Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Dave Lieberman is trying to convince me to taste pork. Just once. “I love pork. It’s so distinctive,” he says. “You should try it just to try it. It wouldn’t qualify as really eating it if it was for a learning purposes.” If ever there were a person who could coax me into breaking a thirty-year tradition, it would be the charming, boyish twenty-seven year old cook sitting across from me. Practically everything Dave says to me sounds like it is all within my best interests. “Have it once and you won’t have to ever have it again. It would be worth it.” And while I appreciate his dispensation, as Jules Winnfield once said, “I just don’t dig on swine.” So we move on.

What are your thoughts on kugel, I ask?
“Kugel isn’t serious dining,” he says. “I consider it more of a buffet food.” At this exact moment, I could swear that I hear the sudden collective thud of potato peelers dropping everywhere in disappointment. But this is not to say that Dave Lieberman is not a good Jewish boy. So what if he swears by pig? So what if he later tells me that he wouldn’t serve Gefilte fish as an appetizer (“I would start with a poached salmon perhaps.”)? After all, the self-proclaimed “casual” and “rustic” cook dedicated his first cookbook Young & Hungry to his mother ("To Mom, for leaving the cooking to the men in the family") and surely that gives anyone carte blanche to even diss a brisket or two.

But truthfully, Dave doesn’t seem like the dissing type. In fact, his process seems to revolve around accessibility, unpretention, and hospitality. In his upcoming cookbook Dave’s Dinner, A Fresh Approach to Home Cooked Meals, Dave writes in the introduction, “These recipes [aren’t] extreme or avant-garde; they are simply good, tasty, streamlined recipes to make food others enjoy eating.” And while skimming through his second book, Dave’s palatable recipes, like mini potato latkes with apple-pear chutney, chili-grilled salmon with cucumber-mango salsa, or peach corn bread trifle practically make themselves. Well, okay, they’re not that easy.

Although, it should be noted that the rising food savant didn’t get his start in a snooty culinary institution but rather at Yale University where he would entertain his friends with barbecues and casual dinners. It was then that he first discovered the rewarding joy of cooking. “I loved cooking because it was bringing people together. I enjoy the whole experience of hosting.” Eventually friends convinced Dave to host his own cooking show for a local access television channel which soon thereafter developed a devoted following. At the time, journalist Amanda Hesser was working on her Masters at Yale and wrote a New York Times article on campus food, which featured Dave prominently throughout the item. This is when the Food Channel came calling.

Realizing his untapped talent and genial approachability, the cable channel gave Dave two outlets for his disarming casualness: Good Deal with Dave Lieberman, a show devoted to keeping things quick, easy and inexpensive and Eat This with Dave Lieberman, a first-of-its-kind Food Network online series of five minute investigations into eclectic food trends (the following week, Dave is taping three respective segments for the series on the Fresh Direct warehouse, a vineyard in Arizona, and ethnic barbecuing).

Presumably, Lieberman must have a lot of female fans because of his good looks and practical methodology. In fact, People magazine named Dave one of last year’s “50 Hottest Bachelors” and well, I’m told that kinda thing will get you a few digits. Dave smirks when I broach the topic. “I don’t cook for dates,” Dave wants you to know this upfront. “I do so much of it during the day that I’m not entirely interested in doing it at night.”

With a new season of Eat This in development and the indispensable Dave’s Dinners, his career is only pre-heating (for those that only do takeout, pre-heating is a prepertory stage). “I’m very confident in my cooking ability” Dave says. “And I’m very thankful that I get to do it for a living.”

And when can we expect a Kosher-style cookbook? “One day,” he says. “I haven’t ruled it out. Even though it’ll be hard to leave some foods out.”
Like pork, I ask?
“Yeah. Like pork.”


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