When we first met Robert Rosenthal he was a successful advertising exec who cooked for his family and did stand-up on the side. As a columnist for Cookie, he charmed us with clever recipes he had developed for his two daughters–namely, an “Oatmeal Brulee,” which as its names suggests, involves caramelizing the tops of oatmeal in the broiler. When he ditched the day job to pursue food and comedy full-time, he became our hero. Momfilter caught up with him recently.
Can you give us a little background on yourself (where you live, kids ages/names, etc)…and how you came to be Short Order Dad? Manhattan resident. I see the hospital where I was born from my bedroom window. Kids: Ariana, age 15 Veronica, age 12. Wife in publishing, ageless.
During a career in international advertising I presented creative ideas around the world, accumulating 2.5 million frequent flier miles and overeating at over 2,700 restaurants on six continents. At night, I performed my stand up routine in NYC’s comedy clubs and earned a professional degree from the Institute of Culinary Education. As the private chef to my wife and kids, Short Order Dad was born when I blended my professional pursuits and passions together to encourage parents to have fun making food.
What are your early memories of food? I’ve had a love affair with food since I was breast-fed. My grandfather had a butcher shop from which he brought us meat every single week. As soon as he arrived we opened up the brown butcher paper that held the chopped meat, scooped out two-fingers worth, sprinkled with salt and enjoyed. So I was eating steak tartare by age 2. Some people have vivid memories of their first sexual experience; I’ll never forget my first piece…of pizza.
Who is your favorite chef, or who would you say is your biggest inspiration? THE GALLOPING GOURMET. His name is Graham Kerr and I grew up watching his TV show religiously. He brought unbridled joy, entertainment value and charisma to the screen as he cooked incredible French cuisine and consumed an entire bottle of wine in the process. As a 10-year old, I even replicated his “crepe des fruits de la mer”, a seafood crepe in a white wine sauce. (I’m told it was very good, but it was way too sophisticated for my palate at the the time.) He was the reason I got a professional cooking degree. That said, Jacques Pepin is the single greatest cooking instructor in the history of television. And I wish I was able to sit down once again to one of my grandmother’s homemade meals.
What’s the recipe you are asked for the most? I’m often asked for my beer braised brisket of beef, ancho chili shrimp quesadilla and my 2-ingredient sauccison en croute, otherwise known as pigs in blankets.
What is your wife’s favorite dish? Your kids? My wife likes grilled, seared fish that I’ll often place into a wrap with a few other accompaniments such as ripe avocado, cilantro and fresh lime juice or mango chutney, arugula and hot sauce. I try to create tastes and textures that excite. My kids go for meat sauce over pasta, grilled chicken with interesting herbs and couscous, steak, artichokes with garlic butter and crispy roasted potato “fries.” Since we all love pizza, we often make our own and everyone gets to customize a section with their favorite topping. My wife and I go for seafood on ours.
When you travel, is researching where you’ll eat a big part of the planning? Are you kidding? It’s the biggest part. Others can handle the sightseeing, entertainment and shopping, I do due diligence on restaurants, food markets and exercise.
What’s in the breakfast rotation? Egg whites with quick-sauteed onions and last night’s veggies. Oatmeal with craisins and almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon. Fresh fruits cut up with Milton’s multigrain toast and some hard cheese. Toast with almond butter and crispy turkey bacon. Elio’s pizza.
What’s the soundtrack in the kitchen? Al Green, Foo Fighters, The Hives, Regina Spektor, Sheryl Crow, Modern Jazz Quartet, Talib Kweli, Gilberto Gil, Allman Brothers, Raconteurs, Green Day, Fatboy Slim, Citizen Cope, Leonard Cohen, Lykke LI, Massive Attack, Traffic, Prince
Any tips for the non cooking moms and dads out there? If you just a learn a couple of basic cooking concepts, it’s easy to make great tasting food. And it’s always worth doing. Another key is to get the best ingredients you can and don’t mess ’em up too much.
What’s your proudest moment in parenting? I honestly can’t isolate one; they make me proud every day.
And what do you feel you could be better at? I could be better at everything I do. I’d love to be better at playing drums.
What three people would you like to share a meal with? George Carlin, Winston Churchill and Charlize Theron.