Meet the Chef: Michael Rigney of The Newtown Grill

This week food writer Clara Park sat down with Chef Michael Rigney of The Newtown Grill in Newtown Square for a quick-fire interview.

So we gave you our on Newtown Square's  as well as a but now you want to know more about the man behind the menu at this local neighborhood favorite. Well, now you can. Read our interview with Chef Michael Rigney below.

Name: Michael Rigney

Age: 48

Years in Industry: 31

Earliest Cooking Memory: My grandmother was from Italy. My mother [learned from her] and we would make gravy (tomato sauce) with chicken, pork, etc., and I remember putting the tomatoes through the tomato mill. San Marzano tomatoes of course. 

First Kitchen Job: Making salads and desserts at the restaurant Newtown Squire, which is now The Newtown Grill. It was my high school job. This Vietnamese couple showed me how to do things the right way.

Biggest Kitchen Disaster: I had just changed my clothes and was headed home at the end of the night when I heard this weird noise so I went back into the kitchen. Servers had been putting cardboard boxes filled with bread on top of the ovens and they had caught on fire. Huge flames were rising into the hood so I called 911 and the fire department and police came. The ANSUL system (restaurant fire containment system) went off (which basically crop dusts the entire kitchen with a flame quenching mixture). There was a half inch of white powder all over the place. Everyone had to come back and sweep, clean and wipe down everything in the kitchen–the plates, the tools, the silverware, the stoves, the sinks, etc. 

Advice for Home Cooks: Stay away from anything processed. Use fresh product, herbs. Keep it simple. [Focus on] a couple key flavors.

Favorite Thing to Cook: To braise anything–pork belly, pork shoulder, etc. Good pasta.

Favorite Local Restaurant: Alfredo BYO in Berwyn.

Favorite Restaurant in the World: Last great meal I had was at A Voce in New York City.

Guilty Pleasure (food or drink): Tecate beer on the beach.

Last Meal on Earth: Dinner at El Bulli [in Catalonia, Spain] or a Lou Dog [from Lou Dogs in Sea Isle City, NJ] with a cold beer on the beach in Sea Isle, NJ.


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