Dr. Foodle is a renowned American chef most commonly known for his prolific usage of mustard (“Such a humble thing, a mustard seed,” he’s known to say, “but with such vast range of character!”). Born legendarily in the back of a food truck in Queens, Dr. Foodle now helms an international restaurant group that began with his two most famous and highly acclaimed restaurants, Mustard and Dijon View. The son of Italian and Russian restaurateurs, Dr. Foodle is married to the French wine heiress Claire Foodle, so he considers himself a citizen of the world, although his truest allegiance is to the New York Yankees. He is also the father to twin sons, Barley and Rye, known to many as the whiskey-tasting duo of Instagram celebrity.
Dr. Foodle was educated at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before becoming the mentee of famed Texas chef Rex Jones. After he and Claire returned to New York, they opened Mustard, the first in a collection of over twenty eateries worldwide that range in aesthetics from walk-up, street casual to Michelin-starred extravagance. Dr. Foodle is often associated with his very full-bodied moustache and near-fanatic love of Bob Dylan.
Dr. Foodle was born in the summer of 1967 in the back of a food truck in Queens – long before men with moustaches were found so habitually in the back of food trucks. Historically, that summer is often remembered as “The Summer of Love,” and while there was plenty of love rocking the food truck on that sweltering summer night, there was also a lot of cursing – and mustard. Dr. Foodle’s poor, frenzied father – at his childbearing wife’s demands for something to “SQUEEZE NOW” – fatefully handed her the first thing he saw, which turned out to be a bottle of mustard. So, when a tiny Dr. Foodle was finally delivered to his mother’s arms, there on his upper lip was the distinct smear of a mustard moustache. Was it an indication of events to come? Was it a vision of the culinary empire Dr. Foodle would one day rule with the flick of an eggbeater and the pound of a rolling pin? Who could say? But that night, in a distant corner of the Yankees Stadium parking lot, a brand new family in a hot dog food truck heard Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run. The crowd went wild, and it seemed like a beacon of great things on the horizon.
Dr. Foodle’s obsession with Bob Dylan began when he was ten years old, living in Brooklyn with his mother, Olga (who was Russian), and his father, Jon Piero (Italian), who had just moved over from Queens to help Olga’s family with their restaurant. Because little Dr. Foodle was new in the neighborhood, he didn’t have many friends to play with, and sometimes, while his Mama and Papa worked in the restaurant kitchen, slicing and dicing before the dinner rush, he’d sit on the stoop of the kitchen that opened out onto the street and peel onions into a bowl his mama had given him. The afternoon sun made the sidewalk so hot that dried-up gum on the fire hydrants got sticky again, and if he looked down the block, the lights over the crosswalks danced in the heat. Inside the kitchen, Dr. Foodle would hear Dylan singing on the radio, with his Mama and Papa singing right along.
Jon Piero would sing, “Might like to wear cotton,” and then Olga would sing, “Might like to wear silk.”
Jon Piero: “Might like to drink whiskey,” Olga: “Might like to drink milk.”
Then they’d switch at the next line and laugh because Olga would put on a husky Russian accent: “You might like to eat caviar,” and Jon Piero would boom in his biggest Italian baritone, “You might like to eat bread!” Then, together, they’d finish the verse: “You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”
Origin of Dr. Foodle’s Name
When Dr. Foodle was in his early twenties at the culinary school in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu, it’s said that his fellow pupils would laugh because when the kitchen was at its hottest and knife blades whirred on cutting boards faster than hummingbird’s wings, the whisper of a tune would drift from Dr. Foodle’s corner (if you listened closely, you might just make out the word caviar.) One day, over the steam and clanging of Classic French Cuisine 101, the head chef shouted, “Hey Yankee!”
Dr. Foodle looked up from the rabbit he was skinning for a confit.
“Are you singing a Yankee Doodle?”
Dr. Foodle considered this. “Well, Chef,” he said, “I was born in the parking lot of the New York Yankees stadium, so I suppose that makes me as much a Yankee as any man in America. Consequently, whatever my tune, it is always a Yankee Doodle. That being said, in this particular case, this is a special doodle I sing to cook, so… maybe this doodle should be called a… foodle.” And voilà: Dr. Foodle.
While Dr. Foodle’s early education was in the kitchen with Olga and Jon Piero, after he graduated high school, he went to the Brooklyn Culinary Institute, where he garnered quick attention with a crafty rendition of his Russian grandfather’s Latvian stew. He then went on to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and then spent four years as sous chef to celebrated Texan Rex Jones.
Marriage to Claire Foodle
Having heard his unusual birth story many a time throughout his childhood, Dr. Foodle had always fostered a familial fondness for mustard, but as his knowledge and expertise expanded in his adult years, those sentiments began to swell into something of a reverent fascination. While Dr. Foodle was studying in France, there was a certain region that was very high on his list of places to visit: Dijon. Dr. Foodle made the trip on a holiday weekend, and on one sunny afternoon during that weekend, he decided to stroll out of the city. Entranced by the lush greenness of the land, he soon found himself wandering through the hills of Burgundy wine country. A city boy, Dr. Foodle soon discovered himself more than a little turned around. However, there was such serenity to the place that Dr. Foodle wasn’t worried. He decided to rest for a bit and then regroup, so he hopped a fence, found a grassy knoll between two rows of grapevines, and lay down to close his eyes.
When he woke, the first thing he noticed was the sky, which had darkened to the deep scarlet of sundown. The second thing he noticed was a girl with the blackest of curls, wearing a light blue dress, considering him from a short distance. Her feet were planted firmly and her hands were placed sternly on her hips.
“Well,” she said, “I’m glad you’ve woken up. I wasn’t sure what to do with you.”
Dr. Foodle scrambled to his feet and began to stammer, “I’m really, really so sorry–” and then stopped. “Wait,” he said, “you spoke to me in English. How did you know I was American?”
The girl smiled and held up his wallet, delicately, between her forefinger and thumb. “New York, no?” she said. “I am surprised. I always heard the New Yorker was quick-witted. You were the fattest – how do you say? – sitting duck I ever saw.”
Her name was Claire. Her family owned the winery he’d taken the liberty of napping in, and she’d lived there all of her twenty-two years. She had always wanted to visit New York, “So,” she said, “I’ll need you to help me plan my visit.” She also said she supposed Dr. Foodle should come back to the winery with her, as Dijon was more than a three-hour walk away and the daylight was mostly gone. So, Dr. Foodle followed this girl (who he hadn’t the slightest idea would become his wife – well, maybe the slightest, like the taste of paprika on a deviled egg) as she took his hand and wound her way with expert assurance through the vines toward the lights glowing in the homestead. They were engaged within the year.
Just before Dr. Foodle finished at Le Cordon Bleu and he and Claire were about to move back to New York, Dr. Foodle received a very unexpected offer. Apparently, a celebrated chef and alumni of Le Cordon Bleu had been asked to sample some of the students’ recipes during their final menu reviews, and this chef had been quite taken with Dr. Foodle’s work. He wanted to have Dr. Foodle cook in his kitchen for a night, with intentions of offering him the position of sous chef at his restaurant. The only catch was that the restaurant was in Dallas, Texas.
Initially, Dr. Foodle was not sold on the proposition – Jon Piero and Olga had been distraught enough by his temporary move to Paris. He made the visit to Dallas out of curiosity. He stepped into the kitchen and immediately found himself face-to-face with a mountain of a man – 6-foot-5, a hefty paunch, and a wild crop of carrot-colored hair slicked back from his freckled forehead. With a flick of the frying pan, a wipe of the brow, and an All-American grin, the man stuck out his hand.
Rex Jones had a cowboy swagger like no chef Dr. Foodle had ever seen. He hopped from station to station like a bull rider in the ring, compelling his cooks to filet faster, flip higher, and sprinkle daintier. By that point, Dr. Foodle had cooked in many kitchens. He’d trained his palate to detect the crumble of a dried lilac petal, and the slightly bitter aftertaste that distinguished nettle from sage. He’d learned the ideal cooking temperature for every type of meat known to the Western world (and some to the Eastern); he could set his internal clock to register the precise passing of a minute, and sense when the pasta in a pot was reaching al dente perfection. However, he’d never quite grasped the elements of leadership that made a good chef a truly great one. So, Claire bought a pair of embroidered cowboy boots and a tube of red lipstick, and off to Texas they went. Under the animated tutelage of Rex, Dr. Foodle perfected the art of his mentor’s fried okra recipe, rumored to be the best in the state – if not in the world.
It is widely known that in every one of Dr. Foodle’s kitchens, a photo of Bob Dylan hangs over the expo line with the words: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Yes, indeed, Bob Dylan is the patron saint of Dr. Foodle’s empire, and his soulful gaze blesses each and every dish before it is garnished and spirited away to its final destination.
A year after Dr. Foodle’s acclaimed first restaurant, Mustard, opened in Greenwich Village (to which critics from The New York Times still return for the Mustard-Baked Pork, an unexpected spin on an obscure Russian dish, to see if it really does live up to its original review: “The Jesus Christ of pork chops, this dish ascended to condiment heaven and came back to show us the true meaning of meat…”), the tale goes that Dr. Foodle’s kitchen was at peak dinner swing when a breathless server crashed through the doors from the dining room and shouted that Bob Dylan had just walked into the restaurant. Dr. Foodle immediately dropped the pan of grease in his hand, thus scalding the ankles of the expo runner, who consequently tossed the honey mustard side salads he was holding, one of which smashed against the photograph of Bob Dylan above the expo. The story goes that the photograph of Bob Dylan that hangs in the kitchen of Mustard is now signed by Bob Dylan himself… and slightly smeared with honey mustard dressing.
III. Dijon View
Dr. Foodle opened Mustard to rave reviews, and Claire was busy with the twins and helping her family open a stateside branch of the winery. After Olga’s father had died, she and Jon Piero had run the restaurant for a few more years before deciding to sell the place – including the upper-story apartment above the restaurant, which, by that point, was in a very profitable neighborhood. They’d made off well in the sale and now devoted themselves largely to the whimsies of the twins. While Dr. Foodle was happy that his parents were comfortable, he always had a nostalgic attachment to the corner where the Russian diner once stood. So, one morning, a few years into the success of Mustard, Dr. Foodle was strolling through his childhood neighborhood and noticed a For Sale sign in the window of the old diner. Immediately, he called up his investors. A year later, there was a line around the block for the grand opening of Dijon View – the name of which, Dr. Foodle said, came about the day they closed the sale as he stood at the kitchen door of the old diner, looking out at the street. Claire put on some Bob Dylan – who else? – to celebrate, and as Dr. Foodle looked down the block toward the streetlights dancing in the high afternoon heat, he had the strongest wave of Déjà vu he’d ever experienced. Since they’d decided to open a rooftop bar above the restaurant, Claire suggested with a smile, “Dijon View?”
IIII. Global Expansion
So it went from there. The next project was E’Claire, for Claire. Then O.J., for Olga and Jon Piero. The restaurants cropped up in different U.S. – and eventually global – metropolises, all the way down to Yankee Doodle, the steak house that sits in the far corner of the New York Yankees Stadium, which Dr. Foodle has said he considers his crown jewel accomplishment.