Baron Ambrosia: An interview with a foodie
Baron Ambrosia is the host of the new cooking show on the Cooking Channel, The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia. The alter-ego of Justin Fornal, Baron is known for his flamboyant personality and his love to discover interesting ethnic cuisines. Before making a show for a national audience, Baron hosted a show, “Bronx Flavor”, which closely examined the “diverse culinary tapestry” as he says, of the New York Borough. Now that he’s taking his passion of food outside New York, he’s got plenty to share about interesting eats across America.
Are there any particular cities that you found the most interesting, or you liked the best when it comes to cusines?
Everything was really cool. If you’re on the ground, doing research, you get so into wherever you are. You’re eating and sleeping that location. One thing that was really exciting was to find a large Samoan community in long beach, California. It’s so completely authentic and the food that everyone was eating. And the men were wearing the lava lavas and the beads. Obviously you’re in greater Los Angeles. But when you’re inside, you get the feeling that you’re in Samoa. It’s really incredible to have those things happening in our country, and they are right around the corner and people just drive right past and some people go for the obvious choice. There are places that are just waiting to be discovered.
How did you first get into discovering interesting cuisines?
It was obsession. If there was something I hadn’t eaten, or food I hadn’t had before; I got overwhelmed with a feverish obsession to get there. When I moved to the Bronx- all these new places- I would go out. Even if I had already eaten, I would stop and get menus, like people read the newspaper. I would get menus and business cards, and it was just for myself. It was just because I truly loved doing it. When we started the show, I could justify spending money, and I could justify spending time, digging through restaurants and menus, looking at recipes.
How did you develop the persona of Baron Ambrosia?
It was something where a few friends approached me about making a show, writing it, and hosting it. And I wasn’t too into it; I’m a filmmaker, a writer. I was very uncomfortable with the idea of being a talking head. This is how I dress, this is who I am, I’m not putting on an act for a camera. But I thought, “Well, what if I did turn it into a kind of a character?” And in that regard, it wouldn’t be a documentary series; it would be like a movie. That’s where the Baron came out of; He was the quintessential outsider. Wherever he goes, he’s this individual who’s on the outside looking in. He’ll always throw himself into any experience. And I wanted that to be a way to encourage people to embrace life a little more. Get out of your comfort zone, and experience life in a more passionate way.
And do you think food is the best way to do that?
I think food is the most permeable way of entry. It’s a great way to meet people. People are very proud of their food and they want you sit down, to taste it. It’s a shared experience. “Let’s sit down; this dish that my family has been making for generations. I want you to experience that; I want you to appreciate that.” You’d be surprised how genuine people are when you show respect for their cuisine.
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