In Our Community Corner: Meet Michael Therieau (aka: 'Pavlov')
Each week we talk to a member of the Serious Eats community. This week we chatted with pavlov, a lover of liver and recovering Marie Callender's addict from New Hampshire.
Do you cook?
Yes. I cook nearly every day, and sometimes the results are edible. Cooking is something I've always enjoyed doing except when I worked in the industry. I've worked in nearly every capacity back of house starting as a prep cook in highschool. I received my CAC from Culinard at Virginia College and was head chef at a local restaurant until just a couple of years ago.
Why did you leave the restaurant?
I was burnt out and working for a place where I had little say in menu decisions. I'd get home and all I wanted to do in the way of cooking was throw a Marie Callender's potpie in the oven and snuggle up with a glass of Jameson. After watching and using social media for a few years and how restaurants in my area were under-utilizing it, I thought to myself...I can do better than that. So I decided that was how I could be in the industry, yet still enjoy cooking and not kill myself by eating my body weight in frozen potpies.
Are you an adventurous diner?
I'd say I'm an adventurous diner, although I'm not going out of my way to eat balut anytime soon, sorry Rodzilla. I've eaten most things people identify as daring but see no need to top my corn flakes with stinky tofu so I can be considered avant garde.
What is your earliest food memory?
Earliest food memory was of my father eating something my mom called poor man steak (liver) cooked in bacon and onions. Despite the fact my mother can't cook a protein to anything short of a catcher's mitt. I enjoyed it, and still do albeit a little more on the med-rare side.
What was the most memorable bite of food you've ever eaten?
I'd have to say a bite of mako shark. I was probably 10 and I saw shark on the menu, until then I had been the cheeseburger kid. When I saw everybody at the table scratching their heads over such an exotic item, I knew I had to try it and realized instantly food had the power to move people. Keep in mind this is about the same time the most exotic thing in the produce section of the grocery store was a banana.
When people come to visit you in New Hampshire, where do you recommend they eat?
Hands down I recommend Moxy Modern American Tapas (@MoxyNH) run by Chef Matt Louis in Portsmouth. There's a good reason he's been in Food and Wine magazine twice in 4 months because his food is simple, local, seasonal and approchable. If they would like a culinary event I take them to Stages at One Washington in Dover (@StagesAtOneWA) run by Chef Evan Hennessey. He creates mind blowing dishes and it's a delicious treat for your senses... like a symphony.
If you ever leave Portsmouth, where would your last meal in town be?
My last meal would be a clambake at the beach with friends and plenty of beer. While waiting for steamers, linguica, and lobster to cook, I'd want cherrystones and oysters to munch on with mignonette. Someone's probably going to want corn and potatoes, so throw one of each in there, but definitely lots of iced down Smuttynose.
What is your favorite city to eat in?
San Francisco. I'm just amazed with the variety and depth of the food scene there.
Is there something you've eaten recently that you can't stop thinking about?
I recently had a short rib dish at Moxy in Portsmouth that was so simple and yet so complex in flavor that I couldn't stop eating it. I had three orders (keep in mind it's tapas so they are small plates) and wanted a fourth before considering what shade of batshit crazy that would make me look. Turns out, though, someone ordered five once. Whew!
Tell us about the food you love to cook most?
I love to cook Asian food, although I'm not very well versed in it yet. It challenges me. I love the complex flavor profiles, the ingredients, and the overall roundness of the dishes when done right. I'm taking baby steps.
Is there a special dish that you would consider your specialty?
A signature dish would be one of two things: pot au feu or Rappie Pie. They are both one-pot meals, and when I have guests, the last thing I want to be doing is missing the fun by cooking. Plus I found that by drinking while cooking I tend to get cuts and burns and forget to put sugar in all the pies I'm making for Thanksgiving. They are both hearty dishes from the heart without any pretension or BS attached, much like myself!
What's the most disastrous dish you've ever attempted to cook?
Most disastrous dish I've ever done would be old-fashioned pudding when I was very young. To a child, "stir constantly" means "when you feel like it." As a result I ruined two of my mother's saucepans. Then there are the pies with no sugar for Thanksgiving.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I feel no guilt when it comes to eating. I've always believed if you consider yourself cibo (look it up, urban dictionary def. #2) then no food is off limits. If you're asking what do I eat that sniveling foodies think is beneath their contempt? A lot. Hot Dogs, ketchup, bbq pork rinds, ketchup chips, beef jerky, filet o fish, Popeye's Chicken. There's really no end.
What is your least favorite kitchen task?
My least favorite kitchen task is having to Tournée any vegetable. I remedied that problem by donating my birds beak paring knife to a young culinary student and have been a happy man ever since.
What is your favorite aroma in the kitchen?
Braising beef in onions, carrots, celery, garlic and red wine.
Is there anything you hate eating?
I have no food aversions and there is nothing in day-to-day cuisine I won't eat. I'm not a fan of fermented shark, or lutefisk, but as New Englanders aren't huge consumers of these items, I'm blessed to have salt pork and salt cod as day-to-day exotic flavors.
What would your last bite be?
My last bite would be five-spice-spiked, sweet and spicy lacquered pork belly.
If you could cook or eat a meal with anyone, who would it be and why?
My father. From watching Julia Child with him when I was a kid to grilling with him as an adult, he was a constant. He was always there with guidance, up for a game of catch, and always down for charring the hell out of the odd hot dog or two. He is missed dearly.
If you had to give up cheese or bread, which would you choose?
I'd give up bread over cheese in a heartbeat. With the exception of a couple places that offer passable sourdough bread around here, I'm in bread hell. Instead, I have places that sell loaves called Italian bread and French bread with the only difference being the size and shape of the tasteless pieces of shit. I'm perfectly fine eating hot dogs and hamburgers with my hands, or if I want to keep my fingers from getting greasy, I'll hold them with a slice of Gruyere or Gouda. Shame on America for buying shitty bread and perpetuating the cycle.