FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dr. Michele Carbone is at the center of the action in his Black Point kitchen, assisted by Tina Bovino Agostini, left, and Haining Yang in preparing for a fundraising reception for the Cinema Italiano film festival.
Cooking is good medicine for Dr. Michele Carbone, a leader in cancer research
A true Renaissance man, Dr. Michele Carbone exhibits as much passion in the pursuit of delectable food as he does in his quest to understand and cure cancer.
"Science is a long time project," says Carbone, who earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in Italy and moved to Hawaii from Chicago in 2006. "But cooking is an immediate reward. It's fun to see friends enjoying it." Furthermore, he added, "I can't stand bad food. I love good food, and the sure way to have it is to cook it myself."
A leading researcher at the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Cancer Research Center, Carbone and his wife, Beth, recently hosted more than 90 people at a fundraising reception for the Italian Film Festival (Cinema Italiano, which begins in September) - and did all of the cooking themselves. The menu encompassed five appetizers, with a sashimi dish he invented, three main courses, including his Risotto Alla Marinara, three salads and dessert.
"What impressed me was cooking a risotto for so many people; it's almost impossible because it becomes overcooked so quickly," says event attendee Giovanni Gaudino, a molecular biologist visiting from Italy. "But the best biochemists are always good cooks."
Carbone's risotto is so well received by top chefs that a restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort in Istanbul has adopted it. This came about after Carbone sampled the risotto while visiting the hotel. When the chef asked his opinion, an unimpressed Carbone offered to help.
His wife, Beth, says that after 18 years of entertaining together, they work well as a team. She knows exactly how he likes the cilantro chopped, for instance, completes much of the prep work for him and cleans up between courses.
On any given night, Carbone's Black Point home might be filled with friends and acquaintances - everyone from a chef they met on a cruise to associates at the University of Hawaii - speaking any number of languages.
None of it causes him stress. Before the film festival party, Beth recalls, everyone was working furiously around him, but Carbone took a half-hour soak in the pool before leaving for a meeting at work. When he returned, he "worked at full speed, cooking for 90-plus people."
Memory and instinct , not notes or recipes, guide Carbone's cooking. Asked to share his risotto recipe, he shakes his head. The problem, he explains, is that only the most experienced chefs would be able to duplicate it. He offers a simple marinara sauce instead, with reminders to use "only the best Italian olive oil" and the freshest ingredients, preferably purchased at a farmers' market.
"But the critical thing is the love you put into the food," he says with a smile. "You don't take short cuts."
Dr. Carbone’s Marinara Sauce
1/3 cup Italian olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cups cherry tomatoes (fresh, preferably from a farmers' market), halved
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
5-6 basil leaves
1 hot Hawaiian chili pepper
Cooked pasta of your choice
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Heat saucepan on high. Combine ingredients and stir until tomatoes are soft and mushy. Turn off heat.
Add cooked pasta and cheese. Stir and serve.
Approximate nutritional information, per 1/2 cup sauce (does not include pasta or Romano cheese): 120 calories, 11 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, no cholesterol or sodium, 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 1 g protein.
Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.