Breaking the Rules

March 20, 2014

Following the rules was never all that important to chef Michael Maroni. The idea that fine dining happens exclusively in restaurants with things like menus, nuanced background music and generous space between tables is bankable. But it never really worked for him. Maroni tried to play by those rules, but things always seemed to turn out better when he went with his gut. Even if that meant incensing the Navy.

Maroni, a Locust Valley native, knew as a kid he was going to be a cook. With a helping of influence from his dad he started working in restaurants in high school before graduating and joining the Navy. He scored well on his aptitude tests and after a stint running hotels on naval bases for fighter pilots he was sent to cook on a ship for the top brass. How did his initial hours go? “The first night I checked-in on the ship the head of the kitchen handed me recipe cards for that night’s dinner, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I said, ‘Look, I don’t follow recipes,’ and made meatloaf the only way I knew how—the way my grandmother and my father made it.” Dinner went up to the captain, along with a healthy dose of garlic in the mashed potatoes. The kitchen wasn’t too pleased with his insubordination but the captain was and asked Maroni to be his chef.