Anzu’s Chef Michael Raub‘s story is one that seems to exemplify the phrase, “Life is what happens when you’re making plans.”
From Texas barbecue to the French Laundry to Asian-Fusion cuisine, Michael Raub, Executive Chef at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, didn’t plan a career in the restaurant business.
Though cooking was a big part of his youth (with not one, but two grandmothers in the kitchen at every family gathering), his coursework was in marketing while at university in Houston, Texas. After college, he went to Colorado to pursue an internship in the hospitality industry. It was there that fate (or life) took over, and Michael’s career in the restaurant business really began.
After a brief return to Texas, he pursued the best of the best: The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. His ambition and initiative served him well, and he was soon on his way to Napa Valley, California, where he interned at Bouchon, quickly moving on to a full time position as Garde Manager. In 2010, he was promoted to Sous Chef. Michael stayed with the Keller Group for four years, also working at Ad Hoc and the French Laundry, a Michelin three star restaurant.
In 2012, Michael accepted a position as Executive Sous Chef at Ame Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco, where he worked with Hiro Sone, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chefs of California award.
Michael credits both of his grandmothers with instilling in him an appreciation of good food and fresh ingredients, his first employers with his work ethic, and his determination with a bit of luck, for the opportunity to work alongside some of the best chefs in the business.
Anzu is the perfect venue, allowing him to create dishes like Sichuan Peppered Filet Mignon and Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi (recipe below). The menu incorporates his love of high quality meats and fresh local sustainable seafood. It seems that life was just waiting to bring Michael’s particular blend of experience and skill to Anzu at the Nikko.
Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
How long have you been cooking?
What is your favorite food to cook?
I love cooking with fresh seafood. It is very delicate and takes constant attention.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I haven’t served a customer in a very long time. What I find appealing about one of our guests is a sense of adventure.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex, but prefer a good old fashioned mason jar.
Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Your favorite cookbook author?
Right now, I can’t put Dominique Crenn’s new book down
Your favorite kitchen tool?
Your favorite ingredient?
The lettuces and herbs we are getting from Ecopia Farms right now!
Your least favorite ingredient?
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Leave for the day
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Whatever is at the peak of the season
Chef you most admire?
Food you like the most to eat?
Food you dislike the most?
Hard Boiled Eggs
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Recipe: Citrus Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry
- 1 T Olive Oil
- 3 T Green Curry Paste
- 1 Shallot (Minced)
- 1 Inch Peeled Ginger (Minced)
- 2 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
- .5 Each Lemon Grass (Chopped)
- 1 C Coconut Milk
- 1 C Dashi
- 5 Each Kaffir Lime Leaves
- 1 T Fish Sauce
- 1 T Brown Sugar
- 2 Bunches Thai Basil
- 1 C Baby Spinach
- 2 T Kosher Salt
- 1 T Sugar
- 1 Lime (Zested)
- 1 Lemon (Zested)
- 1 Orange (Zested)
- 1 t Cracked Coriander
- 4 each 5 Ounce Mahi Mahi Portions
- 1 Large Butternut Squash
- 12 Mixed Marble Potatoes
- 4 C Baby Spinach
- 1 Clove Garlic (Minced)
- .5 Lime
For the curry, heat the oil in a medium heavy bottom pot on high heat until slightly smoking.
Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and brown for about two minutes.
Add the curry paste and kaffir limes and continue cooking another minute. Add the coconut milk and dashi and bring to a simmer.
Add the sugar and fish sauce and cook for thirty minutes.
Season to taste and let cool to room temperature.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves and place the curry in a blender with the spinach and basil.
Puree until completely smooth and pass through a fine mesh strainer.
For the citrus cure, combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and reserve.
Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and flesh. Peel the outer layer and cut into one inch pieces and roast in the oven at 400 degrees.
Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Season the mahi with the citrus cure and grill until medium to medium well. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F.
Take the half of lime and place on the grill, flesh side down, until a dark caramel crust forms.
We like to finish our mahi in the oven on a smoking plank of cherry wood.
Take a large sauté pan and heat up a small amount of olive oil and place the garlic in the pan and sweat for thirty seconds.
Place the spinach in the pan and cook until just wilted.
Blanch the mixed marble potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Heat the curry and add the squash and potatoes.
Ladle the curry in four separate bowls and top with the wilted spinach.
Serve the fish on the side on the wood planks, so you can add the fish as you eat the curry.
The End. Go Eat.
All photos courtesy and copyright Anzu at the Hotel Nikko, San Francisco