Since 1987, Michael Goodman has worked with the Four Seasons, ranging from his start in Los Angeles to stints in Hawaii and Mexico City to his role today as executive chef of Four Seasons Las Vegas.
Born in Brooklyn and schooled at the Culinary Institute of America, Goodman brings a unique background to the kitchens at the Four Seasons.
How did you know you wanted to be in a kitchen?
Being born knowing what you want to do is a blessing, and in my case, I always wanted to be a chef. I always wanted, even as a little kid, to be in the food business, so that’s what I did. I started really young, when I was in high school went to cooking school. I’d be gone half the day at a cooking program. Then I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. But as a kid, I just really enjoyed it, coming home and making dinner for my parents. It’s something I really enjoyed and loved to do, but I never thought I’d be an executive chef of a hotel.
You’ve been with Four Seasons a long time; how’d you join the company?
I was working at a hotel in Los Angeles and the Four Seasons was opening up the street and the executive chef called me up and she asked if I wanted a job. I told her, “No, I don’t want to work for a chain.”
I said no, but literally about a week later she said I want you. I went and fell in love with her and that was my first entry into the Four Seasons. I opened the L.A. Four Seasons, starting off in banquets. From there I was fortunate; I was younger and with Four Seasons, being a young company expanding like crazy, they asked me to open the Maui property. That’s an amazing experience and amazing property in our portfolio. For whatever reason I went into this opening phase; I guess I wanted to get beat up. They asked me to open Mexico City; I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish but that was an amazing experience. After Mexico, I was called back to Hawaii. From there I went to open Scottsdale and San Francisco, then called to Las Vegas and now this is my home. It’s been a great ride. Like anything in life, it wasn’t handed to me. I worked extremely hard like everybody else and the experiences and friends along the way were absolutely amazing.
So for openings, you traveled a lot; do all those stops still come through in dishes?
You learn everywhere you go. I wish I spent more time internationally. You really don’t know anything until you live it. And that goes for anything; in Japan you think you know, but when you’re there and live it, it takes on a whole new nuance. I carry the flavors with me. With Hawaiian, Pacific Rim flavors are massive. From Mexico, Latin is in my brain. When you’re in that culture it brings it out of you, definitely.
Should more chefs travel more?
I think more chefs should definitely travel, especially hotel chefs. Even just eat out more. Get out more often, because we have that tendency to be in a bubble. Food is just incredible. There’s so much and just when you think you kind of have it, you realize you really don’t. Every chef should eat at other restaurants as much as possible. Even just look at the flatware, just to get ideas.
You’ve been in Las Vegas the longest time of your career; why is that?
I don’t really have a reason why, it just happened. I’ve really enjoyed living here; it’s been good to me. If I get tired I hop on an airplane and within an hour I’m in L.A., San Francisco, Phoenix. Living here, the summers are a little rough, but personally, I’ll take 100 over 30-below. And a lot is happening in this town; it’s always reinventing itself. We have an incredible hockey team, getting the Raiders, baseball is big now and the food scene is changing.
How do you think of Las Vegas as a food city?
It’s wonderful. I really try to eat more off the Strip now. A lot of the restaurants now are former restaurant chefs taking their craft and opening their own place and the majority are doing it extremely well. It’s great to see. It’s great food. It’s such a reward for a young chef doing really well on the Strip with a lot of ambition to step out, using all those tools they’ve learned and applying them to their own restaurant. You have to make it work, put in 110%. And there’s Spring Mountain: It’s really authentic, delicious food.
So what’s new at Four Seasons?
Four Seasons is ever-changing; we’re constantly working on new menus and try to change. Seasonally, trying to get it right, if you will. We try to take something great and make it awesome and make sure the guests are well taken care of. And, always learning from our mistakes.