A Lifelong Passion
Chef Michael Ferraro has always loved food. That interest started early in his childhood and revolved around his family’s kitchen table. With Southern Italian parents, he was exposed to an authentic home cooking experience that often blended Italian and Mediterranean ingredients. Michael’s father came to the United States at the age of 14 to work in a relative’s restaurant, and over the years his father and mother owned and ran a number of different food establishments.
“After growing up in a family where homemade food was a big part of life, it felt natural for me to end up in cooking,” he says. “When I got my acceptance letter from the CIA, I felt like I got into Harvard.” He graduated with his associate degree at the age of 20.
Fresh out of college, Michael was determined to turn his passion for food into a successful career, so he worked his way through the ranks at some of the best restaurants in and around New York City—Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen, the Four Seasons Hotel, the Biltmore Room, and a number of other top kitchens. Ultimately, he found himself at Fresh in Tribeca, but when the restaurant was put up for sale, he moved on to Delicatessen and MacBar in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. Today, Michael is the director of culinary concepts for Charlie Palmer Collective and the executive chef for WellPlated, an artisanal food hall curated by Charlie Palmer '79, offering equal parts casual culinary elegance and neighborly comfort in New York City.
“We do international comfort food with a sophisticated twist,” he says. “You can come here and get everything from foie gras to fried chicken.” Michael’s elegantly casual approach to cooking has brought him widespread acclaim and led to appearances on CBS Sunday Morning, the Food Network, and the Cooking Channel, as well as stints as a competitor on Chopped and Iron Chef America. And if you ask him, that success all started at his alma mater. “The CIA gives you the basic skills that you need to build a career,” Michael says. “And then when you bring those skills to the kitchen, when you bring that passion and discipline, you’re definitely one step above the rest.”
In June 2018, Michael returned to his alma mater to deliver the Commencement address to students at the CIA graduation ceremony.
Watch Michael’s video on YouTube: