeklong school trip to a farm in upstate New York.
What was your favorite food as a kid?
What food do you love unreasonably much?
I cannot imagine how one could love any food unreasonably much.
What is the most difficult cooking technique to do well?
Frying, so that food is crisp, light, and not greasy.
What are you exploring in your kitchen now?
I am going through my mother’s notes for recipes that never were published.
What nonculinary influence inspires you?
What is your idea of a very healthy meal?
One with the freshest and best ingredients.
What is your favorite hangover meal?
Coffee and Tylenol.
What restaurant in the world are you most dying to try?
Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.
What kitchen utensil is most indispensable to you?
Tongs, they are an extension of my hand.
Whom do you most like to cook for?
Myself first, then family, then friends.
If you could do one other job, what would it be?
What is your favorite midnight snack?
What most satisfies your sweet tooth?
What would you eat at your last meal, if you could plan such a thing?
Since this is not realistic anyway, I would have my mother come back and cook for me.
What’s your favorite place to go (and what is your favorite thing to order) for
… a splurge meal?
A freshly baked croissant at home.
Fresh fruit tart.
… a late-night/after-work meal?
Spaghettini aglio e olio.
… a cup of coffee?
At home or pretty much at any bar in Italy.
… kitchen equipment?
Sur La Table.
… ice cream?
Gelateria Avalon in Bolzano.
Maison du Chocolat.
And lastly but not leastly … what is your favorite local wine or beer for the season?
Midnight Pass from Sarasota Brewing Company!