Somewhere between the creepy staginess of the Iron Chef and the even creepier attraction to/revulsion toward Emeril, there lies a level of culinary cool. Nigella Lawson has it. In her Sept. 17 cooking column in The New York Times, she describes fruit as “luscious” and pudding as “nirvana,” and she declares, “I like a little bit of danger in the kitchen.” Jamie Oliver has it, what with those ruffly lips and adorable Brit diction. And Rocco DiSpirito. Well, I’m not sure if he has it, but he scored a reality show on NBC and has hoards of lusty women rushing to his newest restaurant.
But the kitchen may get a little hotter with the addition of a new chef — one who is young, ambitious, and the proud carrier of a Yale degree. Dave Lieberman ’03, is set to arrive on the gastronomic scene — with a book deal, a show in the works, and public appearances arranged.
Yalies may remember Lieberman, a political science major, as the host of “Campus Cuisine,” a 30-minute public television show that centered around social events. This very concept is what Lieberman hopes to offer to the world of culinary media, targeting the under-30 demographic, with menus for barbeques, happy hours and dates. His first book will be published by Hyperion, the publisher of all three aforementioned celebrity chefs, and is expected to come out next August.
“I think social situations are the best reason to get in the kitchen,” Lieberman said. “I know it’s a big world, and there’s only so much I can do, but if I can get a few people excited about good food, that’ll be very rewarding.”
Each day, Lieberman said he is “keeping the ball rolling” by testing hundreds of recipes for his December deadline and meeting with his literary and broadcast agents. He is tentatively scheduled to appear on Barbara Walters’ daytime talk show “The View” and is currently trying to develop a show with Optomen, the former production company of Jamie Oliver.
“We’re going for the younger angle, like the young person in the big city,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman’s good luck came shortly after The New York Times ran a story on college cuisine on the front page of its dining section. Soon after, he was contacted by book publishers, MTV, David Letterman and Jay Leno. And so from only six 30-minute public-access cooking shows and a little newspaper called The New York Times, Lieberman abandoned his postgraduate plans of taking a year off to travel cross-country.
Many of these initial opportunities fell through, but Lieberman has still kept afloat on what he calls a “good opportunity” and a “positive outlook.” He wrote an article for Gourmet Magazine’s food and television issue and even provided a recipe for “Dave’s Marinated Salmon” (using soy sauce, hoisin sauce, scallion, ginger and garlic). The editor, Ruth Reichl, once one of the most feared New York Times restaurant critics, wrote of Lieberman, “You can watch the star machinery shift into high gear as it welcomes the next young television chef.” (Lieberman’s response: “Yeah, all right — if she says so.”)
Sondra Haller, associate master of Jonathan Edwards College, still keeps in contact with Lieberman and fondly remembers the food he cooked at house parties and Mellon dinners when he was a resident in the college.
“He is very knowledgeable and resourceful,” Haller said. “I have no doubt he will be successful.”
Barbara Goddard, Jonathan Edwards’ assistant to the master, gleefully remembers how Lieberman taught her to make hamburgers.
Yet despite the glossy lifestyle that is New York publishing, Lieberman said he still feels fortunate to have gotten this far, and remains cautious. He readily admits that he must prove himself before anything can happen.
“It’s all very speculative at this point,” Lieberman said. “I’m anxious to make it the best it can be.”
I’m not sure if Dave Lieberman is cool or not. He didn’t have any wacky exclamations, and he didn’t capture the seduction that Nigella Lawson embodied when she admitted to eating mangoes in the bathtub. But then again, while it may seem that the world doesn’t need one more celebrity chef — does it really need another political science major from Yale?