Michael Tusk

michael tusk chef

When icon Michael Tusk settled in the Bay Area, he contributed to some of the country’s most renowned restaurants including Stars, Oliveto and Chez Panisse. Under the tutelage of luminaries such as Alice Waters and Paul Bertoli, Tusk’s philosophy was formed. He translated that to his restaurants – Quince and Cotogna – favored San Francisco spots that are an ode to seasonal Northern California cuisine. We sat down with Tusk, who’s no doubt an icon we’re always excited to hear about…

What would be your ideal food day?

I like to keep it simple. Champagne and caviar.

Where would you like to travel that you haven’t been to yet?

Japan. I have never been and sadly needed to cancel my last trip because of the Tsunami.

What is your go-to recipe when cooking for family and friends?

I like to pull out old classics for friends and family. I usually heat up my hearth and cook a Bistecca alla Fiorentina and serve it with fresh shelling beans and a simple salad.

Your favorite spots (besides your own) for the best Italian food…

In the U.S, I really like Lincoln Ristorante in NYC; I think Chef Jonathan Benno’s food is spot on. In Italy, I love Aimo e Nadia in Milan. I also like La Pineta in Tuscany for fish.

The most important thing you learned from Alice Waters…

The relationship between farmer and restaurant (staying seasonal, respecting products and where they come from) and how to build a team who truly believes in the restaurant’s mission.

The most important thing you learned from Paul Bertolli…

Italian techniques and how to write a menu. Also, trusting your food sense, respecting the history of food and staying true to your beliefs.

Could you give us some menu favorites from Quince and Cotogna?

From Quince, I like our current Sea Urchin Risotto with Passionfruit and Hot Pepper. It’s complex and has a lot going on. I cooked it spur of the moment for Chef David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, after we had just returned from a farmers market in Santa Barbara with fresh passionfruit.

For Cotogna, I like our Porchetta Della Casa, Spit Roasted Paine Farm Squab and Grilled Quail with Tory Farm Grapes and Mirto. Also, our Wood Oven Roasted Dry Farm Tomatoes and Celery and Bottarga salad.

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