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Chef Chit Chat: Michael Koenig of Tucci’s

April 24, 2019

With a degree in Chemistry and Environmental Studies from Michigan State University, followed by a career as a chef on the west coast, the path that led Michael Koenig to become Executive Chef at Tucci’s in Dublin, OH was anything but traditional. When asked about his early days in the culinary industry, Michael reminisces “I ended up in San Francisco in the late nineties. What a great city to be a chef in.” Referring to his time working under the acclaimed chefs Gary Danko and Michael Mina, Michael explains that California taught him so much, so quickly, especially the importance of quality ingredients - a core value prominent today in his work at Tucci’s. However, that’s not the only place his inspiration comes from. Growing up in a half-Lebanese, half-German household in the Midwest, Michael also draws his cooking style from Mediterranean cuisine. “It’s a style of cooking that allows the ingredients to really shine,” Michael explains. Last but not least, seasonal ingredients also play an important role in his cooking. “I love incorporating seasonal ingredients into my daily specials,” Michael proclaims. “I try to get seasonal produce as soon as it appears on the market.” He especially enjoys foraging.

In addition to its chef-driven menu, Tucci’s is also known for its vast wine selection, boasting almost 300 wines, an enoline wine system, and even a retail wine club called Tucci’s Vine. For Michael, this is a natural extension. “I am an avid wine drinker and always think of what wine pairs best with everything I make. We host about 15 wine dinners a year and I get to play with the nuances of flavor in each course with each wine. It lets me bring my ideas to the guest and lets them experience the wine in a different way,” he states. Further, every Sunday from 3-9 PM Tucci’s hosts Retail Wine Night, during which all bottles from their menu priced at $100 or less are sold at state minimum pricing. They are also gearing up for their bi-annual Wine Tasting next month. During this event, 50 different wines will be poured over the course of two days, paired with seasonal canapes and appetizers. Not to be overshadowed, cocktails have a place at Tucci’s too. A Bourbon Tasting will be held that same week, also served with food pairings. Michael has even been known to make his own mixers for the bar, including a sensational limoncello.

With something for everyone, it’s clear that dining at Tucci’s is not just about the food, it’s about the experience. Need privacy? Book the Emerald Wine Room. Want to enjoy the weather? Take a seat on the expertly decorated 3,000 square foot patio, complete with nightly live music, weather permitting. With so much going on, one might think it could get chaotic, but for Michael it’s second nature. His background also boasts 15 years as a sous chef with the Kimpton Group. To compare the two, “In my experience, in a hotel restaurant it is all about the weddings,” Michael illustrates. “That is the one place a chef can truly shine. While they are challenging, when a perfect wedding menu is executed from start to finish, it is rewarding. At Tucci's every day can be special. Yes, we can get buried in a busy rush, but when I can make something for a regular, it is satisfying. I try to make it feel more like dining with your friend than eating out.” And how does he unwind? “Usually it's with a burger with smoked mozzarella, pesto aioli and bacon...and of course a glass of wine, beer or a nice tall bourbon with it.”

 

 

Written by Marianna Marchenko