Susan Cozzi, manager of the Monogram Design Center in New York City, recently interviewed the New York Monogram Design Center Executive Chef Michael Sherman.
Susan: Tell us about your background as a chef.
Chef Michael: As with most professions these days, professions have broadened in scope, so as a chef I am also an entrepreneur and a consultant to the food industry.
I’m from Hartford, CT, and began in the business in the front of the house at several restaurants throughout New England. In these roles you really learn about customer service along with the mood and vibe of the restaurant and the diners. My move to New York City brought along with it a desire to cook. During stages at several high-end restaurants, including March with Wayne Nish, I headed to The Culinary Institute of America for my degree in Culinary Arts.
While researching at school, I decided I wanted to work with one of the best up and coming chefs in the country, Charlie Palmer. I landed an extended externship at Aureole working directly under Charlie’s tutelage for nine months.
I then heard about Gray Kunz and what his cooking was about at Lespinasse. When finishing school, I was determined to work with Chef Kunz and when I was told to “get to France,” I did exactly that, working as a private chef for Andre Balazs’ family after a year working with David Bouley at his original namesake restaurant. During my time in France, I continued to write (yes, we had to write letters then) to Chef Kunz. When I arrived back in the US, Chef Kunz offered me a position in the pastry department and then I landed a spot on the hot line working with Andrew Carmellini, Floyd Cardoz, Fabrizzio Salerni and Troy Dupuy. After two more years developing as a cook, I went to work with Waldy Malouf and helped The Rainbow Room achieve three stars!
After working with these great chefs, as an entrepreneur, I opened Chef & Company and later The Riverdale Garden and Moxie Events Catering, and Cloud Catering. And as an industry consultant, I started up restaurants including Crosby Street Hotel, Maison Kayser, and Tutu’s Brooklyn, and have consulted with eateries known around the world such as Sushi Samba, Le Midi, Biba Williamsburg, and The High Line Hotel.
Susan: What is your cooking philosophy?
Chef Michael: Buy the best product you can, treat with respect and cook simply.
Chef Michael shopping at one of the early local markets for fresh produce
Susan: What’s always in your fridge at home?
Chef Michael: Mustard, thyme, shallots, good vinegars, extra virgin olive oil and grass fed butter
Susan: What makes you happy?
Chef Michael: Watching guests enjoy my cooking. My daughter. My dog. Eating great food. Not necessarily in that order.
Susan: What do you see in the cooking world that you wish you could change?
Chef Michael: Too many high volume restaurants, caterers, food service that do not take advantage of local produced food.
Susan: What have you learned from working at the New York Monogram Design Center?
Chef Michael: I’ve relearned the incredible cooking experience capable on Monogram’s Induction Cooktop which includes sous vide cooking—this is a great bonus. And, that GE Appliances really is a technology and engineering company first and they bring great new ideas to luxury home appliances.
Susan: What can home cooks learn from you?
Chef Michael: Simple, basic cooking techniques which I find to be the best, particularly when using the best product!