woolever_big.jpgThe Basics
Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
I just turned 30. I moved here from upstate New York, where I was born (Saratoga Springs, NY), raised (Chittenango, NY), and went to college (Cornell Univeristy, Ithaca, NY). I live in what I guess is the East Village. East of Avenue C, which is also called "Loisaida Avenue." I've been in the same building for close to 8 years, the same apartment for close to 7. It's cheap and a good size, with a great roof. I can't complain, although I often do.

Three for Food
1. What do you think of restaurant reviews that attempt to emulsify human emotions with food attributes?
Like, "the chicken wings with oyster mint pesto will drain your bank account, fuck your sister and make you love them"? I don't know. I make [a small] part of my living writing about food, and yet sometimes I think there is nothing more boring than reading about a meal that I can't afford. Or even one that I can afford. There's probably as much bad, cliched writing in food journalism as in sports journalism. It can get pretty precious, but there is always going to be an audience for precious. They're the people who buy the magazine subscriptions and patronize the advertisers and fill the restaurants, and it's easy to be a snob about the whole gig, but people who call themselves 'foodies' (dumbest term ever) are the reason that I occasionally get paid for my writing, and they don't want to read 'it tasted good.'

2. What can you tell us about the kind of chef who makes the jump to television cooking shows and your thoughts on the celebrity chef culture in general?
Chefs and cooks work their asses off. It's hard, dirty, sweaty work, and most people would be shocked to know how little an average line cook is paid. Sure, it can be fun, and for a certain kind of person the work is the reward, but I think of all the different non-actor types that make it to television, chefs probably deserve the money and metaphorical blowjobs more than, say, some of the nitwits that show up on reality television or Fox News. I don't know if there's a 'kind' of chef that makes that leap. Some chefs are great speakers and very at ease in front of audiences or a camera; some are a complete disaster and work in kitchens because they don't have to face the public. Thomas Keller (who is not on television as far as I know, but who just opened a massive restaurant in the Time Warner Center) and Rocco DiSpirito were both quoted in separate publications within the past nine months saying something to the effect of, "it's not selling out, it's cashing in." I imagine that it must be very tempting to go from living in the punishing, sweaty, underappreciated world of the anonymous restaurant chef to getting your ass kissed, your bank account stuffed with loot, and some intern doing all the chopping and dishwashing while you make a bunch of Carmela Soprano's friends cream their jeans over your tiramisu demonstration. And it's not just the chefs that benefit from celebrity chef culture - there are lots of jobs associated with the whole business.

3. Please use as much space as needed to air the dirty dishes of your famous clients.
I worked for a family that was obsessed with saving time, so I had to put all of their pre-cut vegetables and fruits into non-Ziploc plastic bags, because opening and re-sealing the zip strip thingy apparently took too much time. One time I had to have fat-free whipped cream tested at a food lab, because the clients noticed that they were gaining weight after eating a few cans of the stuff, straight, as a late-night dessert. Turns out the stuff is only fat-free in the recommended serving size, which is pretty much never "the whole fucking can." I think the two most remarkable traits I've encountered in clients are extreme thrift and extreme wastefulness. Like people who fill their apartments with antiques and furniture and art and send their kids to private schools and have several vacation homes and expensive cars, and then go out of their way to buy the most marked-down, nasty, reeking of ammonia fish in Chinatown, and the tomatoes that are half-rotten but are only 50 cents per pound. On the other end, there's the lady who, at the last minute, demands a lobster dinner for 20 in her home - the lobsters end up being about $50 apiece - and then changes her mind and takes everyone out to dinner, and insists that the lobsters be thrown away. Not cooked and made into salad, not given to the staff - thrown in the garbage.

Proust-Krucoff Questionnaire
Please share a personal (and hopefully interesting) NYC taxi story.
I used to work on the Upper West Side, and would often get lazy about taking the subway home, even though a cab back to the East Village cost about $14. One summer evening I hailed a cab and the driver, a young-ish guy, asked me if I wanted to ride around with him, and then he'd take me home for free. I don't know what set of criteria I used to determine that this guy wouldn't kill or molest me, but I took the risk and got into the front seat and rode around with him for about 2 hours. It was during the time that all the stuff about Clinton and Lewinsky was really heating up, and so we listened to testimony and press conferences on the radio. We took someone from the west side to Gracie Mansion, and then picked up a young lady who was going downtown to give a private massage in someone's home. I remember the driver asking me if I was married, and I lied and said yes, which always seems to be the right answer in that situation. He was polite and didn't touch me, although he did ask me out just before dropping me off, even though I insisted that my "husband" wouldn't really dig that.

Time travel question: What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
People are always talking about how Alphabet City was the center of the guns and crack boom of the late 80's. I'd like to see that for myself, although I'd want to be invisible or somehow impervious to the obvious dangers. I think about that every weekend, when Avenue C is crawling with young, attractive, rich types. Ten years ago, the idea of a German beer hall on Avenue C would have been preposterous.

9pm, Wednesday - what are you doing?
Eating dinner in the living room of the apartment I share with my boyfriend. Whining about having "so much work to do" while drinking a bottle of red wine and doing Google searches for 'geriatric limbless porn' or dudes I fooled around with in high school.

What's your New York motto?
"Please back the fuck out of my personal space."

Best celebrity sighting in New York, or personal experience with one if you're that type.
Four years ago I had dinner at Lotus, because I was writing about it for a terrible, short-lived food magazine called "Foodie." They folded right after I filed the story, and I never got paid or reimbursed for the eight or so dinners I'd shelled out for in the course of my 'research.' Anyway, Donald Trump and Melania Knauss were a few tables away. You've got to give them big points for consistency - their behavior was so exactly what you'd expect that they almost seemed like a hologram projection. Even four years ago Trump's hair was insane - I think it had its own dinner and a bottle of champagne. The girlfriend didn't even pretend to eat. [Incidentally, my favorite part of the "Apprentice" finale was Melania pretending to 'rock out' to Jessica Simpson's performance in Atlantic City.] Trump scowled the whole time. You get the picture. I think we're all a little tired of Donald, although I have to say I thought he was pretty genius on Saturday Night Live - or at least, he played along well with the genius things that were written for him.

Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
I'd just gotten dumped by someone I liked, couldn't get any money out of the ATM because it only had twenties and I had $17 in my checking account, I'd just gotten fired from my first job out of cooking school, and my body (including the face) was covered with mysterious itchy pink welts which turned out to be bites from the bedbugs that had infested my mattress.

What's the most expensive thing in your wardrobe?
A Bragard chef coat.

Where do you summer?
The same place where I autumn, winter, and spring - Manhattan. I hate the hot weather, but I don't realistically see a point in my future where I'm financially able to leave New York for more than a few weeks at a time. I have close friends who grew up in Long Beach, and the family still has the house, which is 2 blocks from the beach, so I try to go there as much as possible. I never even went to camp as a kid, save for one miserable week which coincided with me getting my period for the first time. I hate groups, I hate games, and as a 12-year old my idea of a perfect summer afternoon was watching Three's Company re-runs, making prank phone calls (in the idyllic pre-caller ID days) and eating diabetes-inducing amounts of ice cream.

What was your best dining experience in NYC?
Probably my first "fancy" dinner, about 7 years ago, at Daniel, was the best because I hadn't gone to cooking school or started to write about food yet, and I was just blown away by every single element of the experience, and I just took it as it came, and was so grateful for it.

What happened the last time you went to L.A.?
I spilled a glass of champagne on a comedian's wife. I was working and was so, so exhausted and miserable. It was the weekend Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez from TLC died. I ate a lot of Cobb salad and heard nasty gossip about Courtney Love.

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
That fucking ice cream truck song. The same little ditty that plays in every roving ice cream truck in the five boroughs. I don't know who's in charge of that, but I would make a law that every truck has to have a different song, and none of them can be *that* song. I have a fantasy involving eggs and the ice cream truck, although I know the guy who's driving the truck did not write the song, and he probably hates it as much as I do.

The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
If it's anything like 9/11, when I thought that maybe the world *was* ending, I'll be smoking tons of pot, drinking a bottle of Crown Royal, crying, hanging out with the cat and watching TV. So lame, but the logistics of meeting up with friends and family for a big perfect blowout celebration become infinitely more complicated when the phone doesn't work and the streets are closed.


Laurie's work has appeared in New York Times, Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York Post, Wine Enthusiast, Paper, Time Out New York, Channels, booksense.com, e-luxury.com (editorial); Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, James Beard Foundation Calendar (advertorial); Rough Guide to New York Restaurants (contributor). She recently edited and tested recipes for chef/author Anthony Bourdain and TV host/author Christopher Lowell.