Chef Q&A: Michael Morrison, The Chef & I

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Michael Morrison is the Chef de Cuisine at The Chef & I Orlando, the newest outpost of the Nashville-based culinary concepts from the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Erica Rains. Located at The Hall on the Yard, the “gourmet meets rock and roll” menu features small plates such as caramelized cauliflower with local goat cheese and brunch specialties including a local pork sausage and pimento cheese Benedict. Entrées range from jumbo scallops with spiced heirloom carrots, toasted couscous, bacon jam and coconut carrot curry sauce to a brisket-and-short-rib patty melt.

An Interview with Michael Morrison

If you could travel anywhere in the world to eat for one week, where would it be?

I would love to spend a week eating in Scandinavia. The cooking and trends coming out of countries like Denmark, Finland, and Norway are pretty impressive. It would be a great experience to eat there.

What’s your favorite local restaurant?

I really love to go to Terra Mia in Lake Mary. It’s not upscale but has great food and a cool vibe.

Who had the biggest influence on the way you cook, and why?

It would have to be a close friend of mine, Angelo Garro. He is originally from Sicily and taught me so much about food. We spent a lot of time together cooking and eating. We also spent many days in the forest boar hunting and foraging for wild mushrooms. He showed me how to cure salami, make pasta, pair wine, and so much more.

What’s something you always wished you could prepare, and why?

I would really love to take a shot at learning about and cooking Indian food. I would like to go past the basic stuff and get into regional dishes.

What’s your most guilty junk food pleasure?

Ice cream. I eat way too much ice cream…mostly late at night!

What three things are in your fridge at all times?

Kimchi, yogurt and eggs.

If you weren’t a chef, what would your dream job be?

I would likely have a career in wildlife management or the fisheries industry.

What was your favorite bagged lunch as a kid?

Liverwurst and blackberry jam sandwiches…no, really! Hear me out. When I was 13 years old, I got to live and work on a farm for the summer. Every day the old farmer would pack us the same lunch. Liverwurst and homemade blackberry jam sandwiches and a giant thermos of iced tea. This was the weirdest thing I had eaten so far in my life, but I had no choice. So I ate it and loved it. After a long morning of baling hay, it really hits the spot.

What advice would you share with chefs just beginning their careers?

Read about and study food and get a firm understanding of the origins of food. Don’t waste time cooking in kitchens that don’t cook from scratch. Try not to be in a hurry to climb the ranks; you will learn more and have more success in the long run if you spend a few extra years learning as a line cook than you will in a management role.

For more Chef Q&A’s, visit our archives.

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