About

I started to peel potatoes in my grandfather’s small, family restaurant on the North side of Chicago around the age of three. I loved every minute I spent in the kitchen and really, I never left.  By the time I was 13, I worked full-time at an area hotel and by 17 I was off to upstate New York to attend the prestigious, Culinary Institute of America.

It was while attending CIA that  I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the kitchen of Maxime Ribera, a member of the Maitre Cusinier de France. I studied under Chef Ribera for two years before returning to Chicago for a three-year stay at Le Francais in Wheeling, IL. It was there that I  found my passion and honed my skills with sauce work under the careful direction of the famed, Jean Banchet and later Roland Liccioni.

Chefs always want to move up, I know I did. After Le Francais, I took on the position of Sous Chef for Café La Cave Restaurant in Des Plaines, IL., which only recently closed after all these years.

Shortly after that, I was off to France to work for a friend at a restaurant in Lyon by the name of “Pierre Orsi.” Working in the country, where the food I worship was born, was an amazing experience. When I returned home after six months I took the position as Chef de Cuisine at the Highwood restaurant, Allouette.

The goal of most chefs is to have your own restaurant, and after all of my experiences watching how others did that, I knew someday it would be my turn, and that is when my brother Tom and I opened the highly acclaimed and awarded, Les Deux Gros, in Glen Ellyn, IL.

In a tiny space across from the train tracks, Les Deux Gros received countless awards and accolades, including four stars and Restaurant of the Year in 2002 from the Chicago Sun Times.

We were proud to receive three and a half stars and “Chef to Watch” from the Chicago Tribune, three stars and ranking of number eleven of twenty in the top restaurants from Chicago Magazine in 2002. Additionally, the restaurant was recognized in several pieces placed in Bon Appetit, Gourmet and Food & Wine magazines to name a few.

While Glen Ellyn was indeed where I set out on my own, I knew I needed to expand and with many customers coming in from the city, I was hoping to be closer to downtown Chicago.

I settled on the lovely town of Winnetka, IL, on Chicago’s North Shore and opened Restaurant Michael. Just west of Lake Michigan and North of Chicago’s city streets, it seemed the perfect place and it has been for the last six years.

Restaurant Michael will undergo a 420 square foot expansion this summer, which allow for more seating, private party space and room to breathe for our guests. We will go from a 68-seat restaurant to being able to accomodate 100, making us a third larger by Fall.

I have always been a large man and the food I cook, I believe, has big taste. I want people to remember my food and perhaps a conversation I have had with them at the table. I love to be in the kitchen, but I also love to see guests enjoying the food.

Since we live in a world which extends well beyond the place we work, I thought that this blog can be a worldwide extension of Restaurant Michael and myself. I might talk about my food or I might talk about food I have eaten or things I notice other chefs doing.

My grandfather loved to talk as much as I do. He recently left this world and although he is very missed, I know he would appreciate keeping the lines of communication about food open. I do not fashion myself as a writer, but I have things I want to say and hear what others think about food and restaurants today.

The internet is a big place so you never know who might be listening. I know my grandfather will be tuned in and I hope that you will join me. I might just tell you a story or two about him as well…

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5 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear Chef Michael,

    Just want to tell you my husband and I love your restaurant, love your culinary offerings, and love your feisty, fuck-filled blogs. I couldn’t agree more with your most recent blog. I am SOOO… tired of all the politically correct, easily offended hypocrites. I, for one, will continue to use my favorite word, both verbally and in sign language, when appropriate. Your blog is a breath of fresh air and we look forward to enjoying dinner at your restaurant soon!

  2. We totally agree with you regarding those very few customers that demonstrate what complete assholes they truly are. Thank goodness there are so few of them since we can’t afford to have your blood pressure skyrocket too often. Good luck on your weight control program. You’ve done very well & weren’t sure it was you when we were there for dinner about a week ago. Keep it up. Just don’t let it affect your talents as a great chef. We would love to see you do some wine dinners once in a while, during the week.

    Please do us a favor, if you would be so kind. We have a friend in lobsterville (Maine) We are positive he would enjoy your blog if you would place him on the emailing list for it. His name & email are: John Webster
    He has the culinary talents to be a chef, but is not one since he chooses to cook for his guests at his island home off the coast of Maine. [When planning to serve lobster, drives his suv down to a dock when a certain lobsterman’s boat comes in and gets his pick of the catch] Can’t get fresher than that!

    Thanks so much, Mike. We’ll be in again soon.

  3. Yes, speak english is key. And not discriminating to say so. My parents are both Dutch Immigrants, survivors of WW2 in Holland and now in their early eighties. I often hope they ‘pipe down’ sometimes, as many think they Discriminate or are Racist when they speak of how they think it is ridiculous to not speak the language when reaping the rewards of the ‘land of opportunity’.

    My parents both arrived at Ellis Island and were told in Holland that they were not welcome in the United States of America unless they could recite the National Anthem… Needless to say they were able and very honored to recite it, and such a great opportunity that would define their lives forever. They Immigrated separately, and met in New York. They had made many friends in the USA with others from the Netherlands, as well as many Americans. When they had parties, their golden rule was SPEAK ENGLISH. As it was considered rude among Friends and Coworkers that did not speak dutch to not be able to understand while in company with those from America. My parents were thrilled to be American, and insisted that all their Dutch friends be considerate of Americans, as they are in the USA and should be respectful. It has nothing to do with anything race or color or ethnic origin, it simply has to do with RESPECT.

    I was born in the United States. When I was in first grade, my parents moved to Belgium for a temporary corporate assignment my dad had setting up a Belgium office for an American company. My brother and I did not speak the language. My parents put us in the public school in Antwerp, and we spent 2 1/2 months with a tutor becoming “conversational” in a foreign language, then dropped in the foreign classroom to learn fast. As young kids we were very adaptable and could communicate easily sometimes with our hands and feet, but after being mainstreamed into the public school system, we learned quickly as no one around us could speak english. In fact I once had to show a teacher my passport to prove I was American as I spoke like a Belgian Dock Worker!
    Only one ambitious fellow 3rd grader who had learned to speak English by watching John Wayne movies and reading the subtitles clung to US to learn English. He taught himself by reading the subtitles… Awesome, yet his John Wayne twang accent was hilarious! My parents could very easily have put my brother and I into the wonderful International school in Antwerp, but did not.

    Today I am multilingual, and feel lucky that my parents had the foresight to make me learn. I am not only fluent in a foreign language, but I am respectful and always try when traveling any country to speak the native language. With rare exception people are always impressed with an attempt, even if you are not fluent.

    I too am very wary of those that are too lazy to try; and so disrespectful in insisting that we americans should speak a foreign language in our own country. I would like to learn spanish any many other languages, but not to accommodate co workers, drive through voices, the second half of the rules of the road book, half of each sign etc. I would like to learn it so I can say, very properly in the foreign language I hear- Speak English, or go Home.

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