Lunch With Chef Michael Press 2

Tanzy’s Executive Chef Shares His Secrets to Success

An abundance of bright, natural sunlight filters in through floor-to-ceiling windows, revealing the breathtaking McDowell Mountains as I sit down for lunch at Tanzy Restaurant in the Scottsdale Quarter. Greeting me is a tastefully-prepared and presented charcuterie board featuring hot Italian coppa, fresh oven roasted tomatoes, marinated olives, Parmesan Reggiano crutons and rosemary mustard. I knew I was in for a treat.

Chef Michael Press makes his way from the kitchen to our table where he greets me, pours us a glass of sparkling water and expertly plates the contents of the charcuterie board before turning to me to divulge his culinary expertise.

Will you tell a little about your culinary background?

I’m originally from Connecticut. I graduated from college with a degree in European History, so I wasn’t ever planning on getting into the food industry. But I had been working at a chain restaurant and went to do some on-call labor for them during a tennis tournament at Yale and the Executive Chef of the catering company there took a liking to me, so he was really the one who helped me hone my talent. I then decided to start looking into Culinary School and settled on Johnson & Whales University in Providence.

After graduating, I stayed in Connecticut for a while before moving to Manhattan to work at Tuscan Square in Rockefeller Center. It was enormous, and really opened my eyes to what working at a restaurant in a big city was like. When my parents moved to Arizona, I came out to visit and ended up getting a job at the Arizona Biltmore at Wright’s, where I worked for awhile before going on to the Four Seasons Scottsdale. After stints in Westlake Village, Tuscon and San Antonio, Texas, I finally I decided to move back to Arizona. That’s when someone told me about the opening at iPic Tanzy, so it all just kind of fell into place.

Will you expand on your philosophy of using fresh, seasonal ingredients?

I think with Italian food it’s not very complicated. Traditional Italian food highlights the freshness of the ingredients, so you don’t have to use 30 different types of techniques. It’s very straight forward with simple flavors. For example, with Bolognese, there’s three different types of meat, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, a pinch of cheese and whatever pasta you want. That’s why I think I’ve always enjoyed cooking and eating Italian food. My philosophy is to keep it simple and taste as you go.

Are there any other stand-out menu items that you would like to highlight?

I like all of our boards because I really love charcuterie. The short ribs are a good dish right now as it starts to get cooler. It comes with pickled carrots, which gives it a unique flavor, barley and a little bit of collard greens; it’s a good, hearty dish. The kale salad is also very unique with a mix of kale, currants, oranges and red onion; but it all works together well.

Our Bolognese here is really good too; I think it’s my favorite dish on the menu. Traditionally, it’s made with veal, pork and beef, but we add pancetta to it and I think that just elevates the dish. Simple food with easy preparation and great, fresh flavors.

And that is certainly a Tanzy signature.