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Local Chef Will ‘Represent The Mitten’ On New Season Of Top Chef

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(Courtesy of James Rigato)

(Courtesy of James Rigato)

(WWJ) — A local chef will be cooking up some competition on this coming season of Bravo’s Top Chef.

Executive Chef of The Root Restaurant and Bar in White Lake, James Rigato, 29, said that he was thrilled when he made the cast and said that one of his favorite things was meeting other like-minded people.

“Meeting all of these chefs and hanging out — that to me was like the best part,” Rigato said. “You think that, ‘Oh, I’m going to kill these guys,’ and you get in there and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re the coolest; they’re just like me.’ They’re just as weird and crazy as me and all we did was talk about food all day.”

Rigato said that he has been in the restaurant business since he was 14-year-old.

“I basically got a job on my 14th birthday at a local diner,” Rigato said. “The dishwashing job turned into flipping pizza, which turned into a busy restaurant grill cooking, which turned into running a kitchen and Schoolcraft. One job kind of lead to the other, but at around 16 I knew that I was going to be a chef.”

While Rigato could not say much, he did say taping was in Boston and that it was very exciting.

“It’s an honor to be from Michigan and represent ‘The Mitten’ on a national stage,” Rigato said.

The Top Chef season premier airs October 15 and continues on Fridays.

Rigato enrolled in the culinary program at Schoolcraft at the age of 17. He got a taste of Italian food and culture early in life, as his first influences were his Italian grandfather and great-grandmother.

His resume includes Morels, Shiraz, Rugby Grille at the Townsend Hotel and Bacco Ristorante as well as The Root, currently. James opened The Root Restaurant & Bar with proprietor Ed Mamou when he was 26, and the restaurant features “seasonal, sustainable cuisine that honors the artisans and farmers behind it.”

In his free time, James enjoys the outdoors – exploring, cycling, kayaking, camping – and, of course, eating.

Rigato sources his contemporary American menu with as many local, Michigan-made products as possible and creates dishes that are simple, beautiful and delicious. And, he loves Patrick Swayze. So much so, in fact, that Swayze’s beautiful mug can be seen on Rigato’s arm.

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