Hot Chef: Mike Stollenwerk finds a new home at Branzino
You may have seen chef Mike Stollenwerk’s name connected to his seafood mastery at Fish, which he opened in 2009. Or maybe you’ve heard his name associated with Rhino Bar. It’s possible that you even heard about how when Stollenwerk left Fish, it seemed to have been a less-than-cordial break between him and his investor. But now the chef is making headlines for his exec spot at Branzino.
What happened at Fish and Rhino Bar that made you walk away?
It was a mess by the time I left. There were a lot of issues and I think it was a mutual thing between me and the restaurant. It sucks losing everything that you built, but I had to cut my losses.
Did you do some soul-searching during the months between Fish and Branzino?
I did a lot of relaxing. And I went to Jamaica for the first time and stayed right on the beach.
Rumor has it that the owner of Branzino is building you a large new kitchen. Is that true?
It’s almost done. It was already in the works before I got here, it was just some good timing. Everything’s brand new, there’s a lot of room and there’s a room just for charcuterie. It’s really nice.
Any summer plans for your days off?
I like to do stuff outside a lot. I just went to Morgan’s Pier, it was pretty cool. I grew up down the beach so I’m partial to sitting by the water. I love the salt air – but I know the Delaware isn’t salt air. I find it very relaxing. I have a list of restaurants that I want to go to, but then when I get a day off I usually don’t feel like sitting in a restaurant. I always have these grandiose plans for my days off, but when the time comes it’s a different story.
How about after work? Any go-to bars?
The usual: Oscar’s and P & P. After that we usually end up at Midtown Diner or Chinatown. We’ll go to David’s [Mai Lai Wah] or this one place – I don’t even remember the name but I know what the sign looks like. They have the best barbeque scallops. They’re not your typical scallops.
Are you sure you’re not just pretending to forget the name so you can keep this place a secret?
No, at that point in the night I don’t remember the name of any place.