Introducing Temecula’s Iron Chef Michael Cragg
Chef Michael’s culinary journey started when he realized that baseball wasn’t going to be his career path. Michael then decided to enroll in the Art Institute of Orange County’s Culinary Program. After just one semester he was confident enough to venture out and put his culinary skills to the test.
He applied to Disney and got hired by Downtown Disney’s Restaurant “Catal & Uva Bar”. He started at the complete bottom of the restaurant’s employee roster and after only four weeks Michael was promoted ahead of everyone, except one, his boss.
Employees that were there for two to three years were very surprised to say the least. It was here that Michael honed his skills in preparing meals quickly, accurately and efficiently. This restaurant was voted one of the top three dining options in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney District. It is quoted that the Catal & Uva Bar “Is a fine dining oasis”.
Then based on Michael’s skills and accomplishments there, he was invited by a dear friend to join him at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel.
Michael spent the next five years in practically every part of the prestigious hotel’s dining establishments from learning how to professionally butcher, creating and preparing 5 star gourmet menus, learning about and tasting wine (although unfortunately he had to spit), banquet catering, cheese monger and all the way to one of the most demanding jobs of any gourmet kitchen Garde Manager...
A Garde Manger needs to be able to apply proper seasoning to food that is going to be served cold and in other cases, season food that is going to be served hot. Many chefs have the ability to season hot food, but lack the ability to season both correctly. Michael is a Master at both!
Based on the quality, perfection and swiftness of Michael’s abilities it’s no wonder that he was awarded the Ritz-Carlton “FIVE STAR” Award for employee excellence four times during his time there.
Seeing the Passion in Chef Michael’s eyes when he talks about what he enjoys the best about being a chef, is so powerful and engulfing - he brings you into his culinary world with his enthusiasm...
Michael enjoys the French way of cooking because you can do so much with it. He says, “You can mix French with so many other styles of cooking to create even more flavorful and exceptional dishes.”
Michael is also very passionate about how he serves his dishes. They must be very clean and crisp as not to take anything away from the essence of the food. Here’s something to remember when you are eating one of Micheal’s gourmet dishes... Everything on your plate will be edible! Michael prides himself on that everything on his masterful creation’s plate you can put in your mouth.
Chef Michael always enjoys a good Challenge that gets his adrenaline flowing... Whether that is doing a Gourmet Wedding for 1,200 guests that is 2 days long, to learning about Molecular Gastronomy - which is “Changing the way foods look yet having the same taste”, to perfecting one of the most challenging Gourmet Cooking Styles - Sous Vide.
Sous Vide combines the gentle, steady heat of poaching food (with all it’s ingredients) in an airtight vacuum sealed package. The food literally stews with no air, no water, no evaporation and creates perfectly cooked foods, such as Rack of Lamb.
When the question was posed to Michael, “Who has been your biggest mentor over the course of your life?’ He answered immediately without hesitation, ”My Family, My Whole Family. They have always been there for me"
Michael has only lived in The Temecula Valley for about four months. He and his wife Erin had the opportunity to move to Temecula from Orange County to create the beginning of his culinary domain here in the Valley. In this short time Michael has successfully started Temecula Catering and Temecula Cooking School. These two culinary ventures have already taken Temecula by storm.
Chef Michael’s greatest satisfaction is seeing the plates come back into the kitchen completely empty and knowing he has satisfied his guests. Michael says, “It’s hearing the Oohs and Ahhs that really make me feel like an Iron Chef!”
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- Michael Cragg
- Temecula Catering
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