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Ai Fiori

Although Michael White's interpretations of Italian cuisine indicate otherwise, Michael is in fact a Midwesterner who spent his childhood in Beloit, Wisconsin. By whim or intuition, he enrolled in Kendall Culinary Institute and studied in Italy for seven years. Michael has received much of recognition for his award-winning restaurants, including being named one of one of the 40 most influential New Yorkers under 40 by Crain's New York Business in April 2010. His restaurant Marea received Best New Restaurant in the country in 2010 and was awarded two Michelin stars in the 2011 Guide. His more recent openings include Osteria Morini and Ai Fiori, which recently received three stars from The New York Times.


Ai Fiori



How do you characterize your cuisine?

Italian and French Riviera-inspired.

What region or ethnicity most influences your cooking?

The whole of Italy and the Mediterranean coast.

What is your signature dish?

Astice (lobster & burrata) or fusilli with bone marrow & octopus from Marea.

What kind of food were you exposed to as a child?

I come from a food family. My parents were always cooking and always in the kitchen. But, growing up in Wisconsin, I ate a lot of Sheboygan brats and loved attending local fish fries. Pizza was huge as well.

Have you ever lived or trained overseas? Where?

I trained in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy for seven years. I worked at San Domenico there. I also trained in France.

Is there an exotic spice or ingredient that you particularly enjoy using?

I love sriracha chili paste. I don't use it in my cooking, but I eat it when given the chance at restaurants and I cook with it at home. I also love using Colatura de Alici (found at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market).

Does the design and style of your restaurant evoke a particular place? If so, where?

Marea is very elegantly designed. The authenticity of Osteria Morini certainly evokes the rusticity of the Emilia Romagna region in northern Italy. To decorate the restaurant, we excavated a farmhouse in the region and took the wooden beams on the ceiling as well as the floor tiles to create the restaurant in New York. Tables and chairs were shipped over from Italy in large containers.

When you cook for yourself, what do you make?

Baked eggs with tomato sauce, lots of pasta and pizza at home, I do a lot of grilling on my roof deck.

Tell us about some trips you've taken for inspiration.

I am inspired everywhere I go. Just walking the streets of New York gives me ideas. Asia, in particular, has inspired me: Hong Kong and Singaporean street food, as well as the whole of Europe—France, Italy, the Mediterranean coast.

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