Chef Michael Young of Ombra in Studio City, CA has been cooking for nearly 19 years, but he wasn’t always into cooking. With a diverse upbringing from his family owning sandwich shops in Brooklyn to playing college soccer in Boston and going to law school in California, Michael somehow ended up owning his own restaurant. We followed chef around the kitchen as he showed us how to make homemade ravioli, shared his thoughts on wine, the Ombra concept and soccer.
Michael started cooking when he was young, but he didn’t know that was going to be his career until six months into law school. Michael tells us, “they showed us a video during one of my classes. It showed what a first year lawyer is suppose to be. I remember watching it and getting this sense of anxiousness. I looked around at everyone else, and they were getting excited and super into it.”
Before he went to law school, he was an undergrad in Boston and played college soccer his freshman year. “As a 5 foot 7 goalie, you’re not going to get very far in college, let alone play professionally,” Michael says. Since he spoke Italian he ended up working at the Italian area of Boston as a bread maker while still in school, that’s where he discovered his love for cooking. “My parents were dismissive of what I would do for a living.”
Because it’s Wednesday at Ombra
Before opening Ombra, Michael was a chef at Domenico in Silverlake. Michael and the restaurant weren’t mashing so well. He departed with a different concept in mind, “people could come here for a special occasion or because it’s Wednesday.” Ombra opened about six months ago, but Michael is happily overwhelmed, “everyday is fun, everyday is learning for everyone including me. As stressful as it can be at times, it’s also enjoyable.” He describes Ombra, at its core, as the quintessential neighborhood restaurant.
Michael likes to switch it up. Currently for the winter, chef is serving Italian dishes like Cavatelli (homemade pasta, dungeness crab, spring onions and arugula), Salsiccia (fennel pork sausages, braised lentils, and stewed black grapes), and Risotto Barbabietole (red beets and parmigiano), to name a few. He likes to tweak his menu so much he’s even purchased a printer. “It’s like a mini Kinko’s here,” he says.
Chef takes buying ingredients seriously, “I am able to buy the ingredients that I love. I have no one telling me you can’t buy that because it’s too expensive.” Michael buys seasonally, and if it’s out of season, he’s not going to have it on the menu.
Michael pays as much attention to his wine list as his food, “I pick every wine. I like to sit down and have the winemaker in front of me and discuss wine and drink wine.” The restaurant also changes the wine list during every menu change. “It’s cold outside now, there are certain wines that are better for cold weather than others. Now we have heavy wines.” Wine is a hobby for Michael. He plans on taking the next level of the Sommelier exam, “it’s not a snob thing, it’s a fun thing.”
For Michael, balance is one of his keys to success. He closes the restaurant on Sundays to spend time with the family and play soccer. “I would be 250 pounds if I didn’t play soccer.” Besides playing, he watches soccer religiously. “I don’t watch the Food Network. I am watching FOX soccer channel. Your hobby can’t be what you do for a living, and your living can’t be what you do as a hobby.”
Chef shows us how to make ravioli
Made with potatoes and topped with a mushroom sauce, here are some simple tips and tricks on how to make homemade pasta:
- Letting the dough rest for an hour makes it easier to work with.
- When cutting pasta portions, don’t worry about being perfect. “Life’s not perfect, nor should pasta be.”
- Using egg to seal pasta is overkill and creates a gummy pasta. Water is perfect.