Michael has over 10 years of experience in modern American cooking. Ranging from Seattle to NYC, with a variety of experience in some of the nation's premier kitchens including Mina Group, Momofuku, Major Food Group, Roberta’s/Blanca and Agern.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give your younger self when starting in the industry? Keep hospitality at the forefront. Professionally and personally. If that is your focus you will build a strong individual with a strong foundation of professional integrity. Value the guest, and value the team, your two greatest assets, and the fuel of our industry's depth of immense potential.
When you were building your career how limited were your resources? Extremely. Resources were built over time, job to job… and built gradually, like a great many young professionals in the field. Luckily mentors were available and eager to teach. Mentorship in this field is critical, I’d started essentially working as a stagier/unpaid volunteer worker, not associated with a culinary school.. so this was a bit untraditional. But regardless of the route, mentorship will be critical and pay dividends down the line.
Where do you focus your attention day-to-day regarding your business? I try and keep a fairly broad focus… I think with the past year requiring a lot of adaptive skill sets, it’s critical to do so. Primarily, it’s the guest, their needs, how to maintain a constant relationship therein, this has helped fuel viability by anticipation in this challenging time… because at the end of the day, all of our jobs are rooted in hospitality, building and fostering exactly those relationships and anticipating the needs of the guest and building upon that relationship.
What are key characteristics you look for in applicants when hiring? Naturally first and foremost competence. That can be through the means of intelligence creativity and a degree of talent, be it raw or professionally trained. But cooking when practiced at its best… is an absolute meritocracy to… Secondly… patience, edified with an innately respectful and trainable mindset. Finally, discipline…. It takes a lot of discipline to be successful in this industry, and I mean that in every level… you will be pushed to your limits at all times, if you’re not you aren’t working hard enough, or your environment needs to change.. Being pushed is a good thing in this industry, and you need to be strong enough to use it to make yourself a more disciplined professional.
What change do you want to see in our industry? I’d like to see less social stratification in our industry. Be it smaller more individualized small market restaurant investment, or represented in a demographic shift. I think the next great hurdle after fostering a more inclusive environment, is to apply the same mindset of improvement with respect to the opportunities present to those less economically affluent. By its nature fine dining or haute cooking has its roots in luxury, which is unavoidable to some extent. But quality cooking and big flavor exists in poorer households traditionally… if we empower those less economically affluent and equally talented, our palates of what is defined as amazing food will broaden exponentially, and we will all benefit. Opportunities beyond service need to exist for such an individual’s talents to flourish… and presently I feel such individuals are more or less be left out in the rain. This would also help to stop the homogenization of our industry, which itself is at risk of becoming consolidated to faceless restaurant groups rather than small business owners, those individuals and their passions.