Sharing his passion for food
August 2012 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Barbara Arciero
Photos by Sarah Lee
Recipes from Chef Russell Michel highlight the power of greens.
Executive Chef Russell Michel
Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento
With the eye of a floral designer and the wonderment of a child, Chef Russell Michel puts the finishing touches on a display of leafy greens and the dishes they yield. He sprinkles the collard greens with water before tucking them alongside a plate of risotto. He repositions the basket of chard to ensure its colorful, celery-like stalks are displayed to best advantage. Finally, he arranges a handful of mustard greens in a glass vase to provide a vertical focal point.
"Isn't Mother Nature brilliant," he said, stepping back to admire the display.
Michel follows the lead of Mother Nature and his own creative passion to develop seasonal menus at Sacramento's Sheraton Grand Hotel, where the chef and his team serve up to 1,400 meals each day. Dark leafy greens is but one type of nutrient-dense ingredient he employs in his quest to "feed the body, not just fill it."
"We need good fuel for us to live long and enjoy life, and feel vibrant doing it," he explained.
Michel was an inquisitive 4-year-old when he began cooking at his mother's side. Today, he continues to derive his greatest pleasure through food—preparing it, sharing it and talking about it—here in one of the world's most productive agricultural regions.
"Being a chef in California is like having the biggest backyard in the world, where everything grows vibrantly," he said. "You never really have to experience any gaps in seasonal ingredients. It's like having a playground of food to work with."