Michael Poiarkoff, 34. Stuyvesant Falls, NY. Via Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Brooklyn, NY
I grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania - a small, former steel town outside of Pittsburgh. I’m one of four children in my family, and was raised in a very “humble”, blue-collar lifestyle. My mother would cook dinner most weeknights, mainly featuring the staples of many mid-western households at the time. Usual suspects to hit the table were tuna-noodle casserole, meatloaf, and buttered green beans. We had a re-occurring taco night with Old El Paso hard shells. Reuben sandwiches and steak salads were always a big hit in the Poiarkoff household.
Sundays were the exception to our standard family dinners.
My father’s side of the family was heavily involved in the local Byzantine Orthodox church, so Sundays and religious holidays were reserved for church, or church related events. Luckily, a large part of our religious community was traditional foods - many of which my family produced or managed for the congregation. Sundays were for picking up fresh bread from Tarquinio’s bakery before service, grabbing donuts from Mac’s, and brewing the coffee for post liturgy chit-chat. After church, with the coaching of my great aunts and my grandfather, I learned how to make sauerkraut, horseradish, egg cheese, bread, marzipan, pierogi, stuffed cabbage, nut rolls, pickles, and countless other items from scratch at an incredibly young age.
Pierogies, with sautéed onions and ALL the butter.
I’m the Culinary Director for The Maker Group. I oversee the Restaurant, Café, and Lounge at The Maker Hotel in Hudson, NY - and the kitchen at our sister property, Bartlett House, in Ghent.
I grew up cooking, and surrounded by food, always kind of knowing I wanted to try to do it professionally. Instead of returning for my final semester of college, I decided to move to NYC and try my luck. My older brother, John, was already living in Brooklyn and cooking at The Modern. I slept on mattress behind a curtain in his Windsor Terrace apartment, while I trailed restaurants I had no business assuming I could work at.
I eventually got a job at the newly opened Char No. 4 on Smith Street in Brooklyn. I had a lot of mentors there that helped shape me and build the skillset I still rely on today. I spent four years there, and then hopped around a bit - eventually becoming the Executive Chef at Vinegar Hill House in DUMBO. I spent 4 amazing years there before leading the culinary team at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. After a combined 10 years in NYC, building a career and a family, it was time to make a move, and the Hudson Valley checked all the boxes.
Personally, I think the pandemic helped re-shape my life outside of the hospitality industry. We all work so hard in this industry that sometimes slowing down is never really an option. It took being home more than ever to realize how much time I have spent in kitchens over the second half of my life. I now consider myself a dedicated father and husband that happens to feed people at one of the most beautiful buildings in Hudson.
Professionally, the pandemic did to my relationship with the food industry what Hurricane Sandy did for me in 2012. I believe situations like this really bring you down to earth and place you back at the root of whatever profession you’re in. More than ever, I enjoy simply nourishing people from the community and connecting with the farmers that make everything I do possible.
I think that working during the pandemic has really shown me how fragile our industry is and how many moving parts it takes to put out a single plate of food. I find myself wearing a couple more hats than usual and doing every facet of the job. It has humbled me and brought immense appreciation for every person that stuck it out through the last year and adapted at such an incredibly rapid pace.
Ham Sandwich and Hot Chocolate from our Café. I think these items define what The Maker ethos is all about. It’s just a ham sandwich and hot chocolate, but the bread is a 72 hour natural fermentation, baked fresh every morning, with house made deli ham from local pork shoulders and local farmstead cheese. The hot chocolate is made with local Fruition chocolate from Woodstock, Hudson Valley milk, and a house-made vanilla marshmallow.
I need a good omakase back in my life.
My second daughter is due on May 14th, and I cannot wait to meet her.
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