Michael was pre-med in college, and always knew how to cook ("I'm a first generation Sicilian!"), so he gigged at his college cafeteria to make some extra money. Enthusiastic feedback from students and faculty convinced him he would have to change career paths.
His mother bought him a copy of the 1994 Zagat guide and said: "You better call the best restaurant in New York City. Otherwise, you're wasting my time!"
He cold called chef David Bouley, who invited him to show up. After two months doing unpaid chores, Michael moved into a paid job making pastry at Bouley.
As a 22-year-old pastry chef at The Pierre Hotel, a mentor hold him: "There are two types of trees -- there's an oak and a willow. You think you want to be the oak, but you want to be the willow. Because the willow can sway 90 degrees in one direction and 90 degrees in the other and never snap. You need to be able to pivot."
The pandemic forced Michael to close his original bake shop in Jackson Heights and operate solely out of his Glen Oaks store.
Michael is the co-author of "The Pastry Chef's Little Black Book."
WUSTHOF OFFSET SERRATED KNIFE
4" PARING KNIFE
I picked up this about 15 years ago. It's from the 50s, 60s. It's carbon.
I got it at a yard sale for a buck. Long Island. The north shore.
It was rusty, a mess. Sabatier has a very distinct handle. And a shape. It was covered in rust because it's carbon. And a lot of really good knives are made out of carbon steel.
People don't know how to take care of it. You can't really wash it in soap and water.
So I knew if I brought this home, put some Brillo pad, sharpen it, and give it love, it would work.
This was used. A lot. The stories that things could tell. Who knows who held it or used it.
For me, and for a lot of pastry and kitchen guys, to have an offset serrated knife is such a utilitarian knife, especially for pastries, because offset, you get that cut at the bottom.
It's seven inches, so it's good enough to fit in your hand, just for carving fruits or vegetables.
I own many knives.... It's all great, but at the end of the day, you want something to go to.
Me being pastry, a lot of savory chefs will pick up my knife and say "Hey, this is comfortable." Cos they would never use an offset except to cut bread.
This one I've had for about 20 years or so. The handle's cracking and I sharpen it as best I can. Not too much because you do wear these down. I have a few of these. This is my oldest one.
I GOT IT AT A YARD SALE FOR A BUCK.