Welcome to our brand-spanking-new line of chef interviews, Chatting With.
Today, Michael White–pasta genius and executive chef of Convivio, Alto and seafood newcomer Marea. We love his cooking, and were happy to snag him for a chat, even if he didn’t quite answer the question about striped marlin. White didn’t want to give up more dirt on the downtown restaurant he’s reportedly planned for next year, but you can get a bit of gossip about it here.
Click through to find out what’s White’s drink of choice, the contents of his fridge and what he thinks is the most under-appreciated Italian ingredient.
Since you’re not Italian by heritage, and grew up in Wisconsin, do you remember the first time you tasted Italian food? What was it?
It was pizza at Domenico Pizza in Beloit, Wisconsin. I was six or so… and it started what has thus far been a lifelong love.
What’s your personal favorite of the pastas served at Marea?
That’s a hard question…but right now I’m really into the fusilli with octopus and bone marrow. [Ed. note: Yes. Yes. Yes.]
We hear you have plans for a downtown restaurant next year–what kind of food will you be serving, and will it be more casual than your other restaurants?
We’re really focusing on Marea, Convivio, and Alto right now.
Opening a high-end restaurant like Marea in the midst of a recession must have been a little worrisome. How’s business, and have you changed any price points or portions to accommodate the economy?
Opening a restaurant in any economy is tough–especially this economy. We do our best to listen to what’s going on in the world, but stay true to our commitment to offer diners the freshest fish possible. We work incredibly hard to offer the best service and food because we know people are not dining out as much and we want to make sure they have an awesome experience.
What’s the most under-appreciated Italian ingredient?
Colatura d’alice–Italian fish sauce (clarified pressed Italian anchovies). We use it for seasoning at Convivio all the time. At Marea, we use it in the mignonette sauce that we serve with the oysters.
What’s in your refrigerator at home?
Italian packed tuna, whole wheat bread, miso paste, shirataki noodles, tofu.
Any favorite restaurants you like to hit late night or on your day off?
There are a lot! Lately, I’ve really been into Chinatown Brasserie. I also love Ippudo, Sripraphai, and Won Jo in K town.
Drink of choice?
Campari and Soda
Our understanding is that striped marlin is dangerously overfished, but you serve it at Marea. Any plans to change that or work to source only sustainable seafood?
This is a great question. We are very committed to the sustainable seafood cause–and acutely aware of sustainability concerns–and we buy from what we think are the most responsible fisheries.
Related: Recipe Improv with Michael White