There’s a subset of single folks for whom cooking for themselves might be the most difficult of all, and that’s professional chefs. Sure, they have the skill and imagination to whip up something interesting most anytime they feel like it, but who wants to find time in the middle of an 80-hour workweek to do the very thing they spend all those hours doing at the restaurant? As the old joke goes, what they probably feel like making most is a reservation.
Anthony Lombardo, executive chef at 1789 in Georgetown, makes the time to cook for himself. Here and there, anyway. The frequency varies quite a bit, depending on how able he is to find a night or two off from the seven-days-a-week restaurant. “Sometimes I’ll cook for myself three or four times a week, then it’s nothing for two months. It’s very random,” he told me. “So I try to never make leftovers, because I don’t know when I’ll get back to them.”
When he does cook, it’s streamlined. He keeps a pretty empty refrigerator but a pantry of dried pastas, dried mushrooms, preserved and pickled vegetables: shelf-stable things that, with the addition of an onion and a garlic clove, can add up to a quick, easy dinner.
For a change of pace from 1789’s rich flavors and American bent, he leans toward healthful approaches and Asian treatments at home. When you’ve been dipping a tasting spoon into the duck confit strudel with foie gras cream all day, you come home and crave something, well, leaner and cleaner. To that end, Lombardo will cook a handful of farro and toss it with sesame oil and soy sauce and chopped salad greens. Dinner is usually mostly vegetarian, with the occasional exception of a piece of fish or a little bacon.
As much as Lombardo, 30, avoids producing leftovers at home, he does make bigger quantities of building-block foods, such as chicken stock or, in the middle of summer, a basic tomato sauce — something that takes him back to his Italian-American upbringing in Detroit. Now, though, he freezes that sauce or stock in individual portions and draws on it for single servings of the aforementioned pasta or a soup. “I would never make a big batch of lasagna and then eat it for a week, or even freeze it,” he said. “That sounds awful.”