If Chef Michael Ferraro could capture his persona in a single spice, he’d be salt. Unique yet universal, and coveted for its distinct characteristic of showing its power through absence.
Ferraro’s family immigrated to the United States from Southern Italy in the ‘50s. Food was the center of his home – his parents owned a family business and he was tasked with helping in the garden and cooking. At a young age, Ferraro and his brothers opened a restaurant, but ultimately a wise-word from his father to do it the “right way” landed him at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). In 2002, Ferraro graduated from the CIA and went straight to New York.
“I was young and I was driven,” he says. “So, I packed up – no money and no job, just a passion for cooking, and a refusal-to-fail mindset.”
Ferraro’s opening resume builders were a young cook’s dream; he found himself in the kitchens of celebrity chefs, Waldy Malouf who at the time was running Beacon Restaurant, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s iconic Mercer Kitchen. He learned quickly that a chef’s success starts with understanding the various hierarchies of the kitchen, and in 2003 took the chef tournant position at the famed 5-star, 5-diamond Four Seasons Hotel. Hard work paid off and after a brief stint at the reputable Biltmore Room, he accepted his first Chef de Cuisine position at the Patina Restaurant Group, followed by his first Executive Chef position at Michelin recommended and 2-star New York Times fine dining seafood restaurant, Fresh.
Ferraro intentionally moved around the kitchens of New York; he believed with each position came new lessons. In 2008, with seven years and six kitchens under his belt, Ferraro gathered all his teachings and became Chef/Owner at Delicatessen in New York’s SoHo. The foundation of the menu was seasonality, with a heavy lean into the always-nostalgic comfort food favorites. Delicatessen’s success led to a second concept in 2009, Macbar, a restaurant exclusively dedicated to offering playful riffs on America’s favorite side, macaroni & cheese.
The years went fast, but not without recognition. Ferraro was part of Zagat’s inaugural “30 Under 30” (2011) and was featured on The Cooking Channel and the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” “Chopped” and judged on “Beat Bobby Flay.” He also secured a reoccurring guest Chef expert appearance alongside Jon Taffer on Paramount TV’s “Bar Rescue.”
After 11 successful years, Ferraro and his partners decided to sell the restaurants. The timing was uncanny; a little over a year later, the entire world came to a halt and New York’s dining industry collapsed. Twenty years had flown by, and a chance to reflect on his next chapter found him evaluating what was important at this stage in his career. In 2021 Ferraro, made a bold move to relocate to Orlando, accepting a position as VP of Food and Beverage for Tavistock Restaurant Collection. As shared in a relevant Wall Street Journal article that Ferraro was featured, his decision was personal, but also very much aligned with a larger exodus of city chefs who were leaving major metropolises to finding new destinations.
Within the Tavistock restaurant portfolio, Ferraro oversees 15 unique restaurants spanning over locations in Boston, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Central and South Florida. In his first year, he was at the helm of two successful re-openings, Timpano Las Olas and Timpano Hyde Park, the latter of which was recognized in Michelin’s inaugural Florida guide. Tavistock Restaurant Collection’s corporate offices in Lake Nona, Orlando, serves as the central hub of the company’s focus with highly anticipated openings already slated for 2023 and 2024. Today, Ferraro’s resume reads like an incredible list of “best-ofs,” but despite his copious amounts of achievements, many would stay still say that Ferraro is “salt of the earth.”