Michael Romano


My first cooking experience was at the Serendipity restaurant, in 1971. I was promoted from Frozen-Drink Man to Evening Line cook, and I had precious little idea what I was doing - I just knew I loved to cook.

The proprietors of Serendipity were kind enough to introduce me to James Beard, who - it was hoped - could advise me in charting my culinary career. My meeting with Mr. Beard was indeed serendipitous, as he in turn introduced me to New York City Technical College, where I subsequently studied and blossomed as a cook.

I graduated in 1975, after spending semester at Hotel School in Bournemouth, England.

My first job out of school was a "stage" at the illustrious Hotel Bristol in Paris in 1975. In that same year I worked briefly at the Hotel Pierre in New York, under Executive Chef Joseph Melz.

1976 found me beginning my tutelage under France's renowned Michel Guérard's. This took place at first in the kitchen of Regine's private club in Paris, and subsequently at the opening of Regine's New York. Eventually I made my way to Eugenie les Bains, Guérards' 3-star flagship restaurant and spa in southwestern France. I worked there as Commis Poissonier and Saucier.

In 1979 I was engaged to work (also under the auspices of Michel Guérard) on the estate of a Swiss entrepreneur named Henri Lavanchy. I remained for two years as Mr. Lavanchy's personal chef. During this time I did a "stage" at the two-star Chapon Fin restaurant in Bordeaux.

Returning to Switzerland I became Chef de Cuisine of one of the top three Swiss restaurants of the day, the two-star Chez Max in Zurich. Gala events with proprietor Max Kehl included cooking for 100 guests on the Oriental Express, a dinner for 100 at London's Dorchester Hotel, and a 15-country cooking competition in Tokyo, in which we won first prize in the hors d'oeuvre category.

In 1984 I returned to the USA and became Chef de Cuisine at the venerable La Caravelle restaurant in New York City, then its 25th year. I was only the third chef in the restaurant's history and the first American to hold the position, making a comeback of sorts. The restaurant achieved a second star in the NY Times rating during my four-year tenure.

Union Square Cafe became home in 1988, and a short year later it was elevated to three stars by The New York Times. It was a wonderful privilege of mine to be asked by Proprietor Danny Meyer to be his partner in 1993. Over the years, Union Square Cafe has moved from a 21st ranking in the New York City Zagat Guide to the Number One Most Popular Restaurant in 1997 and again in 1998. In addition, we received the James Beard "Outstanding Restaurant of the Year"in 1997. To share with others our passion for gastronomic pleasures, as well as Union Square Cafe's success, Danny and I collaborated in writing, The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, published by Harper Collins in 1994.

Over the course of my career, I have been extremely honored to be the recipient of various nominations and awards, including Food & Wine Magazine's Top Ten Chefs in the U.S.A., The James Beard Foundation nomination for New York City's Best Chefs, and a profile in Mastery, the recently-released book featuring interviews with "30 remarkable people". This past year, I was delighted to kick off "The Chefs"-- a weekly column featured in The New York Times " Dining In/Dining Out" section with a series of eight articles.

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