Flash-grilled: Michael Gratz

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Kansas City-born restaurateur and pit master, who owns London barbecue joint Prairie Fire, Michael Gratz

Related tags: Barbecue, Chef

The Kansas City-born restaurateur and pit master, who owns London barbecue joint Prairie Fire, on memories of White Castle burgers, and starting out as a prep chef at just 13.

What was your first industry job?
Working as a prep chef as a 13-year-old at a fancy take away shop. On my second day I cut my thumb chopping carrots and wanted to go home. 

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
Photography.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Thomas Keller, his approach to cooking and ingredients is wizardry.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Food bits on the floor during a busy service.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
“Are you Irish?”

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
I cook the comfort food I grew up eating. 

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I can’t recall, seriously.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
Santoku chef’s knife

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My dad’s hickory grilled steaks, asparagus and browned butter with mom’s twice-baked potatoes and special Italian salad with a zesty dressing.

À la carte or tasting menu? 
À la carte.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
MasterChef.

Most overrated food?
Truffle

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Phones.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Neil DeGrass Tyson.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
White Castle cheese burger, I loved it!

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I was nearly cut in half while playing on a freight train overpass as a stupid kid. 

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Dive bar.

Tipple of choice?
A good tequila.

What do you consider your signature dish?
At home, a blue cheese, pancetta and shallot rigatoni pasta. At the restaurant, The Cowtown sandwich - 16-hour, oak smoked brisket, molten-cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos, and an onion ring.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Hustle, work with as many chefs as possible, meet as many people as possible. 

Related topics: Chef, People, Restaurant

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