Self-taught Chef Brings New Flavor to Siena
NAPA, Calif. (June 2011) – The Meritage Resort and Spa has hired Michael Collins as its new executive chef. Chef Mike, as he prefers to be called, began at the end of May and is in charge of all hotel food operations, including the signature Siena restaurant and banquets. As The Meritage Resort and Spa's expansion readies for its Spring 2012 grand opening he will also develop menus and themes for its new Crush Ultra-Lounge and Café. He is currently working to add some new flavors to the Tuscan-inspired Siena restaurant, making it a place where both area residents and resort guests can feel welcome.
Chef Mike grew up in Sacramento, California, and learned to cook by watching his Sicilian mother and grandmother dish up spectacular Christmas Eve dinners and nightly meals that were just as tasty. When he was 12 his mother took a traveling sales job. With a father whose idea of cooking was making a sandwich, Chef Mike was determined to make meals just like his mother and grandmother had. By age 16 he was helping at local restaurants, and at age 18 he became a professional chef and completed a culinary apprenticeship at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. In his nearly 25-year career he has taken various chef positions at four and five star resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Arizona, Louisiana, Maui, Utah and throughout California.
Just a few days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Chef Mike began consulting with and later accepted the challenge of being the Executive Chef at the historic Windsor Court Hotel. He was tasked with reopening all culinary operations at the world class hotel, while revamping the menu at its fabled restaurant, The New Orleans Grill. While Chef Mike ensured that every guest had the perfect meal, he will never forget meeting with then President Bush on several occasions and preparing many meals for him and his staff during their visits to the city.
Now back in California, Chef Mike is getting reacquainted with the tastes of the Napa Valley and is working on updating the Siena menu, keeping many of the dishes that residents and guests love while bringing his own unique creations to diners' plates. He envisions the menu as one that blends Italian and Californian influences, combined with light cooking methods to produce rustic dishes that are full of bold yet simple flavors. Chef Mike is working to train his sous chefs to cook by taste, rather than recipe, a skill they will continue to need as the restaurant strives to purchase as many local ingredients as possible, including eggs, fresh produce, meats and seafood.
"My goal with Siena is to make it friendly to both travelers and Napa residents," said Chef Mike. "My vision is to create dishes and an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable coming in, relaxing and eating fabulous food that is also friendly to their pocketbooks."
Chef Mike now lives in Napa, with his wife and eight-month-old daughter. He is an avid golfer and fisherman. When not in his chef's jacket, you may be able to find him on the greens of nearby Chardonnay Golf Club, Eagle Vines Golf Club and Silverado's two golf courses.
Learn more about Siena and review current menus
Learn more about The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa is an extraordinary Napa Valley luxury resort set within a private vineyard. The idyllic Napa Valley luxury hotel and resort is set against rolling hills of vineyards. A destination unto itself, it features Tuscan-inspired guestrooms and luxury suites, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine in Siena restaurant and wine tasting in the Estate Cave featuring Trinitas Cellars. Regain a healthful balance with curative treatments at Spa Terra – a lavish underground Napa luxury spa with steam grottos, soaking pools, treatment alcoves and tranquil walls of water. The resort boasts the most comprehensive event and meeting space in wine country. Far more than a place for expert relaxation, our unique property is an old world escape from the ordinary. Experience The Meritage Resort and Spa – an extraordinary Napa luxury resort perfect blending gracious hospitality, unrivaled amenities, and peerless personal care. We are Napa. www.themeritageresort.com.
For more information, contact:
Augustine & Associates