What's NOT on my Resume: Chef Michael Paley
No one starts out on top. Especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.
Michael Paley, executive chef at Metropole, the acclaimed restaurant housed in the 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, started as a busboy in his hometown of Washington, NJ, before going on to train under luminaries such as Daniel Boulud. Today, he’s not only one of Cincinnati’s best-known chefs, he is also the executive chef for Garage Bar in Louisville, KY. What fans may not know about him: while in college at Florida State University, Paley worked in the kitchen at a Chili's in Tallahassee.
"That is still the one job that I have ever quit,” Paley confides. “Even at that young age I wanted to work with freshly-prepared product, and everything was too automated for me. Working the fry station, for example - every item that got dropped in the fryer had a corresponding button and timer, which to me took all the fun out of cooking.”
Paley relents that it wasn’t a total waste of time, however. “It was definitely a great first step into the restaurant world, but it wasn't the place for me. After that, I did telemarketing and worked in a bookstore for a brief period during my ‘I hate the restaurant business’ phase. But those jobs made me realize how much I missed it and how suited to kitchens I was. I soon went back to cooking and haven’t stopped since."
Interesting factoid: “The ‘popular kids’ that waited tables at that Chili’s formed a local band that everyone would go to see,” Paley says. “They later became the band, Creed.” Paley maintains that he is not, and never was, a big Creed fan.