Michael Chiarello

Chef, TV Personality

Napa

Chef and owner of Bottega in Napa Valley, Michael Chiarello dons numerous hats in the culinary world. In addition to his Wine Country restaurant, Chiarello hosts Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello on the Food Network. The Culinary Institute of America grad also dabbles in everything from olive oil (Consorzio Flavored Oils) to wine (Chiarello Family Vineyards). Drawing influence from his Southern Italian roots and his Napa Valley surroundings, Chiarello has a unique perspective on food and healthy living. He’s published nine cookbooks, including his latest, Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors, which came out in spring 2013. Chiarello’s new restaurant, Coqueta — a Spanish concept on San Francisco’s Pier 5 — opened in 2013 as well.

  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    What are Michael Chiarello’s favorite things to do in San Francisco?

    The Embarcadero is being redone again. Our new restaurant is right on the water, Pier 5 — it’s about 100 yards north of the Ferry Building. I think that the Embarcadero, the sunshine, the walking, the cycling from the ballpark and now the Exploratorium’s opening. They have some great restaurants in the Exploratorium. We have America’s Cup in summer 2013. I love the activation that’s happened on the Embarcadero. The Warrior Stadium is going up in 2015, which will also be an event venue.

    For sure, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, go to farmers markets. Outside the Ferry Building, visit the food market and food stalls on Thursdays. I think the Ferry Building is a new hub for San Francisco. The thing to watch out for is the Transbay Terminal, which is the Grand Central Station of San Francisco; it will be another hub two blocks away.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    What does Michael Chiarello always travel with?

    I have a Varvatos suede jacket that’s my go-to. You can wad it up, throw it into a backpack and just pull it out, shake it. It’s brilliant. And a pair of zipper shoes that can just come off. I hate ending up with lace-up shoes that take four minutes unlacing and re-lacing — it’s too much. There’s a great San Francisco design shop called Chrome. I just bought one of their messenger backpacks that’s just perfect. It’s a laptop bag/backpack that doesn’t look like I’m from Hewlett-Packard. Also, my iPad — a pre-downloaded iPad that I’ve done three days before so you have those four films in case you get one leg of travel that doesn’t have any video.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    Who is Michael Chiarello’s favorite travel companion?

    My wife. We travel well together. We’re remarkably good travelers. All of my kids travel fantastically. I have four kids. I have a guy friend, who is with me now; we are working on this restaurant together. His name is Brooks Griffin; he is my favorite non-relative traveling companion. We’ve traveled the world — to 13 countries. He’s just not a pain in the ass. He doesn’t overpack. We think the same. We like the same foods. We like the same experience. We give each other space when we need space.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    What stores does Michael Chiarello visit when he travels?

    Vincon in Barcelona. There are cooking stuff, design pieces. I think he’s got a great eye. I’ve known him for years. You’ll go there to see what’s new, what’s fresh. I love to buy pens when I travel. It gives you a chance to tell a story when you are writing a note in a restaurant. I think they are important reminders to buy from places that you’ve traveled. They remind you to slow down, relax in your everyday life. They help you lead a more flavorful life.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    What does Michael Chiarello look for in a hotel?

    There are a couple things. My partners have a pair of small hotels — 14 rooms — off the Spanish Steps in Rome. They pre-concierge you. If you’re seeing the concierge the day you get there, you’re too late. Trying to walk your way through what you really want to see in advance is time consuming. My wife spends hours scouring what are we going to do, what are we going to see, where are we going to go. At these hotels, they just worked it out in advance. By the time you walked in there, everything was all buttoned up. You come in here, it’s going to be a 15-hour flight, you’ve got a four-year-old, and they have you set up, organized, done. I think of the concierges as an offense not a defense, where they really work for you. You can always edit out and edit things down.

    The other thing when it comes to hotels is I don’t like to get nickeled and dimed. I want to pay another 50 bucks and not tip anybody. I want water that I can drink. I want the perfect pillow — I don’t need the pillow menu that I have to pay a premium for. I want wireless. They’re subtle, but there’s something about the travel exhaustion of reaching for your wallet. I don’t like to have to search for coffee in the morning.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    What are Michael Chiarello’s favorite hotels?

    The Ferragamo hotel [Hotel Lungarno] near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence last year was my best stay. It was opposite of The Ritz-Carlton, where everything is kind of matchy-matchy, Persian rugs. It’s a contemporary hotel. It’s in a style that only the Ferragamos can do. It definitely felt like you were in somebody’s home. It was a little more lofty. All the wood is light as opposed to dark. The linens were tans and whites. In a busy bustling city, there’s some serenity to the design that really, really works, like a pair of Ferragamo loafers. It’s a timeless design.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Michael Chiarello answered the question: Michael Chiarello

    What are Michael Chiarello's favorite cities?

    I really have been enjoying domestically is — I hate saying this — secondary markets. D.C., Philadelphia. And Chicago is such a good food town. In D.C., we did a four-restaurant dine-around one night. D.C. used to be a culinary wasteland 25 years ago. I think it’s really developed. When real estate isn’t as expensive, people try something that they wouldn’t try in Midtown Manhattan. I think young chefs are traveling to be a big fish in a smaller pond and doing really well.

    I love Spain and Italy. When you take beach vacations out of it, Americans tend to be fond of places we like to eat — and the types of food we like to eat. I’m going to Spain in a couple weeks again. I hear the early adopters in travel say, “We went to Barcelona, spent three days in San Sebastian, then we went to the Basque country and we finished in Andalusia in Southern Spain.” The new tour is kind of that five-, six-, seven-day tour of northern Spain.

    Outside of San Sebastian is a restaurant called Etxebarri. That’s kind of a chef spot for 100 percent cooking over live fire. He designed it as fine dining cooked over live fire in a casual setting where the sommelier is from El Bulli. The food is just exquisite. There’s a whole tradition in San Sebastian that’s been going on for centuries: men’s culinary clubs, where they get together a couple times a week and cook for each other. It’s an amazing experience. And then they go to the casino at two in the morning, drink gin and tonics. There are a couple travel guides that can get you into some of these meals, which is what you want.

    I’ve heard people talk about Peru. I’ve been to Peru a few times, and I’ve heard people talking about Peru being the new Italy. I really think that’s Spain. Peru is too far, too different from us. That proximity of the wine country to Barcelona is the same as Napa Valley to San Francisco; so you have multiple things you can do from the city. In Barcelona, you have the beach. If you’re cyclist like I am, you go to Girona and bring your bike. They have Barceloneta and the whole Cava region. Simply said, I think Barcelona is the new Florence for the early adopting domestic traveler.