Lord knows, NYC is known for its characters. There must be something about this city’s energy, its vitality, its non-stop-ed-ness that attracts individuals who stand out from the crowd. Whether its an active personality quirk, a full-fledged mania, a curious character that stands apart from the personality inhabiting it, New York has some pretty cool peoples. We have the pleasure to know one such character, the Baron Ambrosia, and we celebrated his new Cooking Channel TV premiere last Sunday, in Newark NJ (of all places!)
Baron Ambrosia is a creation of the food obsessed, outrageously-attired, adventurously eccentric bon vivant Justin Fornal. Justin started out as a normal kid growing up in Connecticut, if, as a young 7 year old, tasting multitudes of dried spices while listening to haunted cassette tapes in a dark basement in order to further a culinary sensibility could be considered “normal.” While attending University in Pittsburg, Justin fell in love “with an ice-cold super fox named Big Kim. . . she, of course, was from the Bronx.” Justin followed his passion to the only borough in NYC attached to the mainland of America, and discovered a melting pot of sensuous flavors and outrageous tastes. (For those readers who remember, back in January the Baron hosted the First Annual Bronx Pipe Smoking Society’s Small Game Dinner Party. The Second Annual is coming up soon, and skunk and porcupine are already on the menu. . .)
In 2007, Baron Ambrosia made his DIY media debut on a podcast called Underbelly, which ran for 8 episodes. In Spring 2008, Bronxnet, an independent, non-profit local TV channel, focusing on “local television by the people of the Bronx, for the people of the Bronx,” renewed the program under the title Bronx Flavor. 3 seasons later, the show is going strong, and the Baron just finished shooting a feature length movie of the same name. Watch an episode; within minutes of the opening sequence (featuring the Baron’s beloved Purplesaurus Rex, a recreation of a 1929 Mercedes SSK, complete with crushed velvet seats and a suspended chandelier,) viewers will be both impressed as well as left laughing out loud at the Baron’s DIY anarchic aesthetics towards food versus the “established” food world’s ridiculous reverence to what’s on their plate. Which brings us to last Sunday night, his National TV Debut on the Cooking Channel and Seabra’s Marisqueria in Newark, NJ.
Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood is the Portugese stronghold of the Northeast; the streets sing with restaurants and dishes like Berbigão à Bolhão Pato (garlic drenched cockles,) Camarao a Guilho (shrimp sauteed with garlic,) chorizo and hake, the “noble fish of Portugal.” Mark, Jonah and I were on hand, drinking red sangria, stuffing ourselves with the aforementioned snacks and mopping up the juice with Portugese bread. We schmoozed and boozed with the various characters and local legends from Baron Ambrosia episodes, until 1030pm when the Baron swept onto the screen and commanded our attention for the next 30 minutes. The show, called The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia, was a quick-witted romp through Newark’s culinary culture, and broadcast as a mix of Monty Python slapstick, Cooking Channel food adventure, VHI pop-up infotainment, and the Baron’s signature debonairly, dramatic overacting. The guy’s a ham and no-one’s prouder of it than him. It was a treat to stuff our faces with food and spend the evening with street eats royalty. And maybe, one day when we’re famous, we can invite the Baron to our own TV show premiere! If only . . .
By Matt Levy