Title: Head chef, Trolley Stop Market.
What was your first food-related job? Brooklyn Bridge Italian Restaurant. I started as a buser and then a dishwasher and just kind of went up the totem pole.
Who or what was your first cooking influence? Bridgette Correale (who was an owner of Brooklyn Bridge). She just passed not too long ago. … I guess it was just the passion she put into it. She (taught) me to really appreciate it and really spend time on it. If you're gonna make food, make it well.
What was the first thing you ever cooked or baked? Spaghetti and meatballs. Really easy. The first thing I really baked and really mastered was the cheesecake recipe (at Brooklyn Bridge).
What made you decide to become a chef, and when was that? Love and passion for it. Giorgio Correale (an owner of Brooklyn Bridge) taught me a whole lot about it, and I realized I could really profit from it. I found I really could relate it to a musician, as well. I could really find a good rhythm in a kitchen the same way you would find composing music. ... Just the overall harmony of bringing things together, you can also do that in cooking.
What was something important that a fellow chef taught you? Discipline (from) Giorgio Correale.
Who's the biggest celebrity you've ever cooked for? I had a job in Beverly Hills for about a week. … It's called the Hotel Thompson. My sister lives there, so she got me the connection. ... They were always bringing people in. I didn't actually see them. Betty White, for sure. I know she was in there.
What is your cooking style? I'm pretty well rounded. ... I prize myself on my pastries and desserts.
What's your favorite food? Italian and French.
What's your least favorite food? I still cannot eat mushrooms. I don't know why. I like things cooked with mushrooms; I just can't eat mushrooms themselves.
Trolley Stop Market is at 704 Madison; 901-526-1361.
Michael Donahue: 901-529-2797; Donahue@commercialappeal.com