Moving to the New York area at the age of 5, he crawled around the walk-in of Larry Forgione's An American Place, looking at buffalo ribs, farmstead cheese and local foie gras.
Moving below the Mason-Dixon Line at the age of 9, found Mike standing on a milk crate cleaning soft shell crabs in his Dad's restaurant in Virginia. Mike was a natural, deftly, cutting the face off and ripping the lungs out.
As a teenager, he swore off his culinary inclinations and immersed himself in a good Jesuit education. After 3 years of philosophy, he finally realized that "a man has to do, what a man has to do" and told his parents that he wanted to become a chef and go to culinary school. Horrified and wondering where they had gone wrong, he forsook 3 years of college credits and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.
He did his externship at Oceana Restaurant in Manhattan, working under Food and Wine Magazine Best New Chef, Cornelius Gallagher and then Sous Chef Christopher Lee. After graduation, he was asked to permanently join the staff of Oceana, where he worked through all of the kitchen stations. During this time he was also fortunate to have the chance to work with Chef Daniel Boulud and Chef David Bouley.