From his Italian & Spanish Roots, to 4-Start Manhattan training, to running his own successful catering company — learn how Chef Michael Batt creates some of his best loved dishes!
Who taught you to cook as a child?
I learned to cook from my Spanish mother and Italian grandmother. They had very different styles, but it always came back to one common theme: flavor. Following a recipe never mattered as much as creating a dish that tasted delicious.
What is your first memory of being in a kitchen?
I remember waking up before anyone else in my family one morning when I was about seven years old, sneaking down into the kitchen and whipping up a batch of pancakes. They were only Aunt Jemima pancakes, but it was a really big deal to me – measuring out the water & the mix (I think maybe oil too). I made such a mess…and who knows how they actually tasted, but my entire family came over & ate them. It wasn’t then that I decided to be a chef, but knew in high school when all of my friends were applying to college that the only place I wanted to go was to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
What was your first experience in a restaurant?
The first restaurant I worked in after the CIA was Restaurant 44 at the Royalton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. I started as a breakfast chef and worked my way up to sous-chef. It was a very fast paced restaurant, turning 160 tables of exquisite dishes in two hours, and the menu changed every six months. As soon as I had gotten used to creating one set of entrees, the new specialties would come out. I’d stay for hours after my shift ended, preparing my station for the next day, cutting my shallots exactly as I liked them and making sure everything was ready to go in the morning.
Who has been the greatest inspiration in your professional career?
Geoffrey Zakarian has definitely been my greatest inspiration. He is extremely dedicated to his craft. I worked under him at the Royalton Hotel, as well as Patroon many years later. Not only did he elevate 44 to a whole new level, he helped shaped me into the chef that I am today with a rigorous regiment of training that endured long hours and mastery of cooking.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Upscale American with a French background. I enjoy making traditional meals that with a twist, and comfort food that you can feel good about eating. The restaurants I worked in at the beginning of my career were all three and four star rated, specializing in high end French cuisine.
What is your favorite dish to prepare?
There are so many dishes that could be considered my favorite, but I’m going to have to say Risotto. It is such a versatile dish – I love the way I can play with the ingredients and include anything from mushrooms to lobster to even squid ink. I love the creamy consistency of the rice. And finally, I love the fond memories I have of making it when I worked in the city.
How did you get into catering?
That was all Gallia, my wife. We met in our early 20’s while she was working in film production and I was cooking. Her best friend's parents asked me to cater a party for them, and I thought it would be a casual, small event (having not catered before). It turned out to be a combined July 4th and Engagement party for 250 guests at their house in South Hampton with cocktails & hors d’Oeuvres from 11am-12pm, a BBQ buffet at 12pm, intermezzo at 2pm, New England Seafood at 4pm, a pig roast at 6pm and desserts at 8pm. It was amazing & I fell in love with catering. I loved the idea of giving clients food that was exactly what they wanted. I loved customizing menus and being creative.
How do you create new dishes for your clients?
Coming from my childhood, recipes were never used in our family kitchen…my Italian grandmother was always a “pinch of this” a “handful of that”…my mother always had a “tasting spoon” if you will. At Food Design, we are always testing new recipes, always trying to come up with dishes that will exceed expectations working with flavors & presentations. One of my favorite things about catering is working intimately with clients to see what their food desires are, then I play around with flavors and visual concepts and come up with something new & unique to make their event memorable.
Michael Batt, Executive Chef/Owner of Food Design Catering graduated from the esteemed Culinary Institute of America in 1990. Immediately upon graduation, Batt began his professional career cooking at Restaurant 44 “The Royalton Hotel working under highly acclaimed chef, Geoffrey Zakarian. Today, Chef Batt spends his time in the kitchen of his Greenwich based catering company, Food Design Catering & Events, incorporating his teachings from these mentors and creating new recipes based on a passion for exquisitely flavored dishes.
Food Design Catering
28 Old Field Point Road, Greenwich
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