Who is Baron Ambrosia? That’s what many folks are wondering as his new series, The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia, premieres this Friday at 10 ET.
His background is not exactly… straightforward. So we caught up with Baron and asked a few questions to get a better picture.
Cooking Channel: Baron, how did you get started chasing after exotic foods?
It started out on a very primal level. For most children, their first way of exploring the world is through taste, whether it is a poisonous berry, an action figure or a stick of cherry ChapStick. The question “what is this?” can usually be answered by “let me taste it and find out.” I guess in that sense, I have had a failure to launch.
COOK: Can you tell us more about cà cuõng? How did you hear about it and why is it the world’s most expensive condiment?
Cà cuõng is a pheromone produced by lethocerus indicus (the giant water bug). The liquid is produced by males to attract females. It has been part of Vietnamese cuisine for hundreds of years. Due to the near extinction of the bugs in Northern Vietnam and the incredible amount of labor involved in extracting the minuscule amount of liquid, true Cà cuõng is considered the world’s rarest condiment. A few drops in some chilled vodka makes for one hell of a martini.
COOK: What other places have your culinary interests taken you?
There are many ports of culinary pleasure I have had the honor to visit. Monrovia, Liberia is one of my favorite cities. Few feelings can compare to a sultry night on Broad Street, burying one’s face in a bowl of turbaghee. In terms of Arabian intrigue the old city of Sana’a is second to none. Anything can happen in a city where every man worth his weight in salt wears a jambiya dagger and most carry a Kalashnikov. I can usually be found in the corner of the qat market sipping a sizzling bowl of silta.
My true sister city to the Bronx however is Port Au Prince, Haiti. Until you dance through the street at midnight with a rara parade, a bottle of klerin, and a container of griot with pikliz you really don’t know what Haiti is all about.
COOK: Can you shed any light on your background? How did you acquire your Baron title?
What began in a land beyond a dark forest has been my ongoing tale of tragedy and triumph. Oceans of adventure and eons of flavor have left my body a ravaged roadmap of scars yet left my heart burning alive with passion. The title of Baron carries a hefty responsibility; it is far more than sipping rare spirits in plush parlors. One must be ready and willing to push your body to the absolute limits to discover the highest levels of both gastronomic and physical pleasure all in the name of culinary consciousness. Through the very gates of hell I shall enter with infinitesimal chances of emerging back to the sun, if the research demands it.
COOK: Is that a chandelier in the back of your car?
The P-Rex is not simply a pleasure craft, it is armed with many highly lethal accoutrements, for when duty calls. With a hidden safety release, the chandelier and chain can be detached from the car and used as a battle flail. On quieter nights the chandelier provides soothing lavender luminescence for a slow soar down the Grand Concourse with a Bronx Empress.
COOK: What is The Explorer’s Club and how did you become a member?
The Explorer’s Club was founded in 1904 and continues to be at the forefront of scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space. Members’ accomplishments have included being: first to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, as well as first to the surface of the moon. To be elected and selected to be amongst these men and women of such diligence is both inspiring and humbling. I hope in time I may prove my worth to their mighty legion.
COOK: How will the new show allow you to further pursue your interests?
I have spent many years digging my teeth into every inch of the Kingdom of the Bronx. It was strange to realize that I have seen more of the rest of the world than I have of my adopted home of America. I am thrilled to dig deep to uncover the flavors that await from sea to shining sea. No stone shall go unturned.
And now, a few questions from fans.
Violet Mathews: What’s with all the purple?
Violet I think a more important question is what’s with all the gray around us? I see so many veiling their inner fire in shrouds of mediocrity. If we accept the false fashion etiquette we have been dealt we will never know the burning euphoria of life’s bacchanalia. We must take to the streets in the imperial hue of passion and feel the exaltation in celebrating its divinity. Purple powers activate!
Lacee Brandon: What is the first unique thing you cooked?
I recall in the days of my youth, childhood friend Shifty Pellegrino and I would compete to see who could concoct a more sensuous reduction sauce. In our adolescent outrageousness we would combine unconventional ingredients in attempts to make the world’s most powerful aphrodisiac. The competition went on for years. Did we ever find the sorcerer’s stone? That is a secret I will take to my grave.
Violet Benny: Where have you had the best pizza in your life and where did you have the worst? I dare you to name and fame and name and shame.
Violet, pizza has become as relative a term as hamburger. With so many interpretations I think it would be impossible to declare one variety the say all, be all, end all. However, in terms of classic thin-crust pizza, I have spent much time in New Haven, Connecticut. Frank Pepe’s is a place I have always returned thanks to their oblong, paper-thin, charred pies covered in sweet briny littleneck clams, all washed down with a frosty Foxon Park White Birch Beer. In my mind, does the pizza please a nostalgic hunger as much as a culinary one? Perhaps.
The worst pizza…well I won’t say the city and I don’t remember the name of the offender. My PTSD allows me to recall arriving early to a wedding and being on the verge of starvation. I wandered into a neighborhood pizza parlor and order a large mozzarella topped pie. What I was presented with was a really ghastly scene. It was like a giant piece of crumbling white bread submerged in ketchup water. Atop the pool sat a slippery flotilla of cheese-flavored rubber. The chef was smoking a cigarette out front with bleeding lips and a wet cough. Over the years I have been on fire twice, stuck beneath the ice, buried alive, and had several guns pointed in my face. This was by far a much scarier experience.
Judy Haley: Where did you get that hairdo?
Judy you will witness my locks formulating many a manifestation. The architect of this particular ‘did’ was a salacious Sri Lankan librarian named Upeksha.
Lisa Hightower Austin: What is your favorite go-to meal?
Lisa, there are so many dishes that play key roles in my repertoire. One is Yukhwae (육회) a Korean dish of chilled raw beef cut into noodle-thin strips. The mountain of red flesh is sprinkled with sea salt and sesame oil. It is then tossed with slices of Asian pear and a raw egg. Many of my most desired dishes are rich, spicy and quite heavy (i.e., goat nachos, Liberian palm butter, green curried duck). Yukhwae, on the other hand, is light, protein packed and empowering. It is the perfect dish to eat before a night of tango, street fighting or carnal intrigue.
Cathy Hornberger: Love the show! Where can you find the best Mexican in the Bronx?
Thanks Cathy. The Bronx has a cornucopia of exquisite Mexican eateries, from Coqui Mexicano to Xochimilco. An evening at Xochimilco starts out innocently enough with two Micheladas and a plate of chilaquiles rojos buried under a mound of juicy-wet barbacoa. Next thing you know the lights dim and I’m slow dancing between a “cemita de milanesa” and a “huitlacoche quesadilla” to El Debarge’s unplugged album.
Alan Moskowitz: Is it true, that there exist secret DNA results, proving that, foppish and reclusive actor, Johnny Depp, is your twin, from whom you were separated at birth, and that you both share the same fleur-de-lis shaped birthmark?
Half of that information is nothing more than a vicious lie.
Tune into the premiere of The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia tonight at 10 ET.