Community

Remembering Pierino: Dear Friend, Community Member & Passionate Cook

A tribute to Bill Tierney, a beloved Food52 voice.

by:
February  1, 2019

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.”

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“Bill and I were skeptical of each other at first. His wit is what caught my attention but I don't think he liked the photographs I took of my food because he thought hey were fru fru but I think he realized my passion for all things food and especially his recipe https://food52.com/recipes/6452-the-case-of-the-promiscuous-romesco and we became friends over time. Through it all we had a real connection, not just food but music too, we even at one point spent time talking about writing some pieces about food together, talked about getting together in real life but life got in the way. Bill often forgot about time changes and would message me in the we hours of the night with funny memes. I will miss Pierino, but I also know, he is schooling people wherever he is on how to make a proper Puttanesca.”
— thirschfeld
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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

What's your fondest memory of pierino?

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Written by: Food52

22 Comments

BoulderGalinTokyo February 11, 2019
Thank you food52 for introducing me to such a stimulating man! His humor was very addictive and his knowledge was wonderfully shared. In "The Hot Burrito Trilogy, # 2; “The Gilded Palace of Sin”" Pierino's old profile photo is the second photo.

What a loss! Still, I can't imagine him "Resting In Peace"--probably poking someone else in the ribs.
 
PHIL February 7, 2019
so sad to hear. He was a always a positive and knowledgeable voice on the hotline.
 
Sarah D. February 5, 2019
Oh wow...I'm so sorry to read this article. Pierino was always kind in his comments. He will be missed.
 
cookinginvictoria February 4, 2019
I never met Bill (aka pierino) but I really felt like I knew him from his irreverent sense of humor, his creative and delicious recipes, his wonderful writing and his generous spirit. Back in the days when the community tested the short list for recipe contest finalists, I always rushed to sign up for pierino's recipes because they taught me so much about food and cooking, and I knew that I would be making something delicious. I fell in love with romesco sauce after testing his version (https://food52.com/recipes/6452-the-case-of-the-promiscuous-romesco). And he convinced me to try oxtail, which had me from his perfect recipe title: And Now Our Tail Comes to An End Coda alla Vaccinara (https://food52.com/recipes/2741-and-now-our-tail-comes-to-an-end-coda-alla-vaccinara). I was beyond thrilled when he tested one of my recipes (an aglio e olio pasta) and I deeply treasure his testing notes: "First, I'd like to see this dish as a finalist because it's simple and very good. But no two Italian cooks are ever going to agree on anything, not even the most basic recipes. So here I go, 1/3 of a cup of olive oil is probably more than you need. And the bacon alone should render enough fat to toast the "mollica" aka bread crumbs. All that said this recipe works well and you should try it. This dish is mad, bad and dangerous to know. And I mean that in a good way." My deepest condolences to Bill's loved ones and family. Thank you Food52 for this lovely tribute. I will miss you, pierino.
 
drbabs February 4, 2019
I never met Bill (whom I will always think of as pierino), but he meant the world to me. I feel as if I've lost a family member or a close friend. I was really just learning to cook when I joined Food52, and I always considered his schooling my greatest lessons. I consider his review of my gumbo z'herbes (https://food52.com/recipes/16601-lemony-gumbo-z-herbes) one of the finest compliments I've received about my cooking. His gazpacho (one of them--https://food52.com/recipes/6047-allez-zpacho) is still my go-to gazpacho recipe. Our exchange in which he taught me about using bread in gazpacho is emblematic of his generosity, and of the ways we, the first Food52ers, supported each other as we tried each other's recipes. Pierino, my friend. I will miss you.
 
dymnyno February 4, 2019
I always imagined Pierino as a romance writer with a heart that belonged to his exquisitely named recipes and expertly prepared food.We were a small bunch of recipe writing, testing, wanna be food writers, students of photography, newly minted bloggers enjoying the ideas and on line camaraderie of the like minded followers of food52. I recently looked up Pierino and noticed that he had many followers but followed few; mostly the "originals". I (we) looked forward to Pierino's whimsical names for his recipes and his obvious in depth knowledge of whatever recipe and ingredients he shared. Pierino is missed!
 
lastnightsdinner February 4, 2019
Reading this with tears in my eyes. What a special man Pierino was, and how lucky we were to have had him here. I'm so grateful he shared his food and his voice with us.
 
creamtea February 3, 2019
oh no!-- such sad news. I remember a hotline conversation about favorite cookbooks. I felt so validated when someone so knowledgeable as he agreed with some of my picks--they were not big coffee table books with pictures, but old-school types. His voice will be missed.
 
AntoniaJames February 3, 2019
I had the great pleasure of meeting Bill back in the fall of 2011 when he and I organized a Food52 potluck at his house in Paso Robles, about 3 hours from Northern CA, where I lived at the time. We were the only Food52'ers there, but no matter. Getting to know Bill, in his kitchen, was simply extraordinary. When the party was over -- and how time flew! -- my husband and I stayed overnight in the guest room in Bill's community.

Here are a few excerpts from a message I sent to another Food52 member, shortly after we returned:

Bill Tierney (pierino) speaks exactly the way he writes. He's got an M.A. in American Studies, and is a book publishers' rep, mostly selling children's books. I was struck by how kind and generous he is - and how he is the perfect dinner party host.

We love Bill! He's writing a cookbook proposal, which I hope will be accepted. The world *needs* this man's cookbook. Bill is genuine, and delightfully unique. It was simply wonderful spending an evening with him, and giving him a big hug the next morning before we left.

Bill has a huge personality, though he's basically a gentle, thoughtful and very smart guy. As I said, it was unforgettable. I am honored to be his friend.

* * *
Bill had a twinkle in his eye, and a somewhat shy, mischievous grin. How I will miss him! My heart goes out to his family and other friends, for this sad, sad loss.

Sincerely,

Helen Leah Conroy (AntoniaJames)
 
ChefJune February 3, 2019
Oh, how very sad! I'm so surprised. I wish you had let me know.
I think I'll make Bucatini all'Amatriciana this week in his honor.
 
susan G. February 3, 2019
Pierino always stood out, for the excellence of his grasp of the meaning of food, recipes and culture; and for the honesty of his opinions. We've spent all these years 'with' him, and now we know his secret: he was food52's Clark Kent/Superman; and now we know "Who was that masked man?"
I am grateful to his family for sharing so much about him. He is missed.
 
zoemetro U. February 2, 2019
Just the other day I was checking the current pasta contest looking for Pierino's entry--always easily identified by the witty title. (Some of my favorites are: The Evasive Calçot and the Promiscuous Romesco, Culottes on Fire: Shrimp with Capellini, Allez 'zpacho!,
The Red and the Black. Roasted Red Peppers, Black Quinoa and Allioli (with apologies to Stendhal), etc...) As a vegetarian and married to the son of a butcher, I sometimes would consult Pierino before planning our monthly dinner party menus. As you have already mentioned, an email from Pierino always made for a better day. Indeed, I am sure that Pierino brought joy to all he encountered while traveling, blogging and contributing to Food 52. Tonight I am making his Little Dinosaurs (of Peace)--however, I have my grandmother's cookie-cutter collection which includes witches on brooms, candy canes, turkeys, etc...I'll be using the stars and will make a toast to M. Pierino with some cava and buttery cookies.
 
EmilyC February 2, 2019
Oh, I’m saddened to hear this. Pierino made this community a better place with his honest yet always constructive tone. And his great, one-of-kind recipes, of course. He shared so much of his time and wisdom with us. Thanks so much for honoring him here.
 
Megan February 2, 2019
How sad. I always enjoyed his commentary on the hotline. Thanks for honoring him here.
 
BerryBaby February 2, 2019
Very sad. I had been wondering why I hadn't seen his witty responses and was not expecting this. I so loved his contributions.
I recall his advice on entering a recipe in the contests. He said something to the effect...if you want to win or get noticed, your recipes need a catchy name. And, he did that extremely well!
Rest In Peace, Pierino, you will be missed terribly, but never forgotten!
BB💐
 
thirschfeld February 1, 2019
Bill and I were skeptical of each other at first. His wit is what caught my attention but I don't think he liked the photographs I took of my food because he thought hey were fru fru but I think he realized my passion for all things food and especially his recipe https://food52.com/recipes/6452-the-case-of-the-promiscuous-romesco and we became friends over time. Through it all we had a real connection, not just food but music too, we even at one point spent time talking about writing some pieces about food together, talked about getting together in real life but life got in the way. Bill often forgot about time changes and would message me in the we hours of the night with funny memes. I will miss Pierino, but I also know, he is schooling people wherever he is on how to make a proper Puttanesca.
 
Panfusine February 1, 2019
Always looked forward to the lively , informative discussions on the hotline and the uniquely named recipes he used to post. he will be missed.
 
Nancy February 1, 2019
Sad news.
Knowledgeable, playful, always worth the read.
Glad that Pierino's recipes and notes live on.
 
Girlfromipanema February 1, 2019
I was literally just looking through his recipes and figuring out which one I would choose to cook! He had a decisive voice and wrote wonderfully clear and instructive recipes. He will be missed.
 
HalfPint February 1, 2019
That is sad news indeed.