Harvest on the Harbor in Portland, Maine, is loaded with culinary talent. None more so than nationally acclaimed chef Michael Ruoss who will be cooking a Cajun seafood stew at its Ultimate Seafood Splash and will be a featured chef at the Saturday Marketplace. He is based in New Orleans and is Executive Chef of New Orleans’ Catch.
A native of Old Orchard Beach, Michael earned a degree from Maine Technical College’s culinary program (now SMCC) in South Portland. He worked locally at the Seaman’s Club and Snow Squall, before relocating to New Orleans on a whim figuring “worst-case scenario, I would move back home.” Ruoss fell in love with New Orleans and swiftly ascended in the elite culinary empire of Emeril Lagasse for 11 years.
Starting as a line cook at NOLA, Ruoss was quickly promoted to Sous Chef at Lagasse’s flagship restaurant in the Arts District. Two years later, Ruoss returned to NOLA as executive Sous Chef, and was promoted again as Chef de Cuisine, a position he held for five years.
In 2010, Ruoss opened Catch as corporate chef for The 3 of a Kind group, which runs ten restaurants in Louisiana and Georgia. Ruoss is in the process of opening a fourth Camilla Grill in the French Quarter around the corner from NOLA. While he is committed to his adoptive state, braving Hurricane Katrina and the recent disaster in the Gulf, Ruoss is forever a Maine native. Profiled in Portland Magazine’s Summerguide 2010, Ruoss related his passion for Maine clams, lobster, and Moxie.
Let us move on to the interview:
Maralyn: What is your favorite recipe and why?
Michael: I love my hushpuppy recipe because it is so simple and tastes so good. It also shouldn’t work because there is no dairy in it–you would think the hushpuppies would be very dense without eggs to leaven them, but they are moist and delicious.
Michael Ruoss Hushpuppies
2 cups of flour
2 cups cornmeal
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 finely chopped green onions
3/4 cup white onion pureed with about 1/2 cup water
Combine all ingredients, spoon into fryer and cook until light, fluffy and golden brown.
You might have to adjust the water in the recipe to get a thick, cornbread batter-like consistency.
Maralyn: What is your favorite spice to work with when cooking and why?
Michael: I like pepper. There are many different varieties with different flavors and different amounts of heat. They add a lot of depth to your cooking.
Maralyn: What is your favorite cooking utensil and why?
Michael: I like wooden spoons and cast iron pans–they remind me of my Grandmother.
Maralyn: Do you have any tips for those desiring to become a chef?
Michael: Train under a chef who you respect–you can’t beat experience of an actual restaurant.
Maralyn: Which do you prefer,the hot line, pastry, appetizers, etc.?
Michael: Hot line–it’s got a great rhythm. You feel like you are right in the thick of things when you are working the hot line.
For more information on Michael:
Cooking At: The Ultimate Seafood Splash and Savory Samplings at the Marketplace
For me, it is always interesting to compare the answers of the various chefs to some basic questions. Each shows their passion and thoughts in such different descriptions.
Harvest on the Harbor, October 21-23, 2010 is going to have such a wonderful variety of talent. Norm and I are quite excited to be taking part in all of these events.
If you want to check out more details for Harvest on the Harbor go to http://www.harvestontheharbor.com/. Norm and I hope to meet you there.