Critically-acclaimed crab cakes and butter never hurt…
BY OLIVIA CAMERON- Chef Michael McClure is a local culinary creator with the taste buds for perfecting homemade mango salsa and making guests at dinner parties go back for seconds. When Michael found himself teaching cooking classes alongside Paula Deen and Ming Tsai, he found that a little extra butter never hurt a recipe.
Michael’s cooking intrigue began classically, in the produce section of a grocery store where he worked his first job in his hometown, a small town near Buffalo, New York.
“I’ve always had a love for cooking, from the produce section days to now,” he said.
Although his curiosity took him far in the culinary industry, his studies spoke to a different passion.
Through college, Michael studied environmental science while working nights at a restaurant on campus. At that time, he came to realize what his true calling was. Michael found an appreciation for cooking with local market products while working at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill in Sarasota.
“The fishermen used to bring grouper to our kitchen door from their boats,” said Michael. “It doesn’t get much more fresh than that.”
Michael was delighted by the quality of fresh foods and the dishes he was able to create with grouper at his fingertips. From there, he realized the only way to cook and create revolutionary flavors was to start with local products.
Michael went on to work as a sous chef at Alley Cat Café in Sarasota, where he perfected his butchering skills and developed daily fine dining specials alongside the chef.
“One day, I even made lunch for Steven Tyler,” said Michael. “I knew to get my ingredients tossed as soon as the waitress came to the kitchen tangled in nerves.”
After one of his first critics licked the plate, Michael knew he was on the right path. “The chef became my mentor,” said Michael. “And without attending a culinary school, I figured I’d learn from the best and apply my experience to my skillset.”
After becoming executive sous chef of The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel and then executive chef of Bamboo Bistro, he was able to apply his recipes to personal service.
“I worked as a personal chef to Mrs. Helmsley during her frequent stays at the hotel. That was when I was able to enhance my menu for her,” Michael said.
With a range of specials, soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, desserts and everything in between, Michael was able to expand his library of recipes. That’s when it hit him.
“I enjoyed working on a more personal level with clients and creating a menu based on their favorite dishes,” he said.
By 2006, Michael had started his personal chef service, Michael’s Roving Bistro. While perfecting his most reputable dishes, Michael became a chef and instructor at the Publix Aprons Cooking School in Sarasota, where he was able to inspire people with a passion for the culinary arts.
“We would teach people how to have fun with cooking,” he said. “There was never a dull moment, especially during our Christmas cookie baking classes.”
Michael has since worked side by side with some of the most reputable names in the industry, including Paula Deen and Ming Tsai. “I took one important lesson from each chef I’ve worked with,” he said. He found that his experience in turn prepared him for his work as a personal chef.
He enjoyed teaching through cooking demonstrations and appeared on local television while assisting celebrity chefs. He taught classes with a variety of cuisines, from rolling sushi to making gingerbread houses.
“When we would make gingerbread houses, kids would come in with wide eyes and smiling faces. Those classes were fun to partake in.”
By 2014, Michael’s culinary knowledge had evolved further working as a private chef for Horizon Sarasota Management. He understood ways to alter and recreate classic dishes by prioritizing the dietary restrictions of his clientele.
Michael tied his qualifications together by becoming a Certified Food Safety Manager by the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals and became a member of the United States Personal Chef Association along the way. He is also a graduate of the Culinary Business Academy.
For 15 years now, Michael has continued to run Michael’s Roving Bistro, which he describes as something different than a catering business.
“When I cook for dinner parties or other events, I prepare the food at the location. I have found it often works in my clients’ favor.”
While running his unique business, Michael is able to sit with his clients and create a menu that fits their taste. He shops and prepares his dishes while sharing a few laughs with the partygoers.
Michael has enjoyed setting up a fruit arrangement for a baby shower at the Venice Train Depot as well as entertaining dinner parties in Boca Grande. He is especially complimented when his prior clients ask him to return for another occasion.
“My clients in Boca Grande are fun to work with,” he said. He’s spent two years cooking on the island and plans to continue.
His critically-acclaimed crab cakes are a hit with many of his clients and friends. His recipe involves using fresh blue crab and stone crab to create everlasting flavor. He still works with his classic grouper dish, mango salsa recipe and killer homemade pasta, from gnocchi to risotto.
This holiday season, he hopes to participate in intimate dinners and his annual family cookie days and gingerbread house making. From sushi donations for frontline workers to flavorful dishes for intimate dinners, Michael has been making the most of the year.
Michael and his girlfriend, Kelly, have picked up an unexpected hobby to coincide with this unexpected year.
“We’ve actually been making all natural soap,” he said. The couple felt drugstore soap consisted of unnatural chemicals that would cause unwarranted reactions, so with their newfound free time, they decided to make some from scratch. They use plant-based products, oils and lye solution to create their own chemical-free products.
The pair also enjoys biking, fishing and cooking with their kids. Michael enjoys the interlude of other people’s cooking, but he can’t pass up cooking his family’s favorite dinner on a night in.