Haute Eating: 10 Questions for Marea’s Chef Michael White

Chef Michael White, a master of high end Italian cuisine, has been making his mark with seafood as well, albeit with the coast of Italy in mind. At Marea, White’s temple of seafood on Central Park South, delicacies from the sea are exalted in dishes like the Adriatic seafood soup (with clams, langoustines, scallops, prawns and snapper); porcini dusted scallops with soppressata and celery root; and seaweed marinated swordfish with charred peaches and baby eggplant. To start, there is an array of east and west coast oysters, plus caviar and an abundant list of very appealing crudo. Chef White marries his love of pasta with seafood, too, with fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow, spaghetti with crab and sea urchin, among other pasta offerings.

Haute seafood lovers are certain to have a memorable dining experience at Marea, thanks to Chef Michael White’s breathtaking dishes.

Haute Living: How did you become interested in Italian cuisine?

Michael White: In 1991, I worked in my first professional kitchen, at Spiaggia in Chicago, under fellow Midwesterner Paul Bartollotta. He really introduced me to Italian cuisine, and after working there, I wanted to explore the country that produced the food I loved to cook, so I moved to Italy. There, I trained under the incredibly talented Italian Chef Valentino Marcattilii at Ristorante San Domenico in Imola and I learned the Old-World traditional style of cooking Italian that today makes my style of Italian restaurant different from any other in the country. I spent 8 years there.

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at Marea?

MW: It’s hard to choose a favorite dish, it’s like choosing a favorite child, you know? I’m proud of all of the dishes that come out of the kitchen at Marea.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?

MW: I love any type of Asian cuisine. I’ve been a huge fan of Sripraphai out in Woodside, and have been for years, way before other chefs were calling it out as a favorite. Chinatown Brasserie has some amazing dumplings as well.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?

MW: I like food you remember—so anything that creates that taste-memory link. Basic ingredients, done really well.

HL: Your favorite special occasion spot?

MW: San Domenico in Italy

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?

MW: I live on the Upper West Side, and I love it up there. There are a ton of little restaurants doing great things, and the park is right there. It’s a great place to live.

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?

MW: I have 7-year old daughter and on my days off I love spending time with her, doing whatever it she wants to do.

HL: Your favorite vacation destination?

MW: No brainer. Italy. It’s where I met my wife and where I discovered my culinary passion.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?

MW: I had really enjoyable eggs and bacon for breakfast this morning.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?

MW: Burratta cheese; sea urchin; lardo; bacon; octopus; fresh basilico.

Marea is located at 240 Central Park South; 212-582-5100

Tracey Ceurvels can be reached via email: tracey@thebusyhedonist.com or on her blog, The Busy Hedonist.