“My most essential item in the kitchen is people.”
Chef Michael Ritenour is the Executive Chef at the newly opened Campfire Grill which is located in Massanutten Resort. He got his degree at the Baltimore International Culinary Arts Institute where he was classically trained in French and Italian. He has worked in various different Chef Mike joined the team at Massanutten in 1995 and has been happy as the Executive Chef for over 20 years. Campfire Grill serves many southern dishes which change seasonally. Camp stove chili, chicken dumplings, campfire pouches, and skillets are just a few favorites served at our scenic mountain setting. Just make sure to save room for the s’mores! They have over 50 specialty and craft beers which are both local and international, as well as some very unique wines.
Was there a lot of cooking at home when you were a child?
“Yes there was. It was a hobby of my fathers and that’s kind of how the whole thing got started. I would help him with dinner parties for his friends, getting exposed to it early on.”
I see that you became Executive Chef at age 20 right out of school, how was that transition for you?
“It was hard, I was nowhere near ready for it. It was all part of the experience of learning and growing. I was very ambitious at that age.”
What brought you to Massanutten Resort?
“My wife is the sous chef at the country club in town, their chef is friends with the manager who works here, and they were looking for someone. 20 years later I’m still here.”
Who or what inspired you to become a Chef?
“I had an uncle who is a chef, and so was my father. I think it’s a combination of being exposed at a young age and genetics from family members.”
Describe to me your management and leaderships styles.
“Initially I was definitely the classic Chef type, fairly nasty. It was kind of effective but that style does it work in this day and age, I still have it in me when I need it but for the most part it’s a modern more relaxed approach.”
What styles have you brought into the kitchen based your life experiences?
“Well I grew up in the west, in Colorado so South Western type food is definitely an influence. I spent a lot of time around the Chesapeake Bay, so seafood is also very influential. I am also classically trained in French and Italian and that still a big part of what I do. So if anything it’s more of the classic influence that I bring with me.”
What’s your favorite style to work with?
“My favorite stylist still classic French, I don’t use it as much anymore but it’s probably so my favorite.”
I see that you create the menus for the restaurant, how do you go about developing a menu, seasonally?
“I basically make a blueprint and I know the things that have to be there. Then I get the Chefs from each restaurant and get them involved in the menus so that they have an influence over what they’re making.”
What food vendors do you work with and how well do you get along with them?
“Sysco, US Food, Performance Food, and we have a bunch of small suppliers that we work with as well. I get along with them very well.”
With food trends changing so rapidly these days, how do you keep up with what’s going on in the food world?
“Mostly with going out to eat and the Internet. I’d say that we are a little behind as far as trends, we have the ability to look at others. The resort being that it’s back in Virginia, we are not as cutting edge, whatever used to be cutting-edge is what we’re doing.”
My most essential item in the kitchen is: People
My favorite cuisine to cook is: French