BEDFORD, N.Y. - Award-winning chef Michael White will soon be opening Campagna , an elegant new restaurant in the former Farmhouse at Bedford Post Inn.
Local restaurant aficionados have been anxiously awaiting the reopening since early this year, when actor Richard Gere, a Pound Ridge resident, gave up control of the restaurant.
As a partner in the Altamarea Group , White owns and supervises more than a dozen international restaurants, including New York's Marea, recipient of two Michelin stars, and Ai Fiori, which currently holds one Michelin star.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, White went from a hometown job at Domenico's Pizza to learning the artistry of a Chef di Cucina at the San Domenico Restaurant in northern Italy. After a number of years abroad, he returned to America and began building his remarkable career.
Daily Voice asked Chef White to talk about his life and his philosophy:
In your youth, you and your father enjoyed cooking together. What particular dishes did you cook? We cooked everything. I really liked to make Thanksgiving dinner with my father. The turkey and all of the fixings. My mom always made green bean casserole and corn soufflé. I helped. Later I worked at Domenico’s Pizza in Beloit where I made Italian-American food like pizza and baked ziti.
You knew very little about Italian cuisine when you went to train in Italy. What impressed you most about the Italian approach to food? The importance of fresh ingredients and the simplicity of the preparation. I wasn’t used to using fresh ingredients in Wisconsin. I was fascinated by fresh pasta. I took it upon myself at San Domenico Restaurant to learn everything about making the best fresh pasta in every variety (shape, size, dough) possible.
I also just loved the markets and walking around for hours tasting ingredients, smelling cheeses and cured meats, exploring new vegetables... Italians also don’t make such a huge deal out of food. They cook. They eat. But it is beautiful because it is simple and so appreciated. And so artisanal because of the love and care taken to cook the food and then to enjoy it.
Back in the U.S., you had trouble finding some ingredients you counted on in Europe. Has the market changed sufficiently? Is there anything you still have to import? Globalization has certainly affected the culinary world especially. We are now in a position (through local farms and the farm-to-table movement) to get fresh produce from local sources as well as produce from around the world with no problem. We also fly in different varietals of fish from around the world to suit our menu needs. Due to technology, this is all possible.
We change our menu daily and the seasonality of ingredients and freshness of our inputs is always our first priority for our clients.
Can you give the home cook a few tips? All you need is your hands, good cookware, and fresh ingredients. The simpler the better. Don’t overthink it and don’t overwork it. Let the ingredients shine."
Will you give us a sneak preview of some of the dishes you will feature at Campagna? Executive Chef P.J. Calapa and Chef di Cucina Devin Bozkaya and myself will be focusing on Campagna, which means 'country' in Italian. We want you to feel like you are eating in someone's home in Tuscany. The menu revolves around simple Italian cooking inspired by locality and seasonality.
Campagna, at 954 Old Post Road in Bedford, expects to open in early November.
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