In the Kitchen with Chef Micah Wolf of Due Amici
When Chef Micah Wolf is in the kitchen, he doesn’t see ingredients; he sees colors.
In one dish, pink watermelon and roseheart radish contrast with green arugula. On top is yellow — curried crab salad. Wolf suggests, for the best experience, that every bite incorporate each element, creating a union of all flavors: sweet, salty, and just a little spice.
At 21 years old, Wolf is the definition of an up-and-comer. And like a true millennial, he’s already tossed aside the rulebook. His summer menu at Due Amici reflects a consistent drive to mix and match colors, blend tastes and bend the boundaries that separate cooking styles.
“A recipe is nothing,” he says. “You just have to feel it and work with it.”
Wolf started in the kitchen at a young age, when most kids are still hiding their peas in napkins. Knowing he could do something with it, though, took a few more years. At first, the closest he got to working with food was at his high school job at a restaurant, where he washed dishes. After graduation, the restless teen left Columbus for Colorado. He went to be a resort ski instructor, but inevitably wound up in the resort’s kitchen, helping the chef.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool,’” Wolf says. “That kind of led me to start to do my apprenticeship and realize that it’s something that I really love to do, and I can do it as my career too.”
Under the tutelage of chefs Chris Lynch and David Patterson at the Broadmoor Resort and The Cliff House Restaurant, Wolf found his talent and interest in fine dining cuisine. He brought it back to Columbus, filling the opening sous chef role at 8 State Bistro in Westerville before becoming executive chef at Due Amici. An expressive approach to cooking, fine dining is much more than steak and lobster, he says.
“You can do relatively staple things and execute them in a very beautiful way,” he adds.
Panzanella salad, a traditionally Italian dish, gets a down-country Southern twist on Wolf’s menu. Originally a peasant meal, it combines marinated stale bread (so as not to waste anything) with tomatoes and basil. Due Amici’s version is made from cornbread. Watermelon radish and basil crema accompany the cornbread panzanella, all resting underneath a braised rabbit thigh.
Ultimately, Wolf wants to make this upscale food at a cost affordable to anyone.
“I feel that if it were [affordable], I’d relate to my clientele better,” he says. “And that’s kind of the goal down the road, is to do that.”
That won’t be for a few years still. For now his focus is on establishing himself and getting his name — and his food — out there. He still has some skills to learn, too, mentioning Japanese street food as the next cuisine to conquer. Used to experimenting and crossing lines, Wolf has an appreciation for a cooking style that values precise knife cuts and exact measurements.
“That’s just something that I feel like you have to really put your heart into and kind of learn as you do it,” he says.
Staying true to himself, and away from the predictable and traditional, Wolf says any styles he learns will become a fusion of different and unexpected ingredients and methods.
“We’re an Italian restaurant, but we’re in Columbus, Ohio, which is kind of a mixing pot of its own,” Wolf says. “So there’s no reason that we can’t have a little of all these different flavors too.”
“I’ve always kind of been a rebel,” he adds. “Just, always going against something that I don’t necessarily like has just kind of been my way. I don’t think I’ll ever get away from that, so now I’m harnessing it for something good.”
Wolf’s summer menu is available now at Due Amici, 67 E. Gay St.
For more information, visit due-amici.com.