Monday, October 25, 2010

Signorello Estate Napa, Advances ‘Dream Team’ with Full-time Chef Hire

In his signature idealistic style, Ray Signorello Jr. has done it again: the founder and proprietor of Signorello Estate has hired an Executive Estate Chef, a rare move for a small estate winery.

“The culinary arts, along with wine, have always been a passion of mine. The Signorello Estate wines are meant to be enjoyed with fine food and having a dedicated chef allows for the best appreciation of both,” says Signorello. “We chose Michael for his affection for Napa Valley wines, background in creating imaginative menus paired well with California wines, years of experience managing a great restaurant and gracious attitude with guests. He is a true, innovative Executive Chef.”

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, McMillan worked as saucier at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, sous chef at The West Street Grill in Litchfield, CT, and interned at Trois Jean Bistro in New York City. For the past eight years, McMillan was the Executive Chef and Owner of Opus 39, a highly acclaimed fine dining restaurant in St Augustine, Florida, which won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in each of the past five years. Simultaneously, he also managed a retail wine cellar, owned and served as Executive Chef of The Tasting Room, a tapas restaurant, owned a bakery and published a cookbook, True to Flavor; Opus 39’s Progression of Tastes in Five Courses.

“I was working 100 hours a week and hardly saw my wife and kids,” McMillan says. “I had to realign my priorities.” Napa Valley was one of his favorite places in the world, which he visited with his wife annually, so they moved to the valley without work lined up. “This is an area of the country that really appreciates fine food and wine so it just feels like home,” he says. Back in Florida, if he wanted to order a whole pig, for example, it was an ordeal. “Here, they ask you what kind of pig you want.”

Being a chef at a winery fits into the new family lifestyle McMillan has been dreaming of and offers other benefits. “Working at Signorello Estate gives me the wonderful freedom to be creative every day – and allows that to be my only concern, unlike when I was an owner of a restaurant,” he says. “And Signorello wines are very food-friendly, so I can use a myriad of local ingredients to create fresh dishes to pair with them.”

“Chef Michael’s main focus will be overseeing and executing the seasonal menu of the Enoteca Signorello, a world-renowned food- and wine-pairing experience,” adds Frank McCormick, Signorello’s Director of Operations. McMillan will also expand the two culinary gardens on the property, developing a garden-to-table program to incorporate seasonal products into the cuisine presented with the wine. He’s looking into heirloom-variety seed banks and would like to plant a ‘Cabernet Garden’ that will allow guests to enjoy individual herbal aromas like cassis that are characteristic of a cabernet sauvignon wine.

He is working with the chef of Snake River Farms, the first and largest purveyor of Wagyu beef, to develop recipes using their meats, widely considered the finest in the world.

McMillan will host several winemaker dinners throughout the year, cook for charity events, and may even do an Enoteca Signorello cookbook.

“The Enoteca Signorello is one of the finest food and wine experiences in Napa Valley,” says Ray Signorello. “We’re looking to Michael to take it to even greater heights.” Knowing Signorello, that’s already a done deal.

For more information on Signorello Estate wine, please visit

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