We recently received some sad news in our editors' inbox: Longtime community member, Bill Tierney (pierino), passed away at the beginning of last December.
Bill enriched our community with his vast cooking knowledge, whip-smart humor, and fiery spirit. Everything he did, he studied relentlessly: His most treasured kitchen possessions were his mother's cookbooks, which included first editions of The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook by Louis Diat. He shared more than 150 recipes, all imaginatively named and thoroughly researched, and was an active, adamant commenter across our site. (We recommend reading this exchange with drbabs that taught us a thing or two about capers.)
“Bill loved art, music, literature, and his friends, but food was his passion,” his sister Lisa Tierney wrote to us. “I think Food52 was such a blessing to Bill because it provided an outlet for both his love of cooking and his love of writing. And, even more so, I think he really appreciated the social nature of it.”
Bill’s close friend, Jeff Roberts, echoed how much Bill enjoyed helping other home cooks learn and grow. “Bill was one of the kindest, most caring persons you could ever hope to meet," Jeff said. "Every so often, on the Food52 Hotline, I noticed his response to someone who asked how to do something. It was always thoughtful, caring, and helpful. He took his partnership with Food52 very seriously.”
We will miss Bill deeply. To celebrate his life, his voice, and his contributions to our community, we've asked current and former Food52ers to share their favorite memories of him.
“We remember when pierino first started showing up on Food52 with recipes in our recipe contests. The titles of his recipes provoked you to click through, not in a Buzzfeed way, but more of a who-is-this-guy way. And in a is-he-punking-us-with-high-falutin-recipes way. Red Beans Pasionaria and Durutti Column Rice (the commis revisionist version) is a good example—it's a recipe that includes an illustration of a soldier holding a rifle in place of a recipe photo, and that calls for 1 green bell pepper 'brutally chopped.' Pierino's profile photo back then was of a man, his face out of view, holding two very large and fierce-looking chefs knives crossed over his chest. A tough guy with a soft spot for cooking, and not much patience for traditional food writing.
"For many months, we really didn't know what to make of pierino, but we were glad, and quietly proud, to have attracted such a counter-culture home cook to our friendly little site. Pierino added recipes for tripe and frogs legs and cracked us up with recipe titles like Felonious Pork, Roux Paul Peach and Crawfish Etouffée, and Black Sheep Ragu. We often wondered if he first came up with a name that amused him and then created a recipe for it, or the other way around?
"Pierino let his opinions about changes on the site be known, but he was forever a defender of our efforts. On the internet, such friends are few and far between. He was a true original—a passionate cook who saw recipe writing as a playground for his wit and creativity. He didn't care about pretty photos or encouraging, helpful language. His recipes were a way for him to create narratives around foods he loved.
"We were lucky to meet pierino in person. He was once passing through New York City and made a visit to our office. We expected someone gruff, but were greeted by a slight, gentle man in neat pants and a sports jacket. He was warm and affable, and we loved him even more.” —Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, co-founders of Food52
“If you’ve spent time wandering Food52, you’ve probably already had the fortune of reading pierino’s unmistakable voice: his wit, his serious cooking knowledge, and his always-fiesty opinions. And if you haven’t, start with his articles (like his not-recipes for paella, burritos, and grilled steak)—you’ll learn a lot, and not just about cooking. Food52 wouldn't have become the community it did, and won’t be the same, without him.” —Kristen Miglore, creative director, Genius
“Bill—or pierino, as we knew him, even in editorial meetings—was a true spark. We loved him for his willingness to always keep us accountable, on our toes, and feeling pushed by the community we showed up to work for every single day. And god, for his muffuletta—and for his one-of-a-kind recipe titles. 'That must be a pierino,' we'd say. He had a signature, and we'll always remember him for it." —Kenzi Wilbur, former managing editor
"Getting to interact with pierino enough to know him as Bill Tierney was a delight. I knew every time his name popped up in my inbox that my day was bound to be more interesting, and I hope the feeling was mutual. Or, at the very least, I like to imagine that he considered me an exception to the 'hopeless vegetarian faction.'
"I appreciate that Bill never hesitated to call it like he saw it. His spunky language rubbed some people the wrong way at times, but I never saw it as rooted in any ill will; he simply didn't take himself or anything around him too seriously, and always found the humor in life. To this day, even though I've read them all multiple times, I still get a kick out of going to his recipe collection and reading through his sometimes outrageous headnotes, they bring a smile to my face every time." —Lindsay-Jean Hard, former community editor