Name: Chef Miguel Figueroa
Name of Restaurant: Ariccia Cucina Italiana
Restaurant Phone Number: (334) 321-3154
Where were you born and raised?
Caguas, Puerto Rico.
What inspired you to become a chef?
Growing up really close to my grandparents, we always had something to eat on the table from their backyard garden. The weather in the Caribbean allowed us to grow plenty of vegetables and fruits all year round—lots of root vegetables, peas, coconuts, papayas, and lemons. My father is also a chef, and he maintained great relationships with many fishermen across the island. I remember us having plenty of fresh snapper and spiny lobsters for dinner! Fresh produce and seafood with a great story—that’s my inspiration.
Where did you train to become a chef?
During my childhood, I learned lots of family secrets in the kitchen. I can say that working in hotels and small family-owned restaurants certainly helped me to become the chef I am today. I also graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Orlando, FL.
What other jobs have you worked within the food industry?
During my career, I have been part of the planning and design team for many hotels and small restaurants. I have worked very closely with branding and marketing agencies, interior designers, and architects. Also, I love my famers, so I try to spend time with them and just listen to their stories. I have a small garden at home and I try to put in practice everything that my farmer friends share with me.
What does your typical workday involve?
A typical day for a hotel & restaurant chef like me is not set in stone. I wear many hats during the day. If occupancy is high, you can find me cooking up omelets or flipping over easy eggs during our breakfast service in the restaurant. The next minute, I’m serving a lunch in banquets for 400 people. After lunch, I start preparing fresh porchetta for the Ariccia dinner menu. If I have enough time, I’ll be making some fresh pasta for dinner service. There’s always something for this chef to do at the hotel!
Who is the most notable person you’ve ever cooked for?
During my time working as a chef at the W. Hotel in Washington, D.C. I had the pleasure to cook for President Barack & Michelle Obama.
What’s the most unusual thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?
During my time at a very recognized pet-friendly hotel, I created a gourmet room service menu for cats and dogs. I actually had a bite while cooking it. It was tasty!
What are your favorite hobbies?
Woodworking projects, working on my car, gardening with my kids at home.
What’s your favorite seafood dish to serve up for yourself and your family?
Raw and grilled Alabama oysters.
What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?
Alabama offers amazing seafood all year round. Especially oysters! I travel all over the country and I have never tasted a better oyster than ours. Best oysters in the country!