Join The Treasure Coast Foodie for his brand new video series where we get an inside look at chefs from Indian River County! We will get to see some of our favorite chefs, and some new ones, in their element as they answer questions from The Foodie Guy! The first episode kicks off with 2020 Golden Fork Awards Chef of the Year, Chef Michael Lander!
Q: Where did you acquire your culinary education?
A: I did an apprenticeship with a European chef in Atlanta at the first restaurant for Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, which now has probably 15 restaurants in Atlanta, Pano’s and Paul’s, and I started there and worked my way up through the ranks, then got into the private club business, then I got into my business.
Q: What is the most important thing you learned in culinary school?
A: Actually, I didn’t go to culinary school, I did an apprenticeship with a chef in Atlanta, and honestly I would suggest anybody looking to get into this field spend at least 2 years in the business before they start doling money out for school because I don’t feel as though it gets you much further along than you can on your own. The school of hard knocks is a good way to go in this business.
Q: What was your first culinary job?
A: First culinary job was at Wendy’s, and actually when I was the executive chef at Boca Grove in Boca Raton Florida in the early 90’s, Dave the owner of Wendy’s was a member and at every cocktail party he would call me out and tell all the members this guy started his culinary career with me. That’s a good story, but it started at Wendy’s.
Q: If you had not become a chef, what profession would you have chosen?
A: Probably a couple of things, my wife asks me this a lot, but a farmer would be one, and a doctor would be another one. I think I would have been a good general doctor, it ran in my family before me, that’s probably what I would have gone with.
Q: What do you love most about being a chef?
A: I’m a caregiving person, I love most when I see people enjoying what we have to offer. Just enjoy everything from the time they hit the door to service, the drink, the food, just enjoying themselves makes the journey worthwhile.
Q: What is your favorite ingredient to work with?
A: That’s a tough one, obviously we do a lot of seafood here, so I would have to lean toward seafood. But, uh, I like all ingredients, I’m inspired by what the farmers are growing, and what they are producing now, every year that’s growing, so it keeps me pretty motivated with what’s happening and what is going to happen.
Q: What is your favorite kitchen tool?
A: Probably my iPhone. I keep in touch with farmers on a daily basis, especially during the season, it’s their growing time, things are available, their not available, so there is a lot of back and forth communication. As far as in the kitchen, I would have to say a perforated spoon and a non-perforated spoon, they are used constantly.
Q: Who is your inspiration when it comes to culinary creations?
A: That’s a tough one, I mean, I have several chef friends that work in San Francisco, New York, we keep in touch. Um, I would almost have to say the product is the most inspirational. What’s coming from the farmers, what’s coming from the fisheries, that’s kind of where I get my motivation and inspiration if you will, and it just goes day to day, working on something today, and you think, I could use that in a different way another time. It just kind of builds on itself.