As executive chef and owner of Quince and Cotogna restaurants, Michael Tusk is known for using the freshest ingredients to create flavorful and authentic Italian-inspired dishes. A native of New Jersey, Michael developed a profound curiosity about food at a very young age. While studying Art History at Tulane University, he took his first cooking job and was immediately drawn to the industry. Michael subsequently enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where he became formally dedicated to the culinary arts. Upon graduating, Michael departed for Europe to gain experience in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout France and Italy. He was particularly inspired by his experience in Italy’s Barbaresco region, which cultivated a deep interest in Northern Italian regional cooking and has greatly influenced his style of cuisine. When Michael returned to the United States in 1988, he settled in the Bay Area and started working at the legendary Stars restaurant. He left a year later for a position at Chez Panisse, where he stayed for four years. Michael credits much of his culinary philosophy to the time he spent under the influential tutelage of Alice Waters and then chef Paul Bertolli. After leaving Chez Panisse in 1994, Michael spent six months staging in Michelin-starred restaurants in France before returning to the Bay Area to work with Bertolli at Oliveto in Oakland. During his six-year tenure at this popular Italian restaurant, the duo often traveled to Italy for menu inspiration and to hunt for new ingredients. Determined to open a restaurant of his own, Michael left Oliveto in 2000 and spent the next few years catering and filling in at Chez Panisse while he scouted locations. In 2003, he and his wife Lindsay discovered a quaint corner in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood and opened Quince; an Italian-inspired restaurant that celebrates the seasonal bounty of Northern California. The intimate, 60-seat restaurant quickly became known as one of the city's top fine-dining destinations, and Michael gained notoriety for his relationship with local purveyors. The Tusks relocated the restaurant in 2009 to a historic 1907 brick and timber building in San Francisco's Jackson Square, which gave them the opportunity to open a second restaurant, Cotogna, in the same building the following year. Since relocating, Quince has been awarded a one Michelin-star rating and four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and Cotogna has become a popular destination for rustic California-Italian cuisine. In 2011, Tusk was honored with the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Pacific.” When he’s not roaming the farmers’ market or cooking, Michael is an avid art collector and music lover.
We keep it on our menu for as long as we can — fortunately, the crabbing season is relatively long. The crabs are caught in traps in the region around San Francisco or in Washington state.
I usually just steam or boil it, but sometimes I bake it in a wood oven at Cotogna, my rotisserie next door to Quince. I also make a crab risotto with dill flowers. It lends itself to many dishes, but it’s perfect with just a squeeze of lemon!