After working at a series of high-profile jobs in Hawaii, New Zealand and San Francisco, Sacramento chef Michael Thiemann is back in town. The 37-year-old recently left a gig running the kitchen at celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco to sign on as executive chef at Randall Selland’s Ella Dining Room & Bar.
Q: How do you feel about being back in Sacramento?
I’m really excited. After living in New Zealand, Hawaii and San Francisco, I’m seeing Sacramento with different eyes. This is a dream job. Ella is gorgeous.
Q: Talk about your tryout with Randall and the Selland family.
They told me to come in and cook a few dishes. I made artichoke soup, carpaccio with raw oyster, salmon crudo with sea beans and salt-and-vinegar chips, roasted grouper with white beans and littleneck clams, a lamb shank braised in Guinness, and a roasted half chicken with French parsley butter and a little chicken jus.
Q: Who’s more intimidating to cook for: Tyler Florence or Randall Selland?
I’m not intimidated by anybody.
Q: How do you deal with pressure?
I like it. San Francisco is a tough town to be a chef in. Working with Tyler, there was a lot of pressure. If something went wrong, it was Tyler’s name. Nobody cared about me. I’ve been on national stages in various forms. I’ve learned not to think about it.
Q: What’s your food like?
Cute things aren’t my style. I have no problem doing roast chicken, and I have no problem making a burger. A lot of chefs’ egos get in the way. I make a great burger, and I’ll blow your mind with that chicken.
Q: Do you use modern culinary tools?
I really like the Cryovac and the immersion circulator. When you use these tools, the guest just sees delicious food. They don’t know if it’s sous vide or roasted.
Q: What are your plans for Ella?
Basically, I just want to take it slow. I don’t want to paint a big target on my back. I’m coming in here very humble. I really respect what the Sellands have done.
Q: Are there any holes in Ella’s menu?
Sure there are.
Q: Like what?
I can’t say right now. I don’t plan on changing a lot. But I am going to tweak a lot.
Q: You’re not going to take the pappardelle with poached egg off the menu, are you?
Pffff. I can’t touch it.