side dish - what's stirring in indie kitchens

Side Dish!

Side Dish TV!

chef: michael favacchia
location: marly's, phoenixville, pa
recipe: pan-seared butterfish with grilled pineapple-watermelon salsa

side dish tv:
someone left a smoking gun!

Culinary influences?
I come from a big family and a diverse neighborhood. I learned to cook from most of the women in my family. All of them were amazing cooks, two of my aunts now own restaurants of their own, Gypsy Salon and Stella Blu in Conshohocken, PA and The Island Grill in Cape May, NJ. Also my mother was a saute cook at a lot of restaurants. Two of my best friends are African American and I learned how to cook a lot of "soul food" by living with them, and my other grandmother was Polish so I tried to learn as much as I could from her.

Where did you learn to cook? —are you self-taught or did you have formal training?
I'm a self taught chef and still learning. You are never a fully trained chef; new things pop up everyday so I'm always in training mood. I did however learn a lot from Walter Staib of the City Tavern. He is a great chef and helped me start my career.

Favorite cook book?
My favorite cookbook is The New Professional Chef. I learned so much from this book, I always tell people who want to be a chef but didn't go to school to get this book.

What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
Really anything fresh —fresh is king. And also butter, gotta have butter!!

Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
I don't really drink anymore. I used to love beer but I hate the feeling the next day.

Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
I love Bob Marley, but my CD player is broken so we listen to classic rock or old school rap on Sirius to get the blood pumping.

What is your favorite type of food?
Favorite type of food is anything my mom makes —that woman can make anything taste good. She used to feed the whole neighborhood. I would come home and all my friends would be there already waiting for her to finish cooking.

Most memorable meal?
It was about three years ago, down my aunt's house at the shore with my paternal grandmother, just us and my son. We cooked out on the grill —It was the last meal we ever had alone before she passed on.

Most memorable dinner guest?
It was my maternal grandmom this past Mother's day, It was the first time she came to Marly's and to see her smile was everything to me. All my grandparents were the greatest.

Most irritating celebrity chef?
I'm not sure, I respect all chefs as long as they train and work hard at it. I hate a cocky chef, when a chef thinks they know everything or wont ask how to make something, that irritates me. Be humble in this business and you'll go a long way.

What makes indie food better?
That's easy —the creativity part of being an indie restaurant. I guess corporate is good for other professions, not cooking. You need to think on your feet when you're cooking and deal with local ingredients. When you're corporate, you get everything from mostly one company. To me, you get seafood from a seafood guy, and produce from a farm and so on. If I had to work corporate I would rather quit this business. I would die slowly if I can't be creative.

—Rebecca Troutman, Associate Editor, [email protected]

Do you know a chef who would be great for Side Dish, contact:
Robyn Jasko, Editor, [email protected]