Action Bronson can be so moved by food that it leaves him at a loss for words — except the most profane.
"[Sometimes] there are no words to describe what you just ate," the chef-turned-rapper writes in his new cookbook, out last month. "You just have to curse and be vulgar and violent."
It's with new authorial credentials that the host of Vice's "F---, That's Delicious" returns to the New York City Wine and Food Festival on Oct. 13 to present the "Best of Brooklyn," a tasting event featuring some of the borough's hottest chefs and restaurants.
But Bronson's annotated guide to eating well has been years in the making: His reflections in "F---, That's Delicious" start with the baking his Albanian grandmother did in his family's two-bedroom apartment in Fresh Meadows.
He recounts how in the intervening years, he studied at culinary school at the Art Institute of New York in Manhattan, worked at his father's restaurant in Forest Hills, cooked for the Mets at Citi Field, recorded rhymes about his skills plating melon and prosciutto, and dined around the world on his own Vice web series.
The rapper talked to amNewYork about his book, the Queens food scene, and his recommendations for cooking at home:
In his introduction to "F---, That's Delicious," your friend, chef Mario Batali calls the book “one hell of a freshman thesis.” What’s the main thing you want readers to take away from it?
I want people to be inspired. I want them to laugh. I want them to cry. I want them to have some sort of feeling. I feel that food is very approachable when you hear it from someone that you can relate to. It’s not like it’s f---ing rocket science over here, you know. It’s just ingredients, it’s things that grow.
You live in Queens and grew up going to places like Eddie’s Sweet Shop, Utopia Bagels, Jamaican Flavors and Grill Point, but you’re hosting an event called the “Best of Brooklyn." Which borough has the better food scene: Queens or Brooklyn?
I love Brooklyn, but Queens is my home. I know more of Queens. I know that there’s unbelievable places that are untapped in Queens. So, I wish I was hosting a "Best of Queens," but I feel like that’s the next step. I don’t know why no one shows respect to Queens. But in culinary, Queens is the motherf---ing place.
Let’s say you had one day to take someone on a tour of your favorite spots to eat in Queens, guiding them from breakfast through dinner. Where would you go?
To begin, I’d go to Amy’s Deli, Kissena Boulevard at 71st Ave., [and get] egg and cheese on a roll, a typical New York sandwich, with salt, pepper, and ketchup.
Then, for lunch, I would have to say Grill Point, which is right on Main Street and Jewel Avenue — I’ll be keeping it in the neighborhood. Get a falafel, one of the best in the absolute world, or some shawarma, which is turkey mixed with lamb or baby chicken. It gets crazy in this place.
For dinner, at 7 p.m., Don Peppe, an incredible Italian-American place, family-style, right by the Aqueduct Racetrack and South Ozone Park. I mean, it’s just you feel like you’re in a mobster movie.
It’s a phenomenal feeling and the food is incredible. That’s a perfect day right there, a trifecta.
A lot of food culture in New York is about eating out, rather than making food at home—partly because we all have such small kitchens. What’s one cooking technique that you learned during your time in culinary school and in restaurant kitchens that you think everyone should know (and that might encourage people to prepare their own food more often)?
Hmm, I don’t think it’s the one technique that I learned from school. I would say it’s the George Foreman grill.
The George Foreman grill makes everything approachable. It’s the single greatest invention ever made. It rivals the iPhone in my opinion.
In your new book, you talk about the sandwiches you like to order in New York City bodegas, or delis. What’d you make of the news that a tech startup called Bodega wants to replace mom-and-pop-run corner stores with five-foot-wide, app-controlled pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items?
Uh, taking anything or taking jobs away from human beings and putting them in the hands of computers pisses me off. Well, it should piss everyone off.
I like the human touch. I like the human feel. I like the human conversation. I like to talk to somebody. I like to see who’s making my s---, you know what I mean? I like to see Ock put the glove on, I like to see Ock take the glove off. I like different things. I like to be stimulated in several different ways.
So no, I do not like the computerized Bodega.
If you could have all your fans try something that your Albanian nonna cooks, what would it be and why?
It would definitely be the cheese börek, or the spinach börek. This is something that everyone can relate to. It’s just dough baked harmoniously together. It’s just the simplest of ingredients made into absolute magic and it translates through every motherf---ing culture.
Food has always been a big part of your rhymes, but it’s not quite as prominent a theme in your latest album, “Blue Chips 7000.” Was that intentional? Do you feel like there’s less pressure to combine your music and your passion for food now that more people know about your background in cooking and watch your Vice show?
Well, you’ve got to just say what’s in your heart, and I don’t know, I guess I just felt a different pattern this way. I just say what I feel. There’s really no rhyme or reason to me not mentioning food or this or that. I’m sure I’ve mentioned some sort of food. But it’s like using crutches, you can’t always use or training wheels. You have to show growth and start riding that bike and doing wheelies.
"Best of Brooklyn," presented by MUNCHIES and hosted by Action Bronson, takes place Friday, Oct. 13, at Industria Williamsburg. The event is currently sold out.