Though Chef Michael DeMaria moved from New York to Phoenix when he was a teenager, he retained that East Coast go-getter attitude -- and a trace of the Long Island accent. He's constantly multi-tasking, whether it's juggling gigs at his DC Ranch restaurant Heirloom and M Catering or doing television appearances on Fox 10's Arizona Morning and Food Network.
We tracked DeMaria down at last week's Bud Light Fiesta event, which he co-organized. Dressed in a ball cap and matching blue nylon jacket, DeMaria was ready to move at a moment's notice: one hand on a two-way radio and one eye on the door watching for any potential problems.
Here's what he had to say.
There's no sauce like home: My mom makes a great marinara sauce, known today in our company as 'Connie's Sauce.' Later in life when I had my restaurant, Michael's, I said, 'Mom, we're going to put tomato sauce in a recipe. I want you to come and show my entire staff how to make it.'
What job did you aspire to when you were little? Oh, boy! I wanted to be a baseball player. That didn't pan out very well.
I played at Chaparral High School here. I was on a good team and had a scholarship. Then I started cooking at the age of 16. I would rather have been a cook than to go to college and play baseball. So I chose to cook.
More with Chef DeMaria after the jump...
First job: It was at the Scottsdale Hilton hotel. I was a prep cook on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday brunch.
Worst on-the-job nightmare: The biggest traumatic thing for me was rolling a cart of plates for a banquet, it hit a floor drain.
The floor drain popped out, the wheel went into the drain and three or four hundred plates went crashing across the kitchen floor. That's why you never push a cart, you always pull a cart.
So, you don't clap when people break dishes at a restaurant? Not hundreds of them! No, I don't clap. I always tell them, when you see 'china' on your paycheck, it doesn't mean you're going on a trip.
Favorite comfort food: Asian food, all styles. I love sushi. You'll see me at Flo's Chinese restaurant or Saigon Nights. It is not something that I've mastered, the art of Asian cooking. I don't have any of those ingredients in my kitchen.
So what do you cook at home? I don't! I run a restaurant. I'm out every evening. We order out from a little place I order Italian takeout from and we sit on the couch and watch Sunday football. It's the best time of year, football season.
Football fever: My team is the Denver Broncos. When I moved here in the '70s, there were no teams, so you had to root for the Raiders, the Cowboys or the Broncos. I chose the Broncos because one of my legendary idols -- somebody I'd love to cook for someday and sit down and talk to -- is John Elway.
So you haven't cooked for Elway yet. Have any other sports idols eaten your food? One of the most famous ballplayers is Cal Ripken Jr., I cooked for him. He's in the Hall of Fame.
Check back tomorrow for info on DeMaria's "other" love, and get a meaty recipe from him on Thursday.
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