Interview with Chef Michael Toscano of Perla – New York, NY

April 2013

Dan Catinella: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Michael Toscano: I used to play golf and got a job at the country club so I could practice every day. I got to know the chef and started watching “Iron Chef Japan” and became very interested in food. I started as a dish washer, and after washing for six months, I started helping on the hot line.

DC: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs?
MT: I think there are some programs that are better than others, but any schooling like that can be good. It’s always what you put in, is what you get out. Culinary school is not completely necessary.

DC: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?
MT: Read as much as you can and work harder than you ever thought you could. It’s the only way you can cut through those first few years. If you’re not so interested and hungry about that in those first years, you get burnt. You have to want it, want more, and want to learn more.

DC: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
MT: I evolved [as a cook] by learning the classics and researching the classic dishes. When you are able to take the foundation of a cuisine you are trying to cook, you can evolve and create amazing things.

DC: What's the toughest thing you've had to do in your job?
MT: The endurance over time. I’m doing what we are doing to work hard, but you want to do it to the best of your ability—and to do it years on end is really difficult.

DC: What trends do you see emerging?
MT: Mixing all these new techniques with traditional cooking and trying to blend the two.