Chef Michael Romano of Union Square Tokyo - Biography

Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

November 2010
Chef Michael Romano’s life in cooking began at the iconic Serendipity in New York in 1971. It was only when he was promoted from Frozen-Drink Man to Evening Line cook that Romano knew for certain that cooking was what he loved doing. Recognizing the ambition and talent in the young chef, the Serendipityproprietors were kind enough to introduce him to James Beard, which was indeed serendipitous, as Beard guided Romano towards the New York City Technical College, where he subsequently blossomed as a cook.

After graduating in 1975, his first stage at the illustrious Hotel Bristol in Paris opened doors for him across Europe. After a stint alongside France's renowned Michel Guérard's at Regine’s he made his way to Eugenie les Bains, Guérards' 3-star flagship restaurant and spa in southwestern France, to work as Commis Poissonier and Saucier.

In 1979 Romano was engaged to work, again under the auspices of Michel Guérard, on the estate of a Swiss entrepreneur named Henri Lavanchy. He remained for two years as Mr. Lavanchy's personal chef, during which time he also staged at the two-star Chapon Fin restaurant in Bordeaux. Returning to Switzerland, Romano then became chef de cuisine of one of the top three Swiss restaurants of the day, the two-star Chez Max in Zurich.

In 1984 Romano returned to the USA and became chef de cuisine at the venerable La Caravelle in New York City. Only the third chef in the restaurant's history, and the first American to hold the position, Romano’s comeback was a smash hit; the restaurant achieved a second star in the New York Times rating during his four-year tenure.

In 1988 Romano joined the staff at Union Square Café and a short year later it was elevated to three stars by The New York Times. Proprietor Danny Meyer asked Romano 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, they have received the James Beard "Outstanding Restaurant of the Year"in 1997. Meyer and Romano collaborated in writing The Union Square Café Cookbook, which was published by Harper Collins in 1994.

Over the course of his career, Romano has been the recipient of various nominations and awards, including Food & Wine Magazine's Top Ten Chefs in the U.S.A. and The James Beard Foundation nomination for New York City's Best Chefs. Today Chef Romano can be found, once again wearing the hats of both Chef and explorer, at Union Square Tokyo, the Japanese outpost of the New York restaurant. Romano works as executive chef and director.