I got into cooking by accident. I was fresh out of high school when 9/11 happened. I wanted to do something for my country so I went down to my local recruiting station. I found out there was a program in the Navy that specialized in cooking and barracks management. I thought I would join the Navy and learn about hotel management, but needless to say, that didn’t happen. What happened was that a few months later I was on a big destroyer peeling 30 cases of potatoes. I wasn’t happy. I kept calling home and telling my mom I didn’t want to do this. But my mom told me to find the art in the food.
I took my mom’s advice and started thinking about the plate as a canvas. I was still cooking from ridiculous recipes that have been in the Navy for 100 years, where everything is from a can or frozen, but I started to read books and watch Bobby Flay on the Food Network. Pretty soon I was promoted to cooking for the [officers’] wardroom.
Toward the end of my tour I did an externship at the Hotel del Coronado. I wasn’t used to working only eight hours a day, so one day after work, I went downstairs to the Prince of Wales kitchen and jumped in the line to help out. At the end of my externship, I was offered a job there as soon as I was out of the Navy. Since then I worked at quite a few San Diego restaurants and that’s been a fun ride.
I cook at home, too, because I have two daughters under the age of seven. We get our kids in the kitchen. First we go to the grocery store; they’re at the age of the oohs and ahhs at all the colors and shapes of the produce. I do it as a field trip for art and then we go home and create. Not knowing what I am going to cook for the day gets me excited. It could be pasta or it could be fish liver pâté.
- 6–8 servings
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 handful fresh flat-leaf
- parsley, chopped
HOW TO DO IT
Cook the pasta a couple of minutes shy of the package directions so that the pasta is tender but firm or al dente. If using homemade pasta, cook for 30 seconds. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce. Drain the pasta well, reserving a half-cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if it is too thick.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and sauté for about three minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and sauté for less than 1 minute to soften.
Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt.
Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.