Chef Michael Reardon was born and raised in upstate New York. He started as a dishwasher in his early teens, moving up the ranks and working almost every position in local restaurants throughout his youth. Summers were spent working in various kitchens in the Hamptons, followed by a move to NYC for a tournant position at the esteemed Le Bernardin.
Reardon then headed out west to run Tra Vigne in St. Helena, Napa. The west coast and year round produce, along with an emphasis on seasonal & local food appealed greatly. After Tra Vigne, he was recruited to be the Executive Chef of Shutters Hotel in Santa Monica, overseeing multiple restaurants. Reardon has travelled extensively throughout France and the Italian Riviera, spending significant time working (and eating) in local kitchens and with farmers. When not in the kitchen, Reardon prefers to spend his time at the Farmer’s Markets of NYC, Santa Monica, and St. Helena.
How did you get into the culinary industry?
I grew up in upstate NY, and I started washing dishes and bussing ta-bles at a small family restaurant when I was 13 years old. After spending a few months in a restaurant kitchen, I knew I wanted to learn how to cook and be a chef.
Tell us about Margaux. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the restaurant?
Margaux, ironically, is not a Bordealaise style restaurant. We do love the idea of terroir and wine though, but it’s not limited to France, or any country. We wanted to do a seasonal “vegetable focused” menu with influences from the Mediterranean, including North Africa and the Middle East.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you im-plemented that have attributed to Margaux’s success?
We buy all of our dairy and most of our produce from small farms from upstate NY, the Berkshires, Long Island, and other area farms. We are really focused on the quality of the food and service, and then hope the word of mouth from travelling hotel guests as well as lo-cals/neighbors continues to spread.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
We really wanted to create a high quality experience that people could afford to enjoy several times a week. In terms of industry trends, we try to focus on using as many local and organic products as possible, and why wouldn’t you, considering the availability and quality.
Make it nice.
Your greatest success as Executive Head Chef of Margaux?
One of my greatest rewards is watching our team grow and mature.
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
In 2008 I was working in Los Angeles and was in the process of open-ing a restaurant. Suddenly everything we had known, in terms of cus-tomer volume, value, and owner expectations changed. We had to change the style of the layout as well as the menu in the middle of construction. During that year, I learned that people love comfort food, no matter what the economic climate.
Your advice to an aspiring chef/restaurateur?
Buy really comfortable shoes.
Describe the ideal experience at Margaux.
If it’s a cold winter’s night, I would grab an Old Fashioned (on draught) and enjoy by the fireplace. Then I would move to dinner in the dining room, have some local burrata with roasted acorn squash, followed by a braised grass fed short rib over braised root vegetables, and finish with a chocolate budino. After dinner I would sit at the bar with an af-ter dinner drink and chat with one of the comedic bartenders.
How important are architecture/design to the success of Margaux?
Both architecture and design played a huge role in the success of Margaux. The room feels warm and comfortable and helps set the vibe for the meal. The Lobby is great in the cooler months and the so-larium (the back room of the restaurant) is as summery as it gets.
Most popular dishes/drinks and your favorites?
We print the menu daily, so there are always some changes, but I would say that the rotisserie chicken is one of our most popular dish-es. My personal favorite is the squid ink bucatini with lobster and Ca-labrian chile.
How do you motivate your employees?
Through communication and empowerment. Praise in public and criti-cize in private.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Oysters and Champagne
What literature is on your bed stand?
8 Minute Meditation
Role model - business and personal?
I’m really into using rhubarb for savory dishes instead of sweet ones at the moment. I’ve been spending time at Quail Hill Farm and love being involved from seed to table.
Favorite travel destination?
San Remo – the Ligurian coast has some of the best seafood in the world, and I like to visit Taggische to grab some a few bottles of the best olive oil in the world (in my opinion).
What's next for Margaux?
Heirloom Tomato Season!