Michael Chernow is the co-owner and General Manager of the very popular and successful restaurants The Meatball Shop in New York City. He is also co-author of The Meatball Shop Cookbook and was recently on Jay Leno with co-owner and Executive Chef Daniel Holzman.
I had a chance to chat with Michael after attending a cooking demonstration with Daniel Holzman at The New York Times Travel Show.
At the show Michael spoke about his love for travel and some upcoming travel plans so I figured he would make for a great interview.
Here is the interview:
MW: How did you decide that you wanted to work in the restaurant business?
MC: I began working in restaurants in Manhattan as a kid (13) because I always wanted money in the pocket. My folks didn’t have much money and father taught me early on about monetary value. I have always thought like an entrepreneur. When I was 11 years old, I was walking every do in a two block radius. By the time I was 16 I had a lot of my friends working for me in a Flyer/ Mailing Promoter business (before e-mail).
MW: What was your first job in the industry?
MC: Delivering food via roller-blades for a vegan restaurant- The Candle Cafe on East 76th Street.
MW: The Meatball Shop is very popular & successful. Did you always feel that a shop focused on meatballs would catch on?
MC: Everybody loves meatballs! I always thought it would catch on, I only dreamed it would catch on at this level. People assumed I had gone mad when I proposed a meatball and ice cream restaurant. I also thought it was a bit risky, but I listened to the people of NY- they want simplicity and the best of!
MW:What is your favorite combo from the menu?
MC: I am a huge fan of Spicy Pork Meatballs with Spicy Meat Sauce over polenta. I eat the Veggie Meatballs with Pesto Sauce on the Kitchen Sink Salad- A healthier option for a daily Meatball Shop eater.
MW:Any plans to expand outside of NYC?
MC: As of now we are focused on NYC. We have discussed other markets but NYC is a big place with lots of hungry people.
MW:Do you prefer fine dining or comfort food?
MC: I like both very much! Fine dining is a special occasion venture for me and so is comfort food, I am a very healthy eater. The Meatball Shop is a place that one can indulge or be a health nut as well.
MW: What is your favorite food asides from meatballs?
MW:Do you have a favorite drink? Favorite beer?
MC: I don’t drink alcohol anymore, so beer is no longer a favorite of mine. I typically drink seltzer water but I love Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider and Abita Root Beer on tap.
MW: What other interests/ hobbies do you have asides from food?
MC: I am an extreme athlete. I train Muay Thai kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I run marathons, snowboard, skateboard, dream about surfing and lift weights. I also really enjoy traveling and antiquing with my wife.
|R-Michael Chernow C-Michael W. L-Daniel Holzman
MW: We spoke a bit about travel and you seemed really into it.
MW: Has travel affected your likes/ dislikes when it comes to food?
MC: Traveling has left major impacts on me when it comes to food. I have a dream to open a restaurant much like Cal Pep in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. No menus, just super fresh, top quality ingredients cooked and served. There are very few place in the US where you go in and simply eat what the chef is cooking. Kinda like when you go to your grandmothers place, you eat what she cooks and 9 out of 10 times it is delicious and exactly what you wanted anyhow…
MW: Do you plan to incorporate anything from travel into The Meatball Shop’s menu?
MC: We always incorporate traveling into our menu. We can make a meatball from any flavor profile we like. All cultures have a meatball or traditional dish.
MW: When traveling, do you seek out any culinary related activities? (local cooking classes, markets etc…)
MC: The first thing on my agenda when traveling is food!! First I see out the local markets. Typically I do all the research before hand so I know exactly where and when to go. Once I get there I ask the people at the markets where to eat, always works out well for me. Most people at farmers markets and local markets are the locals, they know the best of the best.
MW: Do you have a favorite place or region of the world?
MC: I love Barcelona, Spain. My favorite city and in my opinion best eating town in the world.
MW: What food did you discover or try out that you would’ve never known about if not for traveling?
MC: Eating espresso granita and fresh brioche buns for breakfast in Catania, Sicily. That’s what they have everyday…. Amazing.
MW: Can you tell me a little about your next planned trip?
MC: My wife and I are going to France to horseback ride on a 5 day tour through the south. We will then rent a car and drive into the Alps for some great food and to tour some amazing cheese caves.
I want to thank Michael Chernow for taking the time to answer the questions for this interview!
The Meatball Shop has three locations in New York City (two in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn) and recently announced plans for a fourth location in Chelsea, NYC.
To find out more about The Meatball Shop, check out their website HERE