Conversations with Chef Michael Fiorelli of mar'sel
Michael Fiorelli is Chef de Cuisine of southern California’s hottest new dining establishment – mar’sel Restaurant.
CONVERSATIONS WITH CHEF MICHAEL FIORELLI OF MAR’SEL
Michael Fiorelli is Chef de Cuisine of southern California’s hottest new dining establishment – mar’sel Restaurant. Located at Terranea Resort, just 20 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport and situated on an expansive 102 oceanfront acres, Terranea serves up spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean – with none better than those at mar’sel. The name mar’sel is derived from the Spanish term for sea, mar, and French term for salt, sel, and is an indicator of Fiorelli’s interpretations of a California-inspired menu. His colorful dishes, refreshing presentations and strict attention to detail impress even the most sophisticated palate.
In his own words….
“My inspiration comes from farmers who dedicate their lives to respecting the earth and their local communities. A great dish starts with the freshest seasonal ingredients.” When asked his favorite food, Fiorelli says salt. “My whole cooking philosophy stems from the idea that great food needs two things: love and salt.”
It was a desire to be a writer that ultimately led Chef Michael Fiorelli to the kitchen. An avid reader, his pursuit of all things literary led him to cookbooks, which captured his imagination and fostered a newfound passion. Born and raised in Long Island, NY, Fiorelli has trained and worked with the best:
• Susanna Foo, James Beard Award-winner - Philadelphia, PA
• Peter Timmons, European Master Chef - West Virginia
• Chef Patrick O’Connell, James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef - Washington, VA
• Mark Militello, James Beard Award winner - South Florida
• Celebrity Chef Kerry Simon - Los Angeles, CA
In his own words….
“My vision at mar’sel is to gradually educate people about different styles of eating, cooking and methods of sustainability. We are showing people how they can implement these practices into their own lifestyle. I have partnered with a master gardener to grow seasonal produce and vegetables on property, as well as educate people in our community about how they can grow these things in their own yard, including what to grow and when. I want to impart to people both the importance of using quality products as well supporting local businesses. It is important to me to introduce all different types of food to guests that normally might not venture out and try things such as lamb tongue, pork belly, octopus or sweetbreads. I’ll do this by offering them in an approachable way with familiar ingredients and classic cooking techniques. As a result we are gaining the trust and gaining a regular clientele that is allowing us to slowly push the ‘boundaries’ even further.”
It was celebrity chef Kerry Simon who ultimately lured Fiorelli to California. Fiorelli was appointed Chef de Cuisine at Simon’s restaurant Simon LA, where he drew on both his classic training and affinity for farm-to-table fare to please the palates of A-list celebrities and local Angelenos. Fiorelli created weekly menus using only the highest quality farmer’s market produce and implemented the “100 mile menu” - procuring all ingredients from farmers and purveyors within 100 miles of the restaurant.
In his own words…
“When I bring great local flavors to the table without altering the integrity of the dish, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I’m really trying to educate diners about cuisine and why it’s important to eat and cook the way we do at mar’sel.
Another thing that is different about my cooking is that all of my dishes stay true to a specific style of cuisine. I stay far away from the trend of ‘fusion food.’ Before I put something on the menu, I make sure that I am well informed as to where the product is coming from and how it would be traditionally prepared. With the octopus appetizer for example; the octopus is from Spain, so I pair it with all traditional Spanish ingredients - chorizo, piquillo peppers and Spanish olive oil. I’m not trying to create new dishes but rather studying the foods that are indigenous to a certain culture and incorporating locally grown ingredients and current techniques to offer those classic flavors in a fresh, modern style.”
Since opening mar’sel, Chef Fiorelli has been busy showcasing his talents at prestigious food and wine events in the community and around the country. A few of the noteworthy venues at which he has been, or will appear, include:
- 16th Annual Manhattan Beach Wine Auction, June 2010
- Aspen Food & Wine Festival, June 2010
- Cart For A Cause, Los Angeles, August 2010
- James Beard House, New York, September 30, 2010