According to culinary star Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Jenkins entered her restaurant as the “worst intern she ever had.” Ten years later, Michael is running Guarnaschelli’s kitchen as the executive chef at Butter restaurant in New York City. “I remember being young and reading Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud,” Michael explains. “In it, he says, ‘The first thing you should do in a kitchen is make yourself useful.’ I took that to heart, and I even came into the restaurant on my days off. That extra time was an opportunity to experiment and master techniques through repetition—like making pasta.”Michael met Chef Alex when she was a teacher at the Institute of Culinary Education. He approached her about an externship opportunity after she subbed for one of his classes. Though she clearly was unimpressed with him at the beginning, Alex soon offered Michael a full-time job, and three years into his time at Butter he was competing—and winning—on Chopped. “Competing on TV was a revelation. It was as if you studied Spanish for three years, got dropped in the middle of Mexico and suddenly realized you had been fluent in Spanish all along. Working with Alex—three years in the pantry preparing precise appetizers—had trained me so well for competition. In comparison to the other people on the show, I felt that I knew what I was doing.”
Read on to learn more about Michael's dynamic culinary career.