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May 28, 2020

“I’m Not Going to Pivot”

…said Gabrielle Hamilton, chef/owner of Prune restaurant in the East Village, last night on a zoom talk for the McNally Jackson bookstore. She was in conversation with the Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Cunningham while over 200 people listened in, including me. She’d recently had an article in the NYTimes Magazine about shuttering her esteemed establishment because of Covid 19. That piece, in which she describes life in the restaurant business and her recent decision, made me want to read more of her work.

I just finished her memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter and can’t wait for her next book which she’s in the process of writing now. I felt like I was shoulder to shoulder with her throughout her upbringing, education, early work life, marriage and motherhood. Her description of walking into what would become PRUNE for the first time tingled all my senses.

During her talk last night she insisted, and I believe her, that “I will always model what I want. I will lead with what I would like to receive.” She is not going to do take-out or delivery. “I’ll re-create something. It won’t be what it is. I have a thousand ideas.” As far as Prune’s closure, Hamilton said, “She’s sleeping! We’ll see what she looks like when she wakes up.”

It was a privilege to be in her audience last night. To hear a fierce, strong woman talking about what’s going on right now in this very chaotic time was reassuring, affirming and inspiring.

I believe you can get the recording (you may have to pay), but it is memorable. If you can’t, definitely read her memoir. I dog-eared the page that described her trip to Culinary Institute of America (CIA), speaking on a panel there comprised of women chefs. The inevitable question of how to get known was asked by a student. “Put your head down and do your job and let the recognition end of things sort itself out.”


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