Executive Chef Mikhail Shvarts grew up in the Ukraine and immigrated to the United States when he was 14. Shortly after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he began working for Bon Appétit at Oracle. After almost five years there, he decided that “I needed to explore other adventures” and for the next 18 years, he worked as a chef at Hotel Nikko, Stanford University Dining, and others, obtaining a degree in business and human resources management before rejoining the Bon Appétit at SAP in Palo Alto, CA.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
As far as I can remember, my fondest memories always included food. Either eating with family, traditional Russian and Jewish food, exploring the abundance of international street food, to high-end dining. Growing up I did not know exactly what I wanted to do; however, I did want it to involve food. It could have been a chef, food writer, or food critic — or just simply a foodie!
I focused my efforts by working in a restaurant, hotels, and employee/student dining services. But what has always resonated with me the most was the interaction with the customers and seeing their smiles and enjoying their dining experience!
What gets you excited about cooking currently?
What I’m most excited about food is looking at a dish that is visually stimulating, knowing what exceptional ingredients went into it, the care in preparation and the enjoyment of eating it! Realizing the minute nuances in the flavor profile and appreciating the love and effort that went into the dish no matter how simple or complex it is.
If you had to pick five ingredients to be shipwrecked on a desert island with, what would they be?
Salt, sugar, coffee, toasted shelled hemp seeds, and sweet potatoes. Nothing beats a fresh cup of coffee in the morning, followed by cured freshly caught fish, with fire-roasted sweet potatoes, topped with hemp seeds!