When I asked him how got into the restaurant business, he explained that when he was 14, he wanted a stereo; instead of finding one under the Christmas tree, his parents told him to get a job. He worked that summer in a tobacco field in his hometown of Washington, N.C. Suffice to say, the next summer he looked for a job that was anywhere but outside. He found a position at a small Pasquale’s Pizzeria, and he continued to run it all through high school.
At the young age of 20, he was hired as chef at the Washington Golf and Country Club and worked there for six years, leaving to attend the Culinary Institute of America.
Michael has worked as a general manager, chef and bartender at numerous restaurants all over the country. He laughs that he got a job in China, where he planned to be for one year; he came back 12 years later with a wife, Xiao Yun, and a lot of experience as a restaurateur.
He was working at the Corpus Christi Golf and Country Club in Texas when he saw the opening for the executive chef position at the Lookout Mountain Club. He thought it sounded like a unique setting with interesting people, and, also, the welcoming mountain breeze might be exactly what he and Xiao Yun needed after the hot years in Texas.
Michael especially likes working in the private club industry because it is the true example of hospitality. You have the advantage of getting to know your customers - knowing what they want and what they like, he said. He especially loves the LMC because of its unique physical environment, the setting, and the beautiful building.
When he heard that the mountain’s two clubs, the Lookout Mountain Golf Club and the Fairyland Club, had merged, he was excited about the opportunity to supervise two kitchens with the help of executive sous chef Penny Hale, his right-hand (wo)man.
Michael’s mission is to “make people happy with food.” He wants to provide food that is consistently good, and, as Penny said, “simple foods done well.” “But with a little flash here and there,” Michael added. He can fry a pork chop with gravy and also produce a full Asian buffet without batting an eye. He craves fried Cajun gator bites and a cold beer as much as he yearns for a perfectly cooked piece of prime rib with demi-glace.
Michael is most definitely a people person and loves to come out into the dining room to ask the members what they want to see on the menu and how they like their meal. He says that his success as a chef is due to working with so many incredible, talented chefs all over the world.
He loves living on the mountain, as do his wife and their four-pawed children, and he is extremely pleased with the high quality of the staff at the club who are already like family to him.
Michael, you and your family are a wonderful addition to our mountain family! We’re glad you are here!
by Gwin Tugman