Michael’s advertises itself as “chef-owned,” and indeed, chef Michael Kloeti — who started his classical cooking training in his native Switzerland at age 15 — is certainly at the heart of the business.
But Kloeti, 46, is the first to tell you that the success of his restaurant is entirely due to the dedication of his team.
Several years ago, when he was awarded the first “Best Chef of the Year” status by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Kloeti opined that the award should be titled “best crew of the year.” The staff, he says, is “like family.” They share a meal together every afternoon, just before the restaurant opens.
He recently embraced the chance to run another nearby restaurant, the Idle-tyme Brewing Company in Stowe, in part because it gave his staff room to grow, and he wants to take care of them. They succeed, and fail, together.
At Michael’s, he tells his chefs that, “while the dish is in the kitchen, it’s yours, but once it goes out the door, it has all of our names on it.’”
Riding shotgun is Laura Kloeti, Michael’s spouse and partner. The pair met in Switzerland while Laura was doing an internship related to her training at the Culinary Institute of America. They moved together to the U.S. and Michael worked in New York City, garnering experience at the storied Lespinasse under legendary chef Gray Kunz. After the birth of their two sons — one now an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal, the other a junior at Stowe High School — the Kloetis decided to abandon the city and move to Vermont. That was 13 years ago.
“It wasn’t just that the Vermont landscape is like Switzerland’s,” says Michael. “It was that the attitude here is the same. It’s very individualistic; people can do whatever they want.”
What the Kloetis wanted was to open a restaurant that turns out elegantly prepared meals with food sourced as locally as possible, served with quiet competence by a well-trained wait staff in an romantically lit dining room in an 1820s farmhouse and barn up a small hill on Route 100.
Dinner might start with a wild mushroom tartine with a truffle honey gastrique, segue to a Maine lobster poached in herbed butter and served with sunchoke gnocchi, and end with a signature chocolate fondue.
Laura says the couple used to describe their cuisine as “innovative European” but “that scared people.” Now she calls it “farm-to-table comfort food.”
Whatever you call it, Team Michael’s is focused on one goal: “to make guests happy.”