About The Chef

Executive Chef

Michael Perri

Original Article Published in the News-Journal: Written by Tom Iacuzio

When you’ve cooked for presidents, music stars and worked for culinary icons such as Wolfgang Puck, you can pretty much write your own ticket. After more than 30 years in the kitchen, Chef Michael Perri cashed in for an executive chef job by the ocean at the garlic in New Smyrna Beach.

Q: How long have you been there?

I have been with The Garlic in New Smyrna Beach since 2006. However, I have been with the company since 1992 as the executive chef for their other restaurants in Vermont, The Garlic (North) and Peppers Bar & Grill, before becoming the corporate executive chef, overseeing all of their restaurants.

Q: How long have you been cooking?

I have been cooking for more than 30 years.

Q: With such a long career in food, what are some of the highlights?

I have been very fortunate to have had the pleasure of working all over the country. I was executive chef at Sonny Bono’s restaurant, Bono’s, in Palm Springs, California. I have had the pleasure of cooking for President Gerald Ford and Motley Crue. I have also worked at Nora’s Italian Restaurant in Las Vegas, which was featured on the Food Network. I’ve worked at the John Hancock Building in Chicago and at Wolfgang Puck and Spago Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a chef?

Growing up, my family owned a restaurant. I enjoyed watching my father cook and run the kitchen. He made it look so easy and fun. His skills were fundamental in my career choice, and his support was and still is a large part of my success.

Q: Where did you learn to cook?

My formal training was through the Culinary Institute of America, where I graduated in 1981.

Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?

My personal style of cooking, I would say, is rustic Italian comfort food.

Q: What is your favorite cooking technique?

I enjoy saute and carving with ice. Or anything to do with a wood oven, the flavors and caramelization are amazing at 800 – 900 degrees.

Q: How important are fresh ingredients to your dishes?

Fresh ingredients are fundamental. You always want to use the highest quality products with the freshest ingredients available. Remember you only get out of it what you put into it.

Q: What's the best dish you’ve ever had?

As far as the best dinner ever cooked for me, that is like asking which one of my children is my favorite. l say this because of my passion for food.

Q. What is your signature dish? How would you describe it?

Cioppino. It’s a seafood stew with chunks of fresh fish, local shrimp, clams and mussels with a cold water lobster, scallops and calamari, simmered in a tomato saffron white wine broth.

Q: What other dishes would you recommend?

I recommend the 32-ounce Bone-in Ribeye, the 1-pound N.Y. Strip, Cedar Plank Salmon, Seafood Cannelloni and the Ground Filet Mignon and Cheese Lasagna.