Michael Giletto, executive chef at the Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman, N.J., recently spoke with us about his extensive culinary background and knowledge, passion for cooking and love of California-grown garlic. Giletto, known for his global – yet local – innovative, fresh approach in the kitchen, is well regarded in the culinary world.
1.) What’s your culinary background?
I have a wide range of food gastronomy under my toque and strong knowledge of all types of cuisine, flavor profiles, olfactory, sensory (and) perception.
I feel that culinary evolution is evolving every second. To gain speed in an organized culinary adventure, you need a self-motivating philosophy, so I want to take new perspectives from existing styles and cuisines. I would like to create my food knowledge and culinary analysis map using technology and characteristics from new food families, share my findings from raw material, technology, tradition (and) origin and give everyone the purpose. I would like my cuisine to become inspirational, become the influence, become the device and delivering this trilogy will open the elements of all judgment.
2.) What’s your favorite dish/cuisine?
I have two favorites: I have strong feelings to follow my heritage (Sicilian). I truly live the cuisine, love the cuisine and feel the cuisine. Second is Japanese cuisine – love the culture and cuisine.
Favorite dish with garlic?
Pork Belly with Moroccan barbeque sauce, curry-scented pork meatball croquettes, chef’s garden pickled baby red beets and black radish salad with a Christopher Ranch roasted garlic vindaloo.
3.) What are the most important ingredients and techniques in cooking?
I must admit, I reach for the Christopher Ranch garlic first – after all, our guests get one whole unpeeled roasted bulb – piping hot – with warm Sicilian bread to start the meal. Who says bread makes the first impression in my restaurant? It’s the garlic!
Techniques: We play with many techniques at CVCC – everything from liquid nitrogen to sous vide style cooking. If you’re looking for a quick technique for a garnish, we use peeled Christopher Ranch garlic, sliced very thin with a vegetable slicer, fried golden brown and seasoned with any type of seasoning to create the most flavorful garlic chip you ever tasted. We use this as a garnish for our trilogy of Moroccan meatballs! It really rocks!
4.) What are the major trends influencing the restaurant business today?
I feel Mediterranean cuisine is leading the pack and the Arabic influences are pushing strong. Trends are the smaller portions with big, bold flavors. Try fermenting your garlic under high heat for 24 hours – it creates a very bold, full-flavored licorice taste.
5.) Similarly, what influences your style and your menu?
I am fortunate my members have very sophisticated pallets, which open the doors to get fresh ingredients (from) all around the United States – pretty much anything I can get my hands on. The best thing about being a New Jersey Chef – we are the Garden State and with all the local farms that surround my club, my fresh, organic ingredients stand out. I choose Christopher Ranch garlic because of the sustainability factor and its cut above the competition.
My style is “fresh sophistication with American collective cuisine and plate mastering meals.”
7.) What’s the best thing about your job?
I am aware of my surroundings at all times and teach my culinary associates, as I work alongside them daily. I have always wished for the best in my undergrads and culinarians to help them move forward as future chefs themselves.
Everyday, working alongside my team and understanding how they have improved as chefs in this fast-paced world of culinary we live in today.
Also, how they/we function as a team, the smiles and the laughs we have daily and the ups and downs are really the best things about my job!
8.) What inspires you in the kitchen?
My inspirations come from the simplest error at times, as well as reading the trendy concepts in the culinary magazine world. My favorite inspirations come from using farm fresh ingredients. Love your farmer!
9.) What is the most memorable meal you have experienced?
Ah, the most memorable meal is when I was in Florida at Epcot (Italy). My son and I had ordered the gnocchi at the restaurant next to the statue in the square – truly the best!
10.) When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
At age 7, when I first created my very own “grilled peanut butter sandwich” – what a mess! To this day, I still eat the thing!
11.) If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
Hollywood, baby!! I have been in a few movies and the big screen stuff stuck with me!
12.) Who is your mentor/idol?
I was inspired buy the Galloping Gourmet and the Frugal Gourmet, as a young man. I would watch as much as I could to gain that edge over my mother’s cooking…not to mention, she did not cook much! Her vision of cooking was stew (every night)!
13.) Why do you prefer California-grown garlic?
I have many reasons I use Christopher Ranch garlic – one is the respect for the family grown product, and, as a young man that lived on a farm, I fully understand the love and passion they put into growing this fine product!