Interview with Executive Chef of The Patio—Michael Ground

Photos by Alan Quinn

FINE MAGAZINE: Who would you say is most responsible for putting you on the path to becoming a chef?


CHEF MICHAEL GROUND: I would say my Dad, he really inspired me. We used to cook family dinners every Sunday night. Any time he was cooking I would always want to jump in and help. I never cooked professionally before I went to culinary school but working in the kitchen with my dad at home definitely got the fire started.


FINE: So, you started when you were about 21, where did you get your culinary training?


GROUND: I went to the Arizona Culinary Institute and then came back to San Diego.


FINE: So, you’re a San Diego native?


GROUND: Yes, I went off to Arizona to train and spent a few years there, but while I was gone I really gained an appreciation for my hometown and brought that appreciation back with me once I finished studying. 


FINE: And when did you start working professionally; where was the job?


GROUND: My first job was at Café Bink in Arizona and I was there for about a year and a half. From there, I moved back to San Diego and worked at the Hard Rock Hotel, where I went from cook to Sous Chef. I learned a lot about paperwork over there since it was a hotel, which helped a ton with organization and numbers in the kitchen. Then I worked at Cucina Urbana, easily one of the best restaurants in San Diego, I spent the most time there, about eight years and after spending that much time there I knew I was ready to move on and I started working at The Patio.


FINE: That makes for a good transition; which dish that you created for the menu are you most proud of?


GROUND: I would have to say the New York Steak. It’s grilled and served with a salsa verde, black garlic, and fresh watercress. Really good.


FINE: Which dish are you proud of that a member of your team created?


GROUND: Well, Travis Randoll who is our Chef de Cuisine made the octopus. It’s a Fried Octopus dish served with fermented Kimchi. 


FINE: When I met Randoll, he mentioned that you have partnerships with local farms and plants. How much do they contribute to your newest location in Encinitas?


GROUND: We work with local growers and they deliver to all of our locations. Not everything we use can be fresh from a grower, but we order as much as possible of anything we can. We work with local farmers in Barrio Logan and Temecula; because, why grab something from the store when the raw product is just that much better?


FINE: Which dish do you recommend the most and how often do people take you up on it?


GROUND: I recommend sharing the food, coming in with a group of people and just ordering a bunch of different things. I guess that’s more a style of eating, but that’s what I recommend to people.


FINE: Of all the chefs you’ve worked with, who would you say taught you the most and what did they teach you?


GROUND: Well, I spent the most time at Cucina Urbana, around eight years with Chef Joe Magnanelli, and the most important thing he taught me was to demand perfection, don’t settle for less. If a new customer comes in and has a bad meal, they’re not coming back. He taught me to demand perfection every time.


FINE: Lastly what can we expect in the coming season? 


GROUND: We’re currently working on a Braised Pork Shank and we’re looking to do something with Schnitzel, but the menu should be coming out in September. Dishes going into Fall tend to be a lot heartier.