There are few chefs as talented and diverse as Michael Schulson. Since the 2008 debut of his first restaurant endeavor – Izakaya Modern Japanese Pub at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa – Schulson has earned a sterling reputation for his expert hand at modern Asian cooking. In 2009, Schulson opened his second restaurant, Sampan, in Philadelphia’s bustling Midtown Village, which was promptly named one of Bon Appetit’s “Top Six Places to Taste Asian Fusion.” As a strong advocate of healthful, mindful eating who is passionate about remaining fit, Schulson recently got into the best shape of his life by updating his already nutritious make-at-home recipes. We recently caught up with Schulson to chat about everything from his time living in Japan to maintaining a healthy lifestyle – including Izakaya’s recipe for a delicious new cocktail that tastes like a tropical treat without all of the calories!
5 Questions with Michael Schulson:
Borgata: What was the greatest lesson you learned living in Japan?
Michael Schulson: Japan in itself was an amazing experience overall. The biggest things I learned regarding cooking Asian food was that it’s all about simplicity and that dishes should not be sweet. Here in the States, most food you eat that is Asian tends to be prepared with sugars and high fructose corn syrup. In Asia, the focus is on fresh ingredients, salt, and acid which helps bring out the flavors of food and not mask them. Think bad General Tso chicken.
B: What’s one thing you can’t live without?
MS: Family, my two boys, and my fiancé. They are the pride and joy of my life. That’s what I work for. Oh, and some good fried chicken.
B: Give us one tip to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
MS: Try to eat clean, but make sure you throw in some cheat days because you can’t deprive yourself of good food. Exercise, drink water and lots of green tea!
B: What’s your favorite way to enjoy spring?
MS: Spring is an awesome season personally and professionally. Professionally, it’s great because of the new, fresh, seasonal vegetables I get to feature in my restaurants. Root vegetables and tubers get old pretty fast. Personally, I love the outdoor weather because I’m a warm weather guy. Especially when I’m down at Borgata! I can wake up, go paddle boarding, and enjoy the beauty of what life has to offer.
B: What are you drinking right now?
MS: Our new “Surfer on Sake” cocktail at Izakaya. It has all of the great tropical flavors of a Piña Colada at about 1/3 of the calories!
Surfer on Sake:
1 oz coconut rum
1 oz nigori coconut sake
½ oz puree of ripened pineapple
Splash fresh lime juice
Garnish: coconut shavings and wedge of pineapple
Combine rum, sake, pineapple puree, and lime juice in cocktail shaker filled one-third with ice. Shake to combine and create a slight froth. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish by dipping rim of martini glass in coconut shavings and a thin wedge of pineapple.