By Darren Dahl
DD: Michael, you are a chef, but are you an eater?
<HA!> Have you ever seen me?! Yes, I love to eat.
DD: Did a particular person or event influence your passion
Growing up in an Italian-American family, the family social structure
revolved around food, the table was where the family came together.
After exploring an acting career, I realized the creative potential
of becoming a chef, and have loved every minute since.
DD: What would you be if you weren't a chef?
I love music, I'm an avid amateur guitar player. If not music,
I would love to be involved in some sort of 'creative art', like
landscape architecture or photography. If I had stayed in theatre,
I would have aspired to write and direct.
DD: What was the biggest mistake you ever made, in the
kitchen or otherwise, and how did you go about fixing it?
Surprisingly, I get asked this question a lot. I truly don't focus
on what goes wrong, simply on what I'm doing right. Planning is
a key ingredient to successful cooking, and I pride myself on
doing it well.
DD: Is there a particular skill that sets extraordinary
chefs apart from the rest of us?
The most talent chefs have the least inhibition and the most creativity,
achieving a fine balance between good taste and free expression.
I think that Nobu is a great expression of this. I also believe
that great chefs have to be great teachers, like Julia Child,
where they possess the ability to pass their knowledge along to
DD: Do you cook for your family? If so, what dish do they
When I cook for the extended family, it usually is at holidays
and family events, so most of my requests are for our traditional
old family recipes from my mother and grandmother. My wife Diane
likes quick meals, like fish and pasta served Sicilian style.
DD: Like a painter or sculptor, do you favor particular
ingredients or techniques in your recipes?
Good question. I always feel a strong desire to search and try
new things. But my favorite technique is brazing, where deep flavors
are rendered to the surface, allowing disparate ingredients to
merge into a new unique flavor. As far as ingredients, I actually
approach a recipe like I would a menu. I start with the main course,
or the heart of the recipe, and work out from there, usually knowing
what things not to add first.
DD: Is there a kitchen tool/utensil that every chef should
spend the extra dollar on?
Absolutely, on hardware - pots, pans, and a knife. Make the investment
in the best product you can afford. I believe that with a good
pot, pan, and knife, I could make just about anything.
DD: What draws you to Latin American culture and cuisine?
How does Noche represent this?
The idea of Noche is inspired by Latin, Mexican, and South American
music. Brazilian, Afro-jazz, Mexican guitars - New World music
that inspires a culture of family, friends, and fun. One of my
favorite books was by Felipe Rojas Lombardi, a James Beard disciple
who owned 'The Ballroom', called 'The Art of South American Cooking.'
the reality was 2 years of research, reading, cooking, and sampling
from menus in Manhattan's 5 boroughs, Los Angeles, Miami, Arizona,
and New Mexico. Noche blends New World music and culture with
on my horizon, coming soon, is a new space of my own, small and
comfortable, where I'll cook contemporary American cuisine.