Can you give us a short bio of yourself?

Chef Michael Ruggiero, currently the Executive Chef at GlenArbor Golf Club, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. With 25 years of experience working under and alongside a Master Chef, Culinary Olympic Team Chefs, and in a host of prestigious private clubs as Executive Chef. Chef Michael has dedicated his career to the culinary arts and has an extensive experience of flavor profiles that spans the world's cuisines.  "This is art in which you never stop creating and learning. Every year during the offseason I rededicate myself to learning and seeing new parts of the world and its endless culinary creations."
Chef Michael Ruggiero and others in a kitchen holding white truffle on a tray


How would you describe your food?

My food is the result of 25 years of 60-plus hour weeks cooking, tasting, and serving - over and over again. The flavor profiles have been built over the years of repetition. They come from classic world cuisines seen through my eyes and those that have shown me. They come to the plate through what I feel the food best presents and tastes best, but with the help of the many wonderful cooks and chefs in my kitchen.

What ingredient (besides truffles) is most important to your cuisine?

The freshest ingredients, but the most important are probably the finishers - the good acids: vinegar or lemon, a great butter or olive oil, fresh herbs, reductions. Those are the things that elevate and add complexity.

What experience changed the way you see food?

Every trip to somewhere new where I was able to enjoy the food and culture of another country or even state or region of the U.S. It is those experiences that shape the food we cook of other cuisines: knowing the origin and the love put into the meal in a person’s home. Understanding ‘the why’ behind these dishes, like why they were created and important to the specific region or country.

What was your first truffle experience like?

Simple and misunderstood probably. A bottle of white truffle oil in which I probably put too much on the preparation. It wasn't until I was able to work with real White Truffles that I understood the power I was wielding and how to incorporate it with food. I guess, like anything else, a learning curve to understand and best accentuate the flavor.

What is your favorite way to use truffles?

I love to incorporate it in items where it sticks and absorbs right into the dish and takes it to another level. A simple puree soup, or even more so, a pasta sauce in which it shaves right in like fresh parmesan. Two easy ways for truffles to really shine.

What is your go-to truffle product in the kitchen? How do you use it?  

White Truffle Butter made from the extra shavings after our annual White Truffle Dinner at GlenArbor. We make a compound butter with the excess and whenever we need a boost just drop some into a dish and bang, it's a winner.

What is the best truffle dish you’ve ever made?

It was a recreation of something I ate at Le Cirque but I moved around some ingredients. The original was a braised rabbit with truffle creme sauce and spaetzle. I switched it up and did a Pan Seared Pancetta and Sage Wrapped Rabbit Loin, with pan-toasted chestnut spaetzle, porcini mushrooms, and White Truffle Butter. I hate to say "best" because I feel like chefs can have a lot of "bests," but that one brings a smile to your face and belly.

Are there any tips you found helpful when working with truffles, that we can share with all of our truffle lovers out there? 

For fresh truffles, always blending it into something wet via sauce, soup, dressing to let the flavors out. With truffle oils and butters using them at the end, right before serving, and also not overdoing it. A little goes a long way.

What cookbook do you reference most for inspiration? 

I use pictures on Instagram or the internet, and read menus from great restaurants all over for my most inspiration. Just looking at a dish and recreating through my flavors, or swapping out ingredients to remake it. The books I still use from time to time are The Joy of Cooking (a simple one-of-everything cookbook) and The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (another where there’s a recipe for anything). But overall it's the pictures and menus of the many great restaurants around the world which inspire my creativity the most.

What are you eating and drinking on a typical night off from the kitchen? 

If I go out to eat with my family it is to a friends restaurant or a small selection of places I frequent. If we’re at home, it's always something home-cooked. My wife is from Louisiana and I’m from Queens, so a lot of Cajun cooking or Italian rustic eats. Other times it's a simple salad and grilled steak, some freshly shucked oysters, or on the rare occasion a Sunday maybe get something in the smoker. 

Drink-wise, I drink water most of the time. But I enjoy a simple cold beer like a pilsner or lager. For spirits, a great bourbon. And sometimes a glass of wine, usually white in the summer and red in the winter. It all depends on the company. Variety is the spice of life you know.

What don’t most people understand about truffles?

How truly special and unique they are. How they get to us. How hard they are to find or cultivate. I don't think their story is known.

What's the newest challenge you've taken on in the kitchen?

The newest challenge is always the same. To continually build upon the latest success through recreating old concepts better, re-seasoning previous dishes with new accents, and remaking classics. Continue to travel and absorb local cuisines. 

This year I went to Nashville for the first time and have been fooling with Nashville Hot Chicken. It sparked, in general, just me working with different batters and breading to make each type perfect, more consistent, whether a rice flour or beer batter or simple fried chicken. What's the best marinade, the best way to cut the product and adhere the batter so it fries evenly. That's just one in particular. But its an insight into how my mind works.

If you had to make a dish for a 5-year old with truffles what would it be?

I would with the hopes of getting them to try it involve maybe a grilled cheese with truffles? I have an 8 yr old and we have always expanded his flavors by making food associations, like getting him to eat smothered rabbit by telling him it’s like pulled pork....or just telling him it’s chicken. LOL. 

No, I think kids have to build their palates so anytime you can simplify it, you have a better chance at selling a new food to them.

What are you most excited to do next in your cooking or at your restaurant?

Every year, all year, I just get excited for each season and what the world gives us. Coming into the summer here in the Northeast I'm most excited to bring in the local produce that will be popping up out of the ground. Local is best. So thankful for the local farmers!

Here is how you can follow Chef Michael:

Instagram: @themikedrop