Chef Mike Mueller is the executive chef of Café and Bar Lurcat in Naples, Florida, where they serve sophisticated American comfort food. We had the chance to interview Chef Mike about their restaurant, how he started in the culinary industry, and some helpful tips on cooking.
FriendsEAT: Describe the cuisine served at your restaurant.
Chef Mike Mueller: Our cuisine is sophisticated comfort food.
FE: What makes the restaurant special
Chef Mike Mueller: Located in the popular Naples downtown Fifth Avenue district, Lurcat features stunning décor, top-notch service and a chef-driven menu of sophisticated American comfort food using fresh, seasonal ingredients. All of these elements combine to provide guests with a delightful all-around dining experience.
The dining menu is divided into three sections: Market/Seasonal changes six to eight weeks to highlight seasonal foods and flavors; Traditions is signature dishes – time-tested customer favorites that rarely change; and Voyage changes every six to eight weeks to highlight cuisine from different global regions. The bar offers a casual “small plates” menu for happy hour, dinner and late night dining – a great option for guests who want to enjoy lighter fare and wine, beer or cocktails.
FE: Where did you train (culinary school/stages)?
Chef Mike: Culinary Institute of America, University of Minnesota
Work: With Andrew Carmellini at A Voce, Restaurant Jean-Georges, JoJo NYC, and 9 various D’Amico Properties
Stage: Nobu 57 NYC, Country by Geoffrey Zakarian.
FE: Did you grow up cooking or did cooking come to you later in life?
Chef Mike: I have never worked anywhere but restaurants. My mother and father would both host regular dinner parties when I was little and I was an only child so I always ended up in the kitchen.
FE: What made you decide to become a chef?
Chef Mike: I’m intense. I love the role leadership plays in running a kitchen. My father was a marine so I learned the importance of organization. I HATE the office setting. Everyday is different in a kitchen, which makes problem solving so challenging, yet rewarding. Plus, eating is one of life’s most treasured gifts.
FE: What misconceptions do people have when they first enter the culinary field?
Chef Mike: That it’s glamorous and you can quickly get to the top. I started out cooking 300 chickens outdoors at Cedar Lakes Farms for company picnics when I was 13 years old, and had my first head chef job at 32 years old. It took many 100 hour weeks and a ton of sacrifice on my body, and family. But I wouldn’t change a thing!
FE: What is the best cooking tip you can share for a novice?
Chef Mike: Start slow. Learn to make a simple vinaigrette, roast a chicken, sear a nice piece of fish. Keep things simple. The key is to start with really clean, fresh ingredients and let them do the work. Most times now, I find myself instructing cooks to remove flavors or ingredients, apposed to adding more to a dish. Master salt early!
FE: What are your three favorite cooking tools?
Chef Mike: We have a lot of modern equipment that we use on a day to basis but, a good sharp knife, a smoker (we use a backwoods horizontal at the restaurant, and I have a Big Green Egg at home), and cell phone are what I need the most.
The cell phone is probably used the most for photos, sending & recording recipes, keeping up with social media and marketing obligations, and financial management.
FE: What is the craziest thing that has happened in your kitchen?
Chef Mike: It was not my own kitchen. But while I worked for Andrew Carmellini, on Madison Park, we nearly set a blaze a 60 story high-rise in NYC.
After a long service the sous chef told us to pull all the equipment out and clean behind the line. The fryer was not tethered and the gas line came undone, spraying gas from floor to ceiling. It finally caught on fire. Luckily, 15 NYC fire trucks were quick to arrive and save the building.
FE: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why?
Chef Mike: I get the most amazing 100% organic free range chickens and suckling pigs from Bryan Beer at Waymore Farms. His products is as good as anything I’ve eaten in France, Italy, or throughout the US. He’s now breeding Hampshire sows as well as big Florida wild boars and the product is world class.
FE: When you’re home, what is your guilty food pleasure?
Chef Mike: I have 3: copious amounts of tortillas and salsa, lime popsicles, and many hot sauces.
FE: What is your favorite cookbook?
Chef Mike: The Flavor Bible for building dishes and flavor profiles and Nomad by Daniel Humm. His cocktail addition is amazing).
FE: Anything we should know that should be added to this spotlight?
Chef Mike: I have a beautiful wife Sara, whom I met in the dorms at the University of Minnesota, and amazing sons Maverick, 2 years old, and Kyen, 1 month old. Also two golden retrievers Cuda, and Maya.
Cafe and Bar Lurcat Naples is located at 494 Fifth Avenue South, Naples, Florida 34102
Nearby Landmarks: Merrihue Mini Park, Coldwell Banker, and Sheldon Fine Art
Phone Number: (239) 213-3357
Hours of Operation:
- Open daily 05:00PM – 10:00PM
- Sun – Thu 04:00PM – 11:00PM
- Fri – Sat 04:00PM – 12:00AM
Also check out Chef Mike Mueller’s delicious Korean BBQ Salmon Recipe:
Have you been there? Leave a review and check for Cafe Lurcat Coupons for your next visit.