Show 450, November 6, 2021: Chef Michael Doctulero – Mah Jong’s by Chef Mike Part One

Michael Doctulero of Mah Jong’s by Chef Mike

Chef Michael Doctulero is the Chef/Proprietor of Mah Jong’s by Chef Mike located on the lower level of Collage at Bloomingdale’s at South Coast Plaza.

“Why Mah Jong’s? By definition Mah Jong’s is a Chinese social game often accompanied with the theme of gambling. Over many years it has been played in the “benevolent society / clubs” in the depths of Chinatowns across the globe, as well as in homes and public parks everywhere.”

“Chef Mike grew up in the Cow Hallow district of San Francisco in a two-story Victorian house where he lived with his grandparents, mom, and two older sisters. They were one of the five minority families living in the predominately Italian – Irish Catholic neighborhood. His family was definitely on the lower end on economic income growing up, so his grandparents decided to boost family income by renting the extra bedrooms to merchant marines and U.S. Navy sailors who were on leave but traveled to various parts of Asia while on duty.”

“So, ingeniously, Grandma would host Mah Jong games in the kitchen on Wednesday nights, and Pinocle card games on Thursday nights. Chef Mike’s grandfather would come home after work, as the personal chef for the Presidio Army Base Commander, and cook food into the late night for the gamblers. Chef Mike, at nine years old, would make whiskey highballs for his new “uncles”, and they would tip him twenty-five cents a drink. The Chinese laundry at the end of the block would have “numbers gambling” on Fridays, also. Thus, the origins of Mah Jong’s restaurant dream.”

“Executive Chef Mike Doctulero first fell in love with the kitchen when he began cooking with his grandfather at a very early age. His fondest childhood memories are those of he and his grandfather spreading newspaper on the kitchen table and devouring fresh-caught Dungeness crab they caught off the San Francisco Marina pier. Chef Mike began his culinary journey as a line cook at Rosellini’s Other Place in Seattle where he further discovered his passion for seafood. After ten years of honing his craft in Seattle, he returned to his hometown of San Francisco to open Monsoon restaurant under the teaching of Bruce Cost, fortifying his knowledge in Pacific Rim cuisine.”

“Fast forward to Orange County, where he has worked for over the past thirty years, primarily at Scott’s Seafood (now the site of Water Grill adjacent to South Coast Plaza.) Chef Mike has been creating sustainable dishes before they were industry catchwords. His cooking style reflects a philosophy that is timeless and approachable, yet also inventive and progressive. He is also known for his “Omakase style” (Trust the Chef), weaving instantaneous six to seven courses to delight his guests. He is the only Orange County Chef to receive the Golden Foodie Award for Best Seafood two years consecutively.”

Mah Jong’s by Chef Mike serves Lunch and Dinner daily with added Brunch items on the Weekends. It’s the only operating restaurant in Collage that has a full bar.

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