The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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130  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 Michael Rossi likes to say that "being the chef of a restaurant is like inviting people into your home every night." In this case, his home—or perhaps the word estate is more appropriate—is The Ranch in Anaheim, California, where he serves as the Executive Chef. Established in 2012, the property encompasses 53,000 square feet of venues, includ- ing a restaurant, saloon, events center, and 2-acre organic vegetable farm growing roughly 70 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Rossi's charming chef analogy makes sense given the root of his love for food and wine. "I grew up in a big Italian family in Orange County, so it all started around the table for me," he explains. After graduating at the top of his class from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and training under celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, Rossi also spent time in Italy working with Bruno Barbieri at the two- Michelin-starred Locanda Solarola in Bologna. While in Italy, he planted 1,500 Barbera vines and harvested grapes in Bordeaux, but perhaps it was his time spent helping open Disney's Napa Rose restaurant in Anaheim that really fueled his desire to become a Certified Sommelier. Master Sommeliers like Fred Dame, Tim Gaiser, and Michael Jordan would hang out frequently at the restaurant, where Jordan served as a manager and an "amazing mentor," Rossi says (it was Jordan, in fact, who recommended him for the position of Executive Chef when The Ranch opened). The Ranch boasts a wine cellar of more than 10,000 bottles, allowing for out-of-the-ordinary offer- ings like a list of 50 wines by the glass, a substantial large-format collection, hard-to-find cult wines, and an extensive Port and Madeira collection. The garden, meanwhile, allows Rossi to remain in line with The Ranch's farm-to-table, seasonal approach. "That's why we're able to cook all these different foods but still keep it fresh and Californian," he explains. "If you understand the nuances of wine and terroir, cooking the food to pair with it is like connecting the dots." It's no wonder, then, that guests of The Ranch have no trouble seeing the big picture. People who aren't afraid to eat. I like to spoil customers and tell them "my inner grandma made me do it." When customers trust me. I always tell people if you're going to try escargot for the first time, try it here. Telling a good story. It gives meaning to food and wine. Travel, because I like to learn new things. I love cooking, and luckily, it's my job. I have a lot of compassion for people with Celiac disease, but people who just cut out gluten for dietary reasons are something else. Smoking between courses. It messes up the flow of the experience! Chefs who don't allow modifications. Just tell me what you like and you don't like. Tardiness. I have a meeting every day at 2:30 with my kitchen staff. This creates accountability. Obliviousness. There's glass between our kitchen and the dining room, but sometimes people will come into the kitchen and take a phone call! THE "5" LIST MICHAEL ROSSI'S TOP FIVE FAVES: MICHAEL ROSSI'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES: MICHAEL ROSSI EXECUTIVE CHEF (AND CERTIFIED SOMMELIER), THE RANCH, ANAHEIM, CA by Jessie Birschbach TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . PHOTO: BRADLEY BLACKBURN

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