Chef Michael Stoltzfus has lived in close proximity to food (and seafood) his entire life. He grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where seafood is as much a religion as a dietary staple. Son to a dairy farmer father who also grew corn and wheat on the side, Stoltzfus had a front-row seat to the production of food at its most basic level. Food was in his environs, and his blood. So it's no surprise the chef's journey was that of a self-made cook.
Like many a self-made professional, Stoltzfus never went to culinary school, or college for that matter. Though he came close, the decision to steer clear of academia proved pivotal. Just a few weeks before kicking off his first semester, Stoltzfus's mother decided to open a bakery. She asked her son if he wanted to help out and earn a little cash. He did, and a love affair with cooking was born.
Stoltzfus might have opted out of formal schooling (an increasingly popular choice), but he had formal training aplenty, including a post-Katrina stint at New Orleans' beloved Restaurant August. Today, Stoltzfus is chef and owner of Coquette, which he opened with partner Lillian Hubbard in late 2008. He's also executive chef of the newly opened Sweet Olive at the Saint Hotel, overseeing not only that restaurant's menu, but the hotel's bar menus, catering operations, and room service. And Stoltzfus uses this prodigious creative output at both the hotel and Coquette to emphasize local and seasonal products, which once again surround him, feeding both his creativity and culinary heritage. It's just that attention to detail that landed him as one of the 2012 New Orleans Rising Stars.