Alex Guarnaschelli Blogs: What It Was Like to Cook for Prince
Eric Jamison/AP; Inset: Alex Guarnaschelli
Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.
Working at Butter in New York City all these years there have been a fair amount of celebrity diners. Each one is special. But this one? Unique.
I remember a few years back when I was told that Prince was going to come to the restaurant. I felt like someone was going to sprinkle purple glitter in front of the restaurant in honor of his arrival.
I remember he was even wearing a purple suit.
I went over to his table where he was dining with Maceo Parker and asked what I could make for him. He asked for vegetables. So I went into the kitchen and gathered all the vegetables that were good from the market and made little plates.
I ended up making some asparagus dressed in sherry vinaigrette with sesame seeds; batter-dipped zucchini blossoms with paprika; mixed greens with edible flowers; cherry tomatoes with oregano and balsamic; roasted potatoes with pickled onions; grilled eggplant with garlic; braised baby carrots with brown sugar and marinated beets with scallions.
I brought the food out to him and I remember after the meal he asked to talk to me. I went over to his table and he let me know that he enjoyed the food. He was everything I imagined and more. More than anything, he was an artist who appreciated food and artistry in all ways. I am now going to dust off my CD player and put on “Sign o’ the Times” and make one of his favorite dishes. He will forever be missed.
Here are recipes of a few dishes I cooked for Prince that night and I had the pleasure of cooking for him several times over the years.
Mixed Greens With Edible Flowers
This was one of his favorite salads. The edible flowers aren’t just beautiful, they add a pleasant bitter note, in some instances a cucumber note or a peppery heat and they add earthiness. Use anything – chive flowers, radish flowers, nasturtiums, Borage, jump-ups. Like Prince’s music, the flowers add that unexpected touch.
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Tiny pinch sugar
2 cups arugula leaves
¼ cup picked parsley leaves
¼ cup picked (small) basil leaves
Edible flowers (optional)
Sprinkle of poppy seeds
1. Make the vinaigrette: In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
2. Assemble the salad: Toss arugula, parsley and basil in a medium bowl with the dressing. Add the poppy seeds. Serve on a platter and top with the flowers. Serve immediately.
Roasted Beet and Ginger Salad
He seemed to really love mustard and this dish really packs that mustardy punch.
2–2 ½ lb. beets
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
3-4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1. Cook the beets: Using a pot large enough to hold all of the beets, fill it ¾ with cold water and add the beets with a generous pinch of sugar and salt. When the beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, drain the water and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes. Peel them by wiping the skin off with a kitchen towel. Trim the tough parts of the tops and bottoms off with a small knife and cut each beet into sections like pieces of an orange.
2. Make the vinaigrette and serve the beets: In a medium bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, balsamic, brown sugar and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the olive oil and ginger. Taste for seasoning. Toss the beets with the vinaigrette and allow the beets to marinate in these ingredients for at least 20 minutes. Serve on a platter.