Here’s the secret to New York City’s roasted chestnuts—no street vendor or open fire required.

I bought my first brown paper bag of roasted chestnuts in New York City on a bitterly cold winter night more than 50 years ago.

I’d walked from West 63rd Street and Central Park West to 51st Street and Sixth Avenue to talk to a renowned theatrical photographer, Roy Blakey, about shooting my first NY headshots and portfolio for me. As I walked, the ice crystals embedded in the wind gusts felt like tiny razor blades cutting my face.

I met Roy at the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. He was in the locker room, lacing up his skates.

My perfectly roasted New York-style chestnuts.

Walking back to my room at the Westside Y, I saw some folks gathered around a street cart. The vendor was selling roasted chestnuts—the smell from the charcoal fire and the charring shells was hypnotizing. I joined the group and bought a bag full. As it warmed my hands, I watched how others were peeling away the shells and eating theirs. I followed their lead and tasted my first bite of roasted bliss. I’ve loved roasted chestnuts ever since—my winters aren’t complete without them.

Even without a fire, you can roast chestnuts at home that taste very much like the New York street vendor’s offerings. And the secret is soaking them for two or three hours before roasting and high heat to char the shell. Here’s the process I use:

  1. Starting with fresh chestnuts and a very sharp knife, cut an X on the pointed end of each nut—going through the outer and inner skin—and about a quarter of the way down the sides. There are chestnut knives available that make the process easier.
  2. Soak the chestnuts in a bowl of water for a few hours. The soaking helps them steam and makes peeling them easier.
  3. Spread them in one layer flat side down on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil and then into a preheated 450-degree oven.
  4. Roast for roughly 25 minutes depending on the size of the chestnuts. Rest for 10 minutes, wrapped in a damp kitchen towel.
  5. As soon as cool enough to handle, peel, eat, and enjoy!
1970. I had chestnuts for the first time, and
Roy Blakey shot my portfolio.

By Stephen Brockelman

As a Sr. Writer at T. Rowe Price, I work with a group of the best copywriters around. We belong to the broader creative team within Enterprise Creative, a part of Corporate Marketing Services. _____________________________________________ A long and winding road: My path to T. Rowe Price was more twisted than Fidelity’s green line. With scholarship in hand, I left Kansas at 18 to study theatre in New York. When my soap opera paychecks stopped coming from CBS and started coming from the show’s sponsor, Proctor & Gamble, I discovered the power of advertising and switched careers. Over the years I’ve owned an ad agency in San Francisco; worked for Norman Lear on All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and the rest of his hit shows; and as a member of Directors Guild of America, I directed Desi Arnaz in his last television appearance— we remained friends until his death. In 1988 I began freelancing full time didn’t look back. In January 2012 my rep at Boss Group called and said, “I know you don’t want to commute and writing for the financial industry isn’t high on your wish list, but I have a gig with T. Rowe Price in Owings Mills…” I was a contractor for eight months, drank the corporate Kool-Aid, became a TRP associate that August, and today I find myself smiling more often than not.


  1. GP – Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!
    GP says:

    Thank you for this!!

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Exit mobile version