Napa Chef at Large
Michael Tuohy is the Founding Chef of Grange Restaurant and The Citizen Hotel in Sacramento California. Also, the founding chef of Woodfire Grill, Atlanta’s leading restaurant for local, seasonal, and organic cuisine. A veteran of the restaurant industry, his career began at the age of 15 as a dishwasher at a neighborhood steakhouse in his hometown of San Francisco. Tuohy graduated from Hotel & Restaurant School at City College of San Francisco 1982. In 1985, he joined acclaimed Bay Area chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein of the highly acclaimed Square One Restaurant to launch its sister restaurant, Caffe Quadro, an Italian-inspired caffe/enoteca.
Working with Goldstein proved to be a pivotal experience for Tuohy. Goldstein’s love of Italian food, as well as other cuisines and cultures of the Mediterranean, was incredibly influential to Tuohy’s burgeoning culinary philosophy. Square One’s daily changing menus explored the regions of Italy, Southern France, Spain, Greece and North Africa. Goldstein’s experience prior to launching her own restaurant included working with the renowned Alice Waters as manager of the Café at Chez Panisse. Tuohy also had the opportunity to work closely with Joyce Goldstein’s son, Evan Goldstein. Evan was the architect of Square One’s award-winning wine program and at 27 was the youngest person to achieve the designation of Master Sommelier.
Armed with a passion for fresh, seasonal cooking, Tuohy came to Atlanta to launch Chefs’ Café in 1986. Chefs’ Café became known for its eclectic, inventive menu and was frequently tagged as “groundbreaking” by the local food media. At that time, Chefs’ Cafe was the only local restaurant that changed its menu frequently and cooked using local and seasonal ingredients. Tuohy brought a Northern California ethos and aesthetic to Atlanta dining that has become commonplace today. While most restaurants were buying their goods from large distributors, Tuohy developed relationships with local farmers who supplied Chefs’ Cafe with just-picked lettuces and vegetables, an approach that was unheard of in Atlanta in the late 1980’s. Tuohy was instrumental in helping to start the Georgia Grown Co-op of local farmers. For the next 15 years, the Co-op would deliver the goods from a dozen local Certified Organic Farms to restaurants and markets around the city. In 1996, after a 10-year run with Chefs’ Café, Tuohy sold the restaurant .
He joined Tom Murphy at Murphy’s restaurant, now considered an Atlanta institution, and retooled Murphy’s menu, which had a heavy orientation toward soups and sandwiches, to include more appetizers and entrees. This also prompted a shift from lots of convenience and canned type products to sourcing and working with fresh ingredients.
Tuohy left Murphy’s in 1998 to pursue other opportunities, which included a consulting service for restaurants that offered expertise on operations evaluations and overhauls, menu/recipe development, concept development to opening, feasibility analysis and day-to-day management.
In 2000, Tuohy realized that he missed working with great ingredients on a daily basis to create food that he truly believed in. The prospect of cooking exciting foods that were rooted in tradition and serving appreciative customers lured him to take the leap once again to launch his own restaurant, Woodfire Grill. Woodfire would be a restaurant that would incorporate all of Tuohy’s experiences and passion for great food. Woodfire, as the name implies, would utilize the time tested methods and techniques of cooking over wood and open flame. Woodfire would emphasize the freshest and best locally sourced ingredients and artisan products from around the world and would showcase them in a menu that changed daily as well as seasonally. Finally, in August 2002, Woodfire Grill opened to big crowds and rave reviews. Since its opening, Woodfire Grill has received numerous local and national accolades. Today, Tuohy is an active member of the Slow Food movement, Chefs Collaborative.
In August 2008, after 6 successful years, Tuohy sold the Woodfire Grill. He has moved back to his native northern California to launch a new seasonally influenced restaurant featuring the best of local ingredients and artisanal products. The restaurant is called Grange and is be located at The Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento. Grange & Tuohy garnered a 4 star opening review in the Sacramento Bee newspaper and continues to receive accolades from other media. Tuohy is a past member of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil taste panel at the UC Davis Olive Center, the only certified taste panel in the US recognized by the International Olive Council.
In 2010, Tuohy was elected to the Board of Directors of the California Olive Oil Council. Tuohy is continuing to develop his brand for Napa Valley/Northern California Cuisine using the freshest and best local ingredients prepared in interesting and flavorful ways. In 2011, Tuohy moved to the Napa Valley where currently resides in the Los Carneros AVA, with his wife Patti. He continues to work on consulting projects, small events at wineries & private residences and a forthcoming book on Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
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